Improving & Developing Museum Cafes & Visitor Catering

Montfort Catering Consultants recent article in AIM – Association of Independent Museum Bulletin, April 2020. Click on the below link and flick to page 20 or read the below text.


Your catering offer has the potential to provide both a healthy income stream and enhance the wider visitor experience, but it needs to be well executed, advises Paul Smith, Director, Montfort Catering Consultants.

When considering your offer, understanding your audience can be incredibly valuable. How do you ensure that your visitor catering is adding value to your visitors’ experience? And does your current approach provide the optimum financial return to your organisation? Three areas should be considered and reviewed to ensure you are achieving the best you can be.


1. Positioning

This is more than just the physical location. Is the overall style, offer and service culturally sympathetic and does it support the wider organisational culture? Does it ‘feel’ right in the context of your building, your audience, the visitor experience you offer?

Different visitor profiles often mean different food and drink requirements. Consider their motivations and expectations.  And use feedback to help!

Identify a differentiating factor, relevant to visitors’ needs, that will set your visitor catering apart from the local competition. What is going to make your visitors remember their experience of visiting your café? What’s your unique selling point that is better than your competitors?

2. Place

Place relates to how the operational elements of the catering are determined and delivered to support the wider visitor experience, while optimising the financial return.

Develop a sense of place – ambiance, environment and style are often as important as the food and drink.

Service Style – If your visitors are repeat visitors with short dwell times (ie don’t spend long in the museum or attraction), is the service style appropriate? Or would an alternative style increase the speed of service, as well as customer turnarounds?

Menu – Is your menu customer-centric? If visitors are dropping in and out throughout the day for short periods, it may be more appropriate to offer a greater range of snacks, visibly displayed to tempt, rather than focusing on main meals.

Seating – Ensure the level of seating is appropriate to meet your peak periods and that the seat-to-table ratio is relevant to your average party sizes. For example, if your average visitor party size is 2.5, providing all tables to accommodate groups of 4 is likely to result in an inefficient usage of seating.


3. Performance

Food Margin – Think about ratios versus the actual revenue. Margins are important benchmarks of performance, but which would you rather have? 65% of £4.00 or 50% of £6.00? The cash is usually better than the percentage, although you need to consider both, as well as understanding the sales mix.

Staffing – Determine the most appropriate opening hours to optimise the commercial return while supporting the visitor experience. Multi-skilling and developing a flexible workforce can also reap considerable savings, as well as service benefits.

Management Information – Insight is essential to support sales and cost management, and for future planning. This might include more than daily sales analysis. Consider for example when peak periods are, what items sell best when and so on.  Collecting and crunching this data can be really effective for planning growth or efficiencies.

And don’t forget customer feedback – it’s a vital part of your performance and potentially rich with ideas.


These are, of course, just a few considerations when looking at improving existing visitor catering or planning for new visitor cafes and restaurants. If you’d like to discuss further, are looking at developing new visitor catering or just need support improving your existing café or restaurant, please do get in touch with us at Montfort Catering Consultants.

Posted on April 6th, 2020