Up to 50 additional catering staff will be recruited to service the restaurant, which has been redesigned by Southampton-based architects HPW. The other facilities including kitchens, storage areas, catering offices and customer toilets will be built within the 743sq m extension.
Chief executive Julian Winfield said work will start in March and the restaurant is due to reopen seven months later: "The new layout will include the introduction of features including a coffee lounge, a traditional stone-hearth pizza oven, a quality daily carvery and one of the most extensive cake counters in the region. Free Wi-Fi for internet users will also be introduced."
The group expects to mirror the success of a similar restaurant expansion completed at its Ferndown Garden Centre in 2008. The annual catering turnover subsequently leapt from £1.1m to £2m.
Some £650,000 of the £3m Southampton investment will be used to give the internal and external areas of the centre a major refurbishment and upgrade its displays and facilities.