The National Trust made sales of almost £71m from catering and foodservice last year, FEJ can reveal.
Catering is now the third largest generator of revenue for the National Trust, behind enterprise and renewables and membership.
Food is on course to become the second biggest contributor to the organisation next year if it maintains its current trajectory of growth.
The National Trust made a total of £70.9m from catering in 2016/17, up 15% from the £61.5m its cafes made last year.
The growth, which was helped by an increase in new members and day visitors, means it generated an average of almost £800,000 a month more from food than it did the previous year.
The figures were contained in a summary of income and expenditure published alongside details for its forthcoming AGM.
Given the scale of its revenues and the fact it manages 300 properties, the National Trust’s foodservice operation is larger than many high street restaurant chains.
Previously the charity has described to how a more systematic approach to catering equipment procurement has led to improvements in its kitchen operations and helped drive funds from catering sales.
One of the most significant changes over the past few years as far as equipment purchasing goes has been the introduction of a ‘Catering Design Code’, which provides operational guidelines that the organisation can follow when planning kitchens.
Matt Drew, head of food and beverage at the National Trust, told FEJ last year that the Code serves as a blueprint for counter and kitchen design, equipment standards and specifications.
“The Design Code ensures that the right equipment is used for any investment in catering facilities in order to produce and serve the appropriate style of menu,” he explained. “Despite our properties all being unique, we need to offer a consistent quality and sufficient range of food and drink, and therefore we work with eight different menu structures, each supported by a counter design and equipment list.”
One of the challenges for the group is that many of its cafes and tea rooms are located within historic buildings, including places such as castles and mills, so while its ideal operational layout and equipment list fits into a neat rectangular space with no columns, it’s very rare that it has such flexibility.
“It’s incredibly important that our food and beverage operations work both for our visitors and staff, but also reflect and protect the fabric and spirit of our places. Therefore, each project and property requires a certain degree of flex in terms of the layout and equipment without compromising our ability to trade at peak times and provide a great experience for our visitors,” said Mr Drew.