Monkton Elm in reshuffle

Somerset garden centre moves round management ahead of restaurant build

Andrew Pitman, Norma Moore and Steve Searle.
Andrew Pitman, Norma Moore and Steve Searle.

Monkton Elm Garden & Pet Centre plant manager Andrew Pitman and shop manager Steve Searle are taking on the joint roles of duty manager for the garden centre and overseeing the running of the whole site. General manager Norma Moore is overseeing the new restaurant, where the build starts this month.

Malcolm Scott Consultants helped with the design and planning of the restaurant expansion and Catering Design Group Ltd have designed the kitchen and front of house. The main steel structure is coming from Newspan Building Solutions. The building work will be managed by the on-site team and the key components of the build will be handled by the garden centre’s in-house building and maintenance team. The electrical, plumbing, woodwork and flooring etc will be sub-contracted to local professionals and craftspeople.

Moore, formerly of Blooms and Redfields, said: "I’m really looking forward to getting my teeth into this new role. It’s a tremendously exciting time for us all.

"As a family-orientated garden centre, we understand how important it is to serve our visitors and their families with the food and refreshments they would like, in an environment to match.

"The next chapter in our story together is our new restaurant, which will open next year. It will seat 350 people and our chefs will prepare food for diners in our new kitchens.

Pitman, who has been at the centre 27 years, said: "In the next few years I think there will be a big divide between real garden centres that will focus on gardening and take the market share, and others that will diversify and forget they are a garden centre. Many will become more like supermarkets that sell plants. I am very passionate about plants and believe these are the core of any good garden centre. This is where we got our reputation from and they will remain at the heart of the business for the foreseeable future."

Searle, who has been with the company for 32 years,  added: "When I left school I went to college on a day release course and a Youth Training Scheme before starting at the garden centre full-time. As the business grew, I grew with it and it’s been a fantastic experience. I am now looking forward to this new era.

"Since we first opened our doors we’ve been on an incredible journey together, developing and re-developing the garden centre to meet our customers’ needs.

"Now we’re investing further in the future of the business. We’re committed to the community, local jobs and offering an excellent customer experience."

Managing director Mike Lind said: "There is much to look forward to but as we embark on our new restaurant development, we do anticipate some disruption and we apologise for this. However, we are creating a vibrant new space for our customers to enjoy when they visit in the future and it’s something we think the short-term upheaval will more than make up for.

"In the meantime, our current restaurant space will still be operational, albeit with a reduced number of tables, for teas, coffees, cakes, snacks, breakfasts and lunches, and our wonderful Pondside Café will also be open too for everything apart from breakfasts and the larger lunches.

"I’d also like to take this opportunity to congratulate Norma, Andrew and Steve on their new roles with the business and wish them well."

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