A heritage visitor attraction’s catering sales were at a standstill and the trustees felt that a fresh approach was required. The attraction had been struggling to drive catering revenue for a number of years. The site housed two separate catering outlets across a large countryside estate. Venners Consultants’ first aim was to execute and complete a “discovery visit”, which is a fairly all-encompassing mystery-customer type review of the attraction to ascertain and understand trading environment, operations, skill level, customer service standards, F&B offer and risk to name but a few.
The Findings & Recommendations
During the visit, we found there to be a low skill level among the casual staff. The manager responsible was also tasked with other retail and duty management responsibilities which reduced their focus on F&B to a degree. The marketing of the site was poor and there was a disparity on promotional material between the heritage characteristics and the excellent customer facilities, which were not being communicated fully.
We assessed and analysed peak sales times and aligned this to the structure of staff rotas for greater staffing efficiency. The detailed action plan that followed this included new staff structures and responsibilities to make more flexible use of the staff.
Having investigated the catering operation on site, assessments were made of the customer experience including the planning of customer-flow through the F&B outlets. A recent refurbishment of the buffet counter had been poorly designed and the customer experience was congested and poorly signed. The secondary outlet had poor foot fall and spend per head was declining. We were able to offer practical solutions to the design and layout of the counter service points and new, more detailed signage was configured to enable the counters to flow more smoothly. We gave direction on menu development including the addition of special offers that took advantage of the servery equipment already available on site.
Having analysed the attractions sales data, we raised questions regarding the viability of the planned full winter opening times. As a result, winter opening times were reduced and profitability forecasts increased.
Our visits included a review of all promotional material used, both internally and externally. It was noted that the heritage aspects of the site were being highlighted at the cost of the other valuable aspects of the park such as the catering offer. Within our final report, we outlined the advantages of promoting the site as a whole. We felt this approach would help them appeal to more visitors and drive longer visits, pushing visitor revenues up. We proposed practical solutions to take advantage of the various outside spaces including the development of picnic packages which could potentially benefit VAT liability.
Our report investigated the site’s financial reporting and cash controls. Waste was scrutinised and investigations into food costs and menu pricing were undertaken. We gave detailed recommendations to improve how waste was being accounted for in relation to food costing and the site budget. The site’s current allowance for waste was found to legitimise a careless approach to food costing and advice was given for wide ranging changes to improve the culture of the staff.
Since the culmination of this project, our client has noted immediate improvements in the flow of the restaurant counter service and the staff have become more motivated. The chefs are now aiming higher in menu design and dish presentation. Exact figures are being compiled but the site has reported that average spend per head has improved considerably along with the number of visitors using the on-site catering. Thanks to our work here, the restaurants found themselves better equipped to take advantage of the stunning summer and increased trade that followed, having a great range of picnic offers available.