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Agenda item

Cobtree Manor Park Visitor Centre/Café Update - March 2017

Minutes:

The Committee considered the report of the Head of Regeneration and Economic Development setting out details of the performance of the Cobtree Manor Park Visitor Centre/Café since it opened in August 2015.

 

The Parks and Leisure Manager explained, inter alia, that:

 

·  A number of changes would be made in April to enhance the customer experience whilst improving business in the Café.  These included:

 

Changing the menu during holidays and weekends to food that could be served straight away - this would greatly reduce waiting times, enable the Café to operate with fewer staff and mean fewer lines had to be stocked.

 

Trialling the use of quality recyclable tableware at busy times rather than crockery and cutlery - this would reduce the amount of time that staff spent collecting and cleaning crockery and cutlery, and enable the number of staff required to be reduced.  More bins would be installed and signage would be erected to encourage customers to use them.

 

Moving the counter forward on a trial basis to enable customers to collect food, drinks and ice cream on their way to the till – this would make for a much smoother operation.

 

·  It was proposed to install a service hatch in the window next to the main entrance door.  This would give a second point of sale for ice cream and drinks and a separate, faster moving queue, resulting in increased income.  The Committee was asked to approve expenditure of not more than £5,000 to enable the service hatch to be installed.

 

·  The Council would be undertaking a tendering exercise to find an external operator for its Cafés in Mote Park and the Maidstone Museum.  Including the Cobtree Café in the invitation to tender would provide the opportunity to test the market for an external operator and assess the potential income from such an arrangement against the current operational performance.

 

In response to questions by Members, the Parks and Leisure Manager confirmed that in Table 1 giving a breakdown of the month on month Visitor Centre/Café costs and income from when the facility opened to the current time, the total staff cost in August 2015 should read £8,111 and the total outcome should be minus £31,984.

 

Members expressed reservations about the proposed move to recyclable tableware at busy times, but were mindful of issues associated with the capacity of the kitchen and the length of queues.  It was suggested that, as an alternative, a trial be arranged for two weeks at busy times over the Easter break using recyclable tableware for customers eating outside, and that feedback be obtained.  The outcome of the trial would be reported to a meeting of the Committee at the end of April 2017.

 

RESOLVED:

 

1.  That the report be noted.

 

2.  That agreement be given to the inclusion of the Cobtree Manor Park Café in an invitation to tender for an external operator for the Council’s various catering outlets, reserving the right to not appoint if the Committee decides to continue operation of the Café in-house.

 

3.  That a report be submitted to a future meeting of the Committee on the results of the tender exercise to enable a decision to be made on the future operation of the Cobtree Manor Park Café. 

 

4.  That agreement be given to the installation of a server hatch at the Cobtree Manor Park Café at a cost not exceeding £5,000.

 

5.  That a trial be arranged for two weeks at busy times over the Easter break using recyclable tableware for customers eating outside, and that feedback be obtained. 

 

6.  That the outcome of the trial be reported to a meeting of the Committee at the end of April 2017 to enable a decision to be made on the tableware to be used at the Cobtree Manor Park Café.

 

Supporting documents: