Garden centre cafes pick up trade from pubs but still need to innovate

Pubs are suffering at the hands of garden centre cafes, say experts, but garden retailers must continue to innovate to keep up with other catering competition.

The Campaign for Real Ale said four pubs closed permanently every day last year and 200 pubs became supermarkets over the past two years.

Turpin Smale director Chris Brown said: "I do subscribe to the view that cafes are the new pubs in terms of being convenient meeting places. Pubs are changing but not fast enough to compete with the all-day, good-value, open-to-all cafes in garden centres or high streets.

"The other change is that garden centres are realising they can become visitor-attraction leisure destinations where the catering offer is key. The cafe sector is still booming and garden centres need to keep up with the many innovations in drinks, food and ambience. Where do you find garden centre cafes offering iced drinks in this hot weather? Most don't even have an ice machine."

Coolings managing director Gary Carvosso said: "We have grown catering by 20 per cent this year. We've picked up local pubs' lunchtime trade - you only have to see how quiet they are."

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