Growth, Michelin chefs and catering college link for Highfield Garden World

Since its launch in 2014, the 350 cover restaurant at Highfield Garden World has seen turnover grow every month. That’s 54 months on the trot.
That success story looks set to continue judging by the aspirations of head of catering Andrew Hamilton-Rhodes.
Andrew joined Highfield Garden World a year ago, but that’s been time enough to rebuild the core team of chefs and bakers. They’ve revolutionised the food and started to build a relationship with catering students.
And all without disrupting the restaurant’s offering or ever increasing takings.

Highfield is still owned by family

Established in 1992, Highfield is the largest independent garden centre in Gloucestershire. It welcomes around 15,000 customers every week. The founding Greenway family still owns the business, and three generations work within it. The restaurant accounts for 26% of Highfield’s turnover and the site takes £11 million.
Andrew commented; “Innovating and finding new things that the customers love is crucial. It underpins the continued success of the restaurant. It also keeps staff engaged in their work – no mean feat in a sector which is notorious for high staff churn.
“There are three Michelin-starred chefs in our team now. All 12 chefs and bakers are encouraged to get out and seek out fresh ways of doing things.
“We have no shortage of new ideas coming into our weekly ideas meetings.
“We let everyone trial their ideas too, tweaking, adopting or rejecting them as we go. As an independent business with dynamic leadership at the helm, we have the flexibility to do that, and the customers love us for it.”
But there’s a tightrope to tread between offering new items while still pleasing more traditional tastes. Sundays see more than 600 roasts created from scratch in the kitchen.

The future for the Highfield kitchen

Andrew explained; “We tend to go down the ‘traditional with a twist’ path.
“The afternoon tea features Welsh rarebit, this week’s speciality scone is Mexicano cheese and chilli. Tomorrow’s British braised beef comes with Stilton and smoked Cheddar dumplings.
“But it’s the customer’s take that counts, so all us chefs are out and about chatting to people. We ask them what they like, and take on board their comments and questions every day. Many are on first name terms!”
Highfield is also looking to forge links with the next generation of chefs. Andrew continued; “We’re talking to a local college for further education here in Gloucestershire.
“The plan is for catering students to be able to enrich their college training here on-site under guidance of our chefs. We get to keep things fresh in the kitchen as we help new chefs coming through. It’s how I started out myself.”
Tim Greenway, MD, commented; “We’ve always been independent, and we’ve always done our own thing here at Highfield. We offer something different, and that’s why customers like us. The work Andrew and his team are doing embodies that approach.
“They’re making great strides with new items on the menu, eye-catching ways of presenting the food and more emphasis on meeting customers.”

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