Ampersand is poised to unveil a new 700-seat Terrace restaurant at ZSL London Zoo, just 12 months after it was awarded a £22m five-year public catering contract at the popular visitor attraction.
ZSL London Zoo attracts 1.1 million visitors every year. It has invested £4.6m in the revamp of the restaurant, which is a key part of the restoration of the zoo’s historic Regent’s building, to create a larger and more user-friendly space. Previously the catering facility was capable of accommodating 200 diners.
Ampersand managing director Paul Jackson commented: “It’s a massive leap to go from 200 seats to 700 but it was so choked before. It’s been on the cards for years.
“The whole of the inside of the building has been opened up to reveal some beautiful two-storey arches that were sitting there from day one but had unfortunately been covered up.
“It has a very, very large terraced seating area outside, which will transform the look and feel of the catering experience, as well as an atrium space for seating. The footprint of the building has been totally maximised and opened right out to make it light and airy. It’s now a space to be enjoyed.”
The menu will take inspiration from the concept of ‘feeding time at the zoo’, with Ampersand providing a number of offers aimed at catering for all palates. These include a “kids’ corner” with lowered counter and children’s menu; a “family favourites” offer of curries, pastas and pies; a three-metre deli counter; salad bar and two large “sweet treats” tables of traditional cakes, alongside animal-themed bakes such as tiger cupcakes and crocodile rice crispy cakes.
Arranged in a U-shape around a focal point clay pizza oven, there will also be roast chicken options with various rubs and marinades, homemade burgers and fish and chips.
“We’ve been working on the food offer for quite some time,” said Jackson. We looked at the data from the zoo itself, at what people do and don’t buy, and wee then developed a menu that could cover all sorts.”
Ampersand has been responsible for the event catering contract at the zoo since 2006, when it picked up the contract from Leith’s. At the same time, ZSL took the public catering service, also operated by Leith’s, back in house.
Jackson explained the decision to once again outsource the public catering element of the operation: “When it came to looking at this new build and transforming the catering into one of the largest restaurants in London, if not the UK – and certainly the largest one that we operate – ZSL recognised that they didn’t have the support network and skill to manage it.”
Work has started on the next stage of ZSL’s efforts to improve its visitors’ experience. A refurbishment programme for the venue’s event space has kicked off with a new outside terrace for drinks receptions already complete. The internal spaces will be looked at next.
“It’s a landmark change for London Zoo with regards to its approach to catering. It has done considerable work on its visitors’ experience already, such as the Tiger Territory and Penguin Beach. It’s recognising the benefit of developing the visitor space and making considerable investment to make sure the whole thing is seen as a great value day out,” said Jackson.Ampersand wins £22m five-year contract at London Zoo >>