How to Size your Visitor Catering

“You don’t build the church for Easter” – a phrase coined during a weekly project meeting that I was involved in when advising on the new visitor catering facilities for an arts centre capital redevelopment. The term was the architect’s way of endorsing our approach to determine the right size for the new proposed visitor catering within the redeveloped venue.

When determining the correct size for visitor catering facilities the more simplistic approach is often to consider the proposed trading patterns and visitor numbers across the year and size the catering for the peak periods. But what if these are the exceptions to the norm and there are only a handful of days each year when the demand is at its highest? To design catering facilities for the peak in this situation would mean that at all other times the catering facilities would be underutilised – resulting in a loss of valuable space and a potentially less vibrant atmosphere during quieter trading periods.

Sizing catering operations for the peak days, especially when they are in the minority and infrequent is not the most appropriate approach to ascertain the correct size for visitor catering facilities. Reviewing the average visitor numbers, excluding any exceptional peak days is a more suitable method to establish the right size for visitor catering facilities. However, consideration is required to ensure that the peak hours i.e. lunch and dinner on the ‘average days’ are accommodated for within the overall sizing – a different matter to peak day sizing.

Fortunately, there is a tried and tested approach to this, which based upon projected visitor numbers and the application of sector benchmarks, provides a more scientific approach to determining the correct size for visitor catering facilities.

Of course, that then leaves the matter of how to cope with the peak days. Strategies for providing a comparable and quality service on peak days to the other days of the year depends largely on the type of venue and the overall food and beverage offer. Amongst these are ensuring that the seating configuration and style is optimised, simplifications to the menu, alternative service styles and additional appropriate temporary ‘mobile’ catering facilities.

In terms of ‘not building the church for Easter’, we’re probably not best placed to advise whether this is the correct approach or not when it comes to churches. However, we do know that when your peak days are infrequent, the sizing of the visitor catering requires a more measured approach to accommodate both the peak and non-peak days.

Paul Smith, MD

Posted on June 14th, 2011