Case Study: Notcutts Garden Centre

Middleton Foods sees blossoming relationship with Notcutts grow

Founded in 1897, family-owned business, Notcutts, prides itself on creating a home-from-home experience for its diners. With nineteen garden centres, eighteen of which have  restaurants, the chain of garden centres can be found across the country. Garden centres are as far north as Pontefract and as far south as Brighton, as well as throughout most of the home counties.

“Obviously horticulture is the top of everything we do, but food and beverage has become an increasingly important part of our business,” remarks Kevin Boyle, food and beverage director at Notcutts.

Following significant investment, the store in Ditchling, Brighton has undergone a full renovation. It has upgraded from a relatively small, eighty-seat café situated inside the main building of the garden centre, to a large-scale restaurant and outside terrace which is now a destination in its own right. It’s hard to believe the light and airy dining area was once a largely unused part of the garden centre’s warehouse facility, as it now has such an inviting feel to the space and boasts a fully fitted commercial kitchen, with a separate bakery area, with counter-service style operation. Seating up to 360 people, the restaurant is a popular attraction at the Brighton garden centre and a big part of what Notcutts is known for.

“We have a huge, loyal gathering across all restaurants with customers both old and new coming to us for consistently fabulous food," Boyle comments about the ethos behind the Notcutts food and beverage offering. "We pride ourselves on delivering home-cooked food. We bake our scones, traybakes, quiches and sausage rolls fresh every day, and we cook to order wherever possible.”

A chef leans towards an oven as he takes out a tray of scones.

All food at Notcutts is homemade, from fish and chips, to the bakery counter full of desserts

With a menu consisting of fish and chips, a great hot and cold sandwich range, warm chicken salads and loaded jacket potatoes; a bakery counter full of freshly baked brownies, fruity flapjacks and scones filled with jam and cream; as well as their showstopper afternoon tea offering, the chefs have plenty of products to be baking from scratch every day. To maximise efficiency, the Notcutts team has looked for ways to use pre-mixed base ingredients, such as the Premium Plus Batter Mix from Middleton Foods, which saves the need for measuring out multiple ingredients to prepare fresh batter from scratch for each service. Cooking in this way also guarantees consistency across all eighteen restaurants, which is essential for maintaining the reputation and delivering high quality food across the company.

When looking for a provider of dry base ingredients to help Notcutts deliver on their promise, Boyle contacted Middleton Foods. Following a previous business relationship with Middleton Foods, he was impressed with the quality of their products and efficacy of their team and understood how their range can reduce complexity and improve consistency across this multi-site business.

“My connection with Middleton Foods goes back some 15 years now and I've got a great relationship with everybody that works in the business," says Boyle. "It's great to find a partner that can really help us with fantastic pre-mixed products which are made using quality ingredients.”

Famous for its bakery table, in particular the homemade scones, Notcutts prides itself on offering a range of bakery goods, cooked fresh every morning.

“We have a variety of flavoured scones on the bakery table every day. We wanted to extend the range to offer something that our customers with coeliac disease can enjoy. So, working with Middleton Foods, we introduced a gluten-free scone mix. Made fresh at the start of the day, in a dedicated area so there’s no cross-contamination, we prepare the scones by adding liquid to the mix and then baking. The beauty of us not buying an entirely pre-made product is that we can talk about our scones still being made in-house, in a food-safe environment. We're really pleased with the product that we've got, and customer feedback is superb.”

Dry mix base products such as the gluten-free scone mix provided by Middleton Foods, make kitchen life at Notcutts much easier for the chefs, whilst still allowing them to produce the menu fresh every day. Saving time on measuring out ingredients, the pre-made scone mix simply needs mixing with liquid, adding fruit etc. rolling out and baking. This guarantees the perfect light and fluffy scone every time. It also provides a great base which can then be added to, such as adding cheese to make a savoury cheese scone or various fruits, as Notcutts often does – providing flexibility on menu adaptations whilst not needing to change ordering patterns so Notcutts is still able to benefit from buying Middleton Foods products in bulk.

A signature dish for Notcutts is its home-cooked fish and chips. Battered in-house and fried to order, the fish is a popular choice. With wonderfully crispy batter, many customers are surprised to learn it’s entirely gluten-free. No gluten products are put into the Notcutts fryers, so it was important for the team to find a batter mix that avoided the allergen. 

A plate of scones. The scones are crumbling and piled plentiful on the plate.

Middleton Foods has created a gluten-free scone mix to expand the appeal of baked goods for more customers

As a trusted supplier, Boyle spoke to Middleton Foods and, after trialling the Premium Batter Mix, he then worked closely with the development team to perfect the batter mix. Middleton Foods worked collaboratively with Notcutts to create an adapted version that better suited their requirements and improved the quality of the product – and so the ‘Premium Plus’ Batter Mix was born!

Boyle says: “Working with the development team at Middleton Foods, they developed a Premium Plus Batter Mix for us which has moved the product on from the original Premium Batter Mix. It’s a lighter, crispier batter mix; which holds really well. Our customers are delighted with it.”

Looking ahead to the future of the collaboration between the two family-run businesses, Notcutts is keen to provide menu choices which cater to all dietary requirements. Working again with the development team at Middleton Foods, they have set to work creating a vegan sausage roll mix. Speaking about this latest innovation, Boyle continues:

“The vegan sausage roll mix we're working on is a huge step forward for us in achieving what we want to do. It’s a bake-from-scratch vegan mix, which we can put into a sausage roll; glaze it, bake it and have the same quality as we have with our meat alternative – but obviously using a totally vegan mix. We believe that working closely with the new product development team at Middleton Foods, who understand what we want, is key to our success. There are so many options going forward, which is fantastic.”

To summarise, Boyle spoke about the partnership between Notcutts and Middleton Foods beautifully, remarking:

“The vital thing for us at Notcutts is that we're here to make great products for our customers whenever we can, from scratch. We need the consistency of a product that from base, actually delivers what we need as a final ingredient. We trust Middleton Foods to guarantee exactly that.”

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