A visit to the cafe, restaurant or food outlet within a visitor attraction should no longer be seen as an add-on at the end of the visit, but it is expected as part of the whole experience.
My presentation at the VisitEngland Assessors Conference last month provided ideas to help raise the standards and quality of food and drink at visitor attractions. Topics up for discussion were:
* Food and catering plays an essential part in creating a seamless customer journey at attractions.
* Catering is a great business with healthy margins and has the capacity for creating a distinctive product.
* A great Café or Restaurant can increase footfall and visitor numbers and become an attraction in itself.
* Quality food and drink if done well can rival the best of exhibitions.
* Food and drink outlets are an important secondary spending stream.
But as always looking at current food trends created the most lively of discussions.
What a great way to spend summer, visiting some of the brilliant visitor attractions in the East of England. As a trained freelance assessor I will test everything before I go including the website, promotional material, social media streams and leaflets. Then there is the visit itself where I mingle with the other visitors and assess every facet of the attraction, interacting with all members of staff, testing the cafe, shop, experiencing the whole visitor journey. Once I have made myself known at the end of the visit, there is the detailed feedback and debrief, followed by a written report, including any recommendations that I feel are relevant. All areas must meet the high standard required to be awarded VisitEngland's Quality Rose Marque. I love my job!
It's not always about fine dining. It's really important to be able to assess "quality in context". Recently I have been working on the Motorway Services, assessing quality in service stations for VisitEngland. This includes the forecourts and service areas. It might mean buying more than my fair share of McDonalds, KFC, Harry Ramsdens or burgers like this. And always a newspaper from WHSmith and a yoghurt from M&S or Waitrose (to see if I get offered a spoon)
Today saw the launch of the Eating Out in the Broads guide. I visited and assessed (with a little help) most of the eating establishment situated within the Broads Authority. The launch took place at one of my favourite hotels. The Norfolk Mead Hotel in Coltishall.
For those of you that think I have a dream job. Here are the figures. In the last two months I have dined out on more than 60 occasions. I ate belly of pork 6 times, 8 curries, 8 fish pies, a handmade burger on 9 occasions, endless sausage rolls and cheese scones. Not to mention the 4 lemon possets, 5 slices of cheesecake, apple crumbles and cheeseboards. I think I added it up to 67,680 calories. No wonder my trousers are tight!