Keep quirky look for cafe success, garden centres told

A continuation of the 10 per cent increase in garden centre cafe sales in 2011 could be under threat if retailers lose their quirkiness, catering consultant Chris Brown has warned.

A HTA key points report, Garden Centre Catering - Growth & Success, launched this week shows that half of specialist garden retailers now offer catering, compared with 40 per cent in 2008.

In 2011, there were around 55 million visits to garden centre cafes. But customers aged under 45 said cafes need to continue to improve to sustain strong performance.

Brown said: "We've got so proficient we are starting to miss a little bit of that quirkiness and humour."

He used cafes from his blog as an illustration of ideas, showing living walls, grafitti art and unusual decor. He recommended Foxcroft & Ginger, Shoreditch Grind, Tebay Services, Cafe Coho, Leon and Albion Cafe.

Brown said garden centres were using suppliers too often and no making enough of their own food. He recommended open displays rather than covered. "People buy with their eyes, the same as plants," he added.

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