He said: "Catering may be the ultimate experience factor that customers are searching for, especially if combined with loyalty schemes such as free coffee when you buy something."
Webbs Garden Centres chairman Ed Webb said: "Our restaurant accounts for 20 per cent of our total turnover, with cups of coffee representing the largest proportion. We deliberately use our new restaurant as an instrument for challenging customers to provide feedback via social media."
An important consideration is where the restaurant should be situated in your garden centre, said Erwin Meier, of Ernst Meier AG, Zurich: "When we built our new garden centre in 2011, I made every mistake I could possibly have made. One of them was putting the restaurant on the first floor. Now that I’m about to expand it because it’s become too small, I realise that I put it in the wrong place."
Thermoflor saidcentre owners needed to make sure the kitchen was placed so it had good ventilation, that it had good insulation and attracted the sun but had sun-reflecting windows, and had a a good mixture of shaded areas and daylight insulation.
Thermoflor has already increased the size of restaurants in garden centres for several clients in Europe. At Forest Lodge in the UK, it built an extension, enabling them to expand their restaurant.
This film shows the feel-good factor is in a restaurant:
The HTA Catering Conference is on 9-10 June. See www.cateringconference.co.uk