Gary Thacker, director of national accounts at foodservice equipment manufacturer Fri-Jado, advises garden centre caterers on using front of house counters to target a more diverse range of customer
Long gone are the days when visitors to garden centres were content with a pot of tea and a sticky bun. Today, garden centre restaurants attract a broad range of customers from senior citizens and families with children to ‘ladies that lunch’ and workers grabbing a bite to eat. To meet the demands of such a diverse range of diners, garden centres need to offer a variety of menu options all the way from traditional plated meals and stylish healthy options to both hot and cold food to go, such as sandwiches, pies and pasties.
An increasing number of forward-thinking garden centre caterers are beginning to incorporate front of house foodservice counters within their quick service restaurants. A broad range of pre-prepared meals may be held in the counters for self service or assisted service, reducing the number of kitchen staff required to cook meals and all but eliminating the need for waiting staff.
Counters from Fri-Jado come with a choice of easily cleaned square or curved glass proﬁles which provide high visibility of merchandise, promoting impulse purchases. The range includes models for the display of hot, chilled or ambient food and may be supplied in a choice of case lengths. The counters may be multi-tiered and can accommodate standard sized gastronorm pans for the side-by-side display of complementary menu items such as meat, ﬁsh, vegetables and potatoes as well as bulk meals like chilli, curry and pasta.
The fact that the counters are modular, standalone units means that they are easily installed, eliminating costly shop ﬁtting services. The counters can be relocated on the restaurant ﬂoor in a variety of conﬁgurations to provide maximum foodservice ﬂexibility, accommodating changes in dining trends and seasonal variations in menus.
Tempting the senses
Dining is a sensory experience and when customers see and smell food being cooked, their choice of meal is inﬂuenced, often leading to impulse purchases. To this end, many foodservice operators are placing rotisseries in front of house positions. The rotisseries are suitable for roasting chicken portions, whole chickens and a range of other meats such as ribs and chops, and can cook up to 16 birds in 75 minutes.
Grab ‘n’ go
Garden centre restaurants are also becoming the lunchtime destination of choice for local workers. Typically, such customers are seeking a quick meal, to eat in or takeaway.
Hot, chilled and ambient spot merchandisers are particularly suited to the grab ‘n’ go market. The chilled models are ideal for the display of sandwiches, baguettes, wraps, salad bowls and soft drinks, whilst hot units provide an ideal solution for the display of pre-cooked pies, sausage rolls and pasties. Ambient merchandisers may also be used for the display of high margin cakes, pastries and biscuits.
Gary Thacker is Fri-Jado’s director of national accounts, responsible for the company’s major retail and foodservice clients. Gary has been with Fri-Jado for over ﬁve years, having previously worked for US manufacturer Standex Foodservice Equipment.