Cafes: the icing on the cake of visitor experiences

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Logo: Yorkshire Wildlife Trust
Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s Spurn Discovery Centre where a warm welcome awaits (Maurice Gordon)
Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s Spurn Discovery Centre where a warm welcome awaits (Maurice Gordon)

A bite to eat in a visitor attraction cafe may be a treat during our individual experiences but their presence is one that we have begun to expect at such destinations. Cafes have long been a means for organisations to diversify their income streams and encourage visitors to sit back, relax and stay longer. Helen Jones, Visitor Engagement Manager at Yorkshire Wildlife Trust highlights that, in addition to their financial potential, a perfectly pitched cafe might just make your destination someone’s perfect cup of tea – with visitors soon coming back for that extra slice again and again!

Beautiful seasonal blooms, rare flocks dropping in on epic migratory journeys or networks of nature trails may be the initial attraction for visitors to Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s reserves, but once here, our cafes provide a central element to their day: the coffee on arrival, the leisurely lunch with friends and the freshly home baked cake that awaits after a long exhilarating walk. The growing success of our cafes at Potteric Carr nature reserve (Doncaster) and Spurn National Nature Reserve (near Hull) has not just been down to the deliciousness of our menus but the integral role these social spaces play within the overall visitor experience.

Two people reading a leaflet sitting at a table (Maurice Gordon)
A cuppa on arrival provides an opportunity for visitors to orientate themselves, plan their day or seek inspiration for a future visits (Maurice Gordon)

Cafes can provide an alternative way for visitors to discover who you are

For new audiences, the familiarity of a cafe experience provides an invitation to check out a destination before taking that commitment and paying an admission fee before stepping onto an unknown nature reserve trail. Some may simply want to visit just for the cafe and others may be invited to meet for a cuppa by friends, family and colleagues, completely unaware of the wildlife and wild place that surrounds them. From the comfort of a cafe, audiences can build up that confidence to go wilder!

Cafes can help to build loyalty and support

The wildlife and/or the calibre of your bakes may be the initial draw such as the National Trust scone reviewer on Instagram, but the friendliness of the staff and the rapport that’s created builds loyalty with our audience. Many visitors return to simply enjoy the company of our staff, share news of their latest wildlife sightings with each other and feel part of the local community. As the days get colder our pudding clubs warm the spirit of our regular customers who live nearby. During the national lockdowns, the social provision of our cafes was greatly missed by staff and visitors alike. That little extra attention to recognising visitors, remembering their name and just how they like their brew can go along way in securing support for our charitable cause. A donation box by the till is always a good idea!

a table laid out with local produce (Heather Crombie)
From local suppliers to homemade bakes, instilling our ethos into the full visitor experience (Heather Crombie)

Cafes can showcase that you care about your visitors

Even the simplest of menus should feature alternative options for dietary needs and choices, enabling everyone to tuck in! By providing such options, visitors feel included and valued that they have been considered. Visiting a nature reserve for the first time can come with some trepidation and so through the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust visitor experience, we aim to provide those ‘this is a place for you moments’ through our online pre-visit information, within our visitor centres and on our reserves.

Cafes can demonstrate the commitment to your cause

Cafe menu at the forefront of the cafe (Tom Marshall)
Simple messaging to demonstrate how visits to a Yorkshire Wildlife Trust café is connect to fulfilling our charitable cause (Tom Marshall)

Whether it’s locally sourced ingredients, biodegradable single-use items or food waste being converted to reusable energy, all aspects of the cafe experience can practically demonstrate the ethos of your organisation and highlight some simple actions your visitors could take to help fulfil your mission. This aspect has been a real challenge during the pandemic when alternative approaches needed to be adopted quickly to protect our staff and visitors. The environmental considerations showcased by our visitor centre teams help to instil trust with our visitors, as they can see that their support is directly impacting on the conservation, restoration and protection of Yorkshire’s wildlife and wild places.

Cafes help to tell your story

Every aspect of your cafe - from the decor, background music and style of crockery to the food featured on the menu - contributes to the total experience and determines the success of the story you tell. Interpretation and understanding of the work of your organisation doesn’t just take place out in the company of nature; quite often it’s during the down time where the real conversation and reflection takes place. Cafes are a great spot to feature your wildlife sightings board, share the journey of your tasty produce from field to fork (especially if it comes from just down the road), or even bake seasonal or themed treats. The uniqueness of your story combined with your individual approach to involving visitors in your tale, are the magic ingredients that you only you have direct access to! Therefore, they’re the icing on the cake in creating memorable and meaningful visitor experiences.

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Posted On: 02/08/2021

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