Who could have foreseen another lockdown post-Christmas. The stark reality is that lockdowns or not, social distancing is here to stay with us this year so it is important that any design changes you make now in your garden/farm centre reflect that, but also that those changes can be easily adaptable for a post-Covid trading world.
Garden centres hold important places in our community, and now more so than ever. With that, comes the responsibility of keeping customers and staff safe.
Catering Design Group (CDG) continues to advise and work with clients within the garden/farm centre market, providing a full design service, from concept to completion, based on their experience and knowledge of this market. They share some insight here on how to make the most of your current spend to future proof your business while keeping your staff and customers safe.
A balanced approach
- With garden centres and farm centres remaining open during lockdown, there is a heightened awareness of this market now. This has the potential to broaden the customer demographic/base as people seek out destination retail/eating experiences at this time, such as young families and mums with new babies. Garden/farm centres are fortunate to be open during lockdown but that comes with a responsibility to ensure the safety of customers and staff.
- The customer experience is still key but social distancing and the use of masks is making this challenging. With talk of social distancing possibly carrying on into next winter, the way garden/farm centre restaurants and cafes operate will need careful consideration.
- As designers, it is our responsibility to create visually engaging yet safe environments so that any designs or food offers implemented reflect that potential changing demographic, capture the same sense of excitement and experience as pre-Covid times and support customer safety.
- As humans, we are wired to connect, and there is no doubt that we all miss the interactions we took for granted in a pre-Covid world. As we move out of lockdown, people will be keen to get out and about and will expect/want the experience to be the same, whilst feeling safe to do so. This is where good design experience is essential. It takes a professional, creative and thoughtful design approach to balance these two important elements.
Designing in flexibility
- Regardless of your budget, whatever you spend now has to be adaptable to this changing commercial reality. For example, if you are investing in new furniture, make sure that it can be easily moved, and ideally, transformed from booths/pods with divider screens into a long, fixed seating in the future.
- Keep in mind the potential changing demographic of your customer-base. Lockdowns have created a whole new generation of young gardeners and a growing interest in home-based and garden activities, from growing your own vegetables to using gardens as essential and much-loved outdoor social spaces. Think about introducing contrasting styles of furniture to suit all ages ranges.
- Consider introducing flexible counters and ambient tables that can be used for collections. Plug & play interchangeable table top equipment such as K-Pots and roll-in theatre stations have full flexibility built in for future use and can add a sense of drama and entertainment to enhance the customer experience.
Making the most of technology
- Think about new ways of operating such as ‘call order’ or Apps to minimise physical contact and the risk to your customers and staff.
- Many existing Apps can be easily tailored to reflect your branding and food offer, and will allow customers to order from their table, whilst browsing the garden centre or even when they are on route.
- Consider the use of food collection cubes or lockers for customers to pre-order and collect their meals to minimise physical contact while adding a novelty factor. Again, with the right design expertise, these can be customised to suit your brand.
At one with nature
We call it biophilic design. This is about creating designs that provide a visual connection with nature, such as natural forms, patterns and textures. These design elements can be introduced into materials, the use of colour such as earthy tones or vibrant, nature-inspired hues, natural finishes and organic shapes to evoke a welcoming and restful environment for your customers. It’s all about the customer experience and anything that can provide a momentary respite from reality is welcome at this time. This doesn’t have to cost the earth but could reap benefits in terms of footfall and reputation. Designing planting in creates an added retail element to enhance the overall design and maximise retail sales.
A taste of what this might look like
The design team at CDG has put together some concepts of how all of these elements might work together.
Catering Design Group (CDG) is one of UK’s leading restaurant and commercial kitchen design companies, offering a full design service to clients throughout the retail, leisure, hospitality and education sectors. http://www.cateringdesign.co.uk
If you would like to know more about how CDG can support your vision, contact Steve Hutchings, director of CDG on 07736 479342 or email email@example.com