Catering Consultant – How to Develop a Visitor Catering Strategy

Visitor Catering Strategy – Introduction

As a specialist catering consultant practice cultural and leisure organisations regularly appoint us to develop their visitor catering strategy or visitor food & beverage strategy. Within this catering consultant article, part of the Catering Consultant article series, we explore what a visitor catering strategy or visitor food & beverage strategy entails.

What is a visitor catering strategy?

So what is a visitor catering strategy (sometimes also referred to as a visitor hospitality catering strategy, visitor food & beverage strategy and visitor attraction café strategy)?

As independent catering consultants, we consider a visitor catering strategy as:

“An objective, market centric defined plan to achieve an overall aim in relation to visitor catering, hospitality and any other related visitor hospitality services”.

The visitor catering strategy could be in relation to existing catering or, as is more often the case, in relation to new catering facilities that are to be developed.

Visitor catering strategies typically relate to organisations with visitor services including museums, galleries, theatres, art centres, theme parks, zoos, parks, gardens, historic properties,  heritage venues and cathedrals.

Why develop a visitor catering strategy or visitor food & beverage strategy?

There are many reasons for developing a visitor catering strategy. Appropriately configured and relevant visitor cafes, restaurant, bars and wider visitor food and beverage offers have the potential to significantly enhance and integrate with the wider visitor experience while providing commercial sustainability to the organisation via an appropriate visitor food and beverage offer.

A cohesive visitor catering strategy will assist in determining a series of considerations to fully understand the rationale for visitor catering as well as developing the plan to achieve the long-term objectives and aspirations of the organisation. It will help scope out and define clarity to questions that you may be contemplating in relation to your visitor catering.

What needs to be considered when developing a visitor catering strategy?

Some initial considerations that you may be contemplating could include:

  • What are the objectives and aspirations for visitor catering and conference and events hospitality?
  • Who are the visitors and what are the behaviours and needs of the visitors and wider community/ public customers for the proposed visitor café or restaurant?
  • How many annual visitors does the venue regularly attract and when are the peaks and troughs? What are the implications of the peaks and troughs in terms of determining the most appropriate concept, operational model and management model? What additional footfall is viable for the visitor catering via the public and local community?
  • How do the recent labour market challenges impact the type of concept and operational model that is going to align with our opening hours but also be commercially sustainable?
  • What is the level of catering competition to our planned visitor café or restaurant and what will the impact be?
  • Where should the visitor cafe, restaurant or bars be located? Will they be appropriately located for services as well as deliveries?
  • What are our peer organisations doing with their cultural venue and leisure visitor catering and is it relevant? What are the best in class examples?
  • What type of visitor catering should we be considering? Should it be a restaurant, café, rotating residency of street food, shop or something else? Do we need more than one catering facility?
  • Will the visitor catering facilities be providing an all-day service? What will be the benefit and financial position of different service times and opening times?
  • How many seats do we need in our visitor restaurant or cafe? What types of seating should we be considering?
  • What wider food and beverage trends do we need to consider for our new or existing visitor restaurant or cafe?
  • How do we ensure that the visitor restaurant or café is developed and operated to meet our sustainability and corporate social responsibility policies?
  • What about Hospitality?
  • How will visitors pay for food and drink purchases from our visitor café or restaurant? If we go for non-cash/ contactless only does this exclude certain groups or if we include cash what is the extra responsibility and cost?
  • How can we confidently set budgets for our visitor café or restaurant? What are the financial benchmarks for sales and costs for a visitor catering operation? What level of profit or rent should we expect to achieve?
  • What will the capital costs be for the visitor catering?
  • Who should manage the visitor catering facilities? Should they be managed in-house or outsourced to a relevant operator?
  • If visitor catering is outsourced should it be a local, regional or national operator? What type of catering contract should it be and how should the commercial terms be structured?
  • If we appoint an external operator to manage our visitor hospitality facilities, how do we go through a catering tender exercise?
  • What alternative visitor catering models and management delivery models are available?

These are just some of the considerations when developing a visitor catering strategy for new visitor catering facilities or looking at refurbishing or relocating an existing visitor café, restaurants and bars etc. So how do we answer these questions and develop a cohesive and relevant visitor catering strategy?

What should be included in a visitor catering strategy?

We have set out below a few headers for what we, Montfort Catering Consultants, typically consider and include in a visitor catering strategy or visitor food and beverage strategy:

  • Objectives & aspirations for visitor catering & hospitality.
  • Environmental considerations and site dynamics.
  • Food & beverage research and trends.
  • Visitor attraction trends and considerations.
  • Visitor catering and public demand, forecasts and budgets.
  • Visitor catering conceptual style options, locations and recommendation.
  • Hospitality requirements and any other catering options and requirements.
  • Visitor catering management options, governance and recommendations.

Visitor Catering Market Led Catering Strategy

Montfort Catering Consultants’ view is that the starting point for all visitor catering strategies is that they must be market led or customer centric. After all, if the visitor catering doesn’t meet and exceed a defined group of visitors’ expectations then it will not succeed and it certainly will not enhance the visitor experience. In fact, we have three key elements that we apply to all catering consultancy assignments:

  • Customer Centric – Our empathetic customer centric approach supports creating a sense of place for the food and drink operations that we are asked to improve and develop.
  • Commercially Sustainable – As specialist catering consultants we are able to provide greater assurance to the long-term success of your visitor catering operation through the provision of expert knowledge and advice. We apply our knowledge and expertise from an extensive portfolio of projects to ensure that visitor catering is aligned to specific visitor needs as well as being commercially sustainable.
  • Culturally Sympathetic – Our catering consultants ensure that visitor catering is culturally sympathetic and relevant to the wider aspirations and activities of the organisation as well as being appropriate to the building design and style.

Visitor Catering Strategy Consultant Advice

We hope this article gives you some insight in to how to develop a visitor catering strategy. The details provided are an overview, and the development of a cohesive visitor catering strategy is very much a collaborative process.

If you are looking at developing new visitor catering facilities or need help with improving existing visitor cafes, restaurants, bars and hospitality offers and would like to talk about developing a visitor catering strategy, do get in touch with us at Montfort Catering Consultants so we can discuss how we could support you.

Posted on February 16th, 2024