Transformational restaurant design at Millets Farm Centre boosts restaurant traffic

Millets Farm statement corrugated fascia

Daventry-based Catering Design Group (CDG) has completed a £280,000 transformation of Millets Farm Centre in Abingdon, Oxfordshire, resulting in a 22 per cent increase in restaurant covers to date.

The family-run business is a well-known destination in Oxfordshire, with its roots going back to 1952. Millets Farm Centre attracts up to one million visitors each year. As well as the newly extended restaurant, there is a thriving farm shop, garden centre, beauty salon and attractions such as an animal walkway, play area, woodland, a falconry centre and a maze. The centre employs 200 people overall, including an in-house catering brigade of 25.

Millets Farm Centre in Abingdon Oxfordshire[2]

Despite the challenges of COVID 19, daily covers have risen from 156 to 191, and potentially increasing to 260 in the future.

The brief included a new dining room extension and the complete transformation of the existing servery area to ensure better functionality and to create the service style Millets had envisioned to support future growth.

The scope of works included everything from initial design consultancy through to full design, supply and fit-out, including bespoke servery counters, furniture, lighting design, interior finishes and joinery.

The independent, Daventry-based hospitality design firm was initially engaged on a design consultancy basis in 2018, having undertaken some interior design work five years previously. CDG was subsequently awarded a full contract to transform the servery and dining room at Millets Farm Centre, covering an area of circa 715 square metres.

Ben Carter, director of Millets Farm Centre, said: “We were  aware of the work CDG had done in other farm centres and knew that their portfolio was impressive and in line with our expectations for Millets.”

Works started on site in November 2019 but Covid-19 delayed Millets’ planned April 2020 reopening. Despite the additional challenge this brought, including a temporary site closure, CDG worked throughout lockdown to hand the project over successfully at the end of June in time for the phased re-opening of the restaurant.

Ben Carter said: “The biggest challenge was coordinating the trades once we opened the build back up during lockdown. It was tricky getting sub-contractors on site in a way that they could work in a coordinated way but not together. CDG’s project manager, Geoff Kibblewhite, was extremely thorough, and we felt in safe hands as he managed all health & safety and Covid compliance issues seamlessly. We ended up appointing CDG as the main contractors on site and this made all the difference to the safe and efficient management of the project.”

Millets Farm Steve Hutchings, director of Catering Design Group[2]

Steve Hutchings, director of CDG, said: “Millets wanted a contemporary farmhouse feel so this is reflected in the design and in the selection of materials throughout. For example, the statement corrugated fascia to the feature central island is a nod to traditional farm buildings. This was powder-coated in blue to reflect Millets’ strong brand identity and this blue is also picked up in other design elements throughout the servery and dining areas.”

A ‘farm to fork’ fresh food ethos stands at the heart of Millets’ offer so CDG specified a mix of materials and finishes to complement the provenance of the food.  The design incorporates different textures and patterns within the finishes for the counters, flooring and furniture all working well together to create an attractive and welcoming space.

CDG designed bespoke retail displays and shelving to zone the space and provide opportunities to highlight the farm shop’s heritage and produce, including speciality breads which are baked on-site each day.

“Millets is a family-run business, and the family is passionate about the centre, its heritage and its future development,” Steve said.  “We considered their vision and ideas throughout the design process, listening and interpreting their ideas to realise their collective vision.”

Despite the challenges of COVID 19, daily covers have risen from 156 to 191, and potentially increasing to 260 in the future.

Millets Farm Ben Carter and his sister, Lucinda La Velle, directors of Millets Farm Centre. [2]

Ben Carter said: “There are so many good elements but one thing that stands out for me is the central coffee counter which customers can walk around. We used to have one long queue but now people can choose three queues. This works very well from a social distancing point of view. Customer flow is so much better now, and we have introduced a second coffee machine so that takes the pressure off front of house staff. We also now have a pass so our chefs feel less under pressure as they aren’t customer-facing, which is also better for health and safety. The overall design is stunning, and we are delighted with it.

“Commercially, we have seen an 22% increase in covers in the restaurant. Feedback from visitors has been positive and our catering and front of house teams are happy so that’s hugely important. “