Agenda item

Initial feedback and learning in relation to the engagement and consultation with café users


The Committee received a presentation from Jon Sheath Associates who were undertaking a consultation exercise on the procurement process for the five park cafes across Hampstead Heath, Golders Hill Park, Highgate Wood and Queen’s Park.


The Committee were updated on the background of the café procurement project, noting the following points.


-       Three of the Cafes (Parliament Hill Café at Hampstead Heath, the Golders Hill Park Café and the Highgate Wood Café) had been awarded to the franchise Benugo in 2014 after they had won a tendering exercise.

-       The transition had not been completed in the face of large local opposition, and the withdrawal of Benugo from the process.

-       Following extensive negotiations the winning bidder for the Queen’s Park Café had also withdrawn from the process. The tenant at the Lido café had been operating, but has since ceased trading. All five cafes were currently on tenancy at will agreements with the original providers.


Members discussed the reasons why the first procurement exercise had not been successful. It was felt that the initial process had failed to identify questions that would demonstrate the provider’s ability to recognise the social aspect of the café.  To address this issue, the consultation process being undertaken would inform the questions that would be included in the next procurement  to address this issue. It was also anticipated that members of community groups would form part of the assessment panels to further assist in capturing local desire. The Committee further discussed the reasons behind the decision of Minkies to withdraw from the Queen’s Park Café. Members felt that the costs associated with the TUPE could be seen as prohibitive for a small local business; however the Superintendent assured the Committee that the costs were reasonable and viable for the establishment. The extension of the lease under the Open Spaces Bill would also help small businesses to spread the cost risk of the TUPE arrangements.


The consultation exercise on the first three cafés had now been largely completed, and the two remaining cafes were due to follow the same process. The consultation had identified a number of desired outcomes for the cafes and these could be grouped into four areas, Economic, Social, Health and Environmental. The investigation process had also looked at a variety of models and the potential for cafes to offer additional services.


By law, the lease length of the Cafés was restricted to three years and it was felt this did not encourage the occupier to invest in the establishment. The Corporation had sought to tackle this issue in the Open Spaces Bill currently progressing through parliament. The Bill would provide for leases of 15 years (21 years in special circumstances), but was not due to complete the parliamentary process for a further two years. It was therefore anticipated that a one year lease extension would be offered to the present occupier of the café, after which a tendering exercise would be undertaken for a three year lease (with longer leases to be offered subsequently). Members queried whether the 3 year lease could be offered with the inducement of first refusal on the longer lease. 



The survey for the Queen’s Park café had a further two weeks to run and Members discussed the initial results. The following points were noted:


-       231 questionnaires had so far been received.

-       The café was primarily occupied by families.

-       A majority of users were in the younger age bracket.

-       Users were not loyal to the café

-       The quality of food was seen as the most important aspect of the café. Price was also high on the results.

-       Healthy food was seen as more important than the diversity of the offer.

-       People wanted the look and feel of the café to be individual and unique, as well as to work well in the surrounding landscape.


The current leaseholders were well informed of the process and had feedback from users prompted by the posting of the questionnaire on social media had been passed back to them.


In response to Members concerns that large franchises could win the procurement process again, the Chairman reported that the result of the process would not be controversial this time as local residents had been included throughout the process