Ventnor Botanic Garden: John Curtis Asks The Royal To Leave Cafe

The New CIC at Ventnor Botanic Garden have said they want to run the cafe, so The Royal will be leaving soon. Get down to sample the delights before chef Bridget Wells leaves. Her food has been excellent.

Although rumours have been circulating recently, it has now been confirmed to VentnorBlog by The Royal that they will be stepping away from running the Royal Garden Cafe at Ventnor Botanic Garden.

VBG Visitors Centre: Visitors to the cafe have seen the decor, service and quality of food improve dramatically since the concession was taken over by The Royal Hotel two years ago.

New owner wants to run cafe
Owner William Bailey told VB this morning, “As a result of several meetings, John Curtis decided that it would be best if the new CIC took over the running of the catering.

“We tried to point out that having the Royal as appointed caterers would have been an asset to the new CIC and having excellent food would attract more people to the Garden.”

Percentage of turnover and ground rent were offered
Anyone who uses the cafe regularly will agree that the Royal’s involvement has turned around the offer by the Garden cafe.

William continued, “Furthermore Mr Curtis is also aware that in the two years we have been there we have substantially increased the turnover. We also highlighted that the CIC would get 8% of turnover and a ground rent of £10,000.

“However Mr Curtis was quite adamant that he would prefer to do the catering himself. Therefore we are trying as hard as we can to make sure that there is a smooth hand over.”

“Really enthusiastic about what … we’re concluding “
Only two weeks ago when we interviewed John Curtis he gave no indication that he was planning to take over the running of the cafe.

Readers who listened to the podcast will remember John saying, “I’ve spent a lot of time working with the Royal about how we’re going to work together, and I’m really enthusiastic about what we’re concluding. Today it’s a cafe and it’s going to stay a cafe.”

John Curtis just replied
We have written to John Curtis a couple of times over the last three days and in the last two minutes we received this, “William and I have been focused on providing a consistent service through the transition of the Garden from the IOWC to the C.I.C. Please reassure your readers that the cafe will continue and nothing will be lost. I rather agree that fresh bread baked at the Garden, sandwiches to order, and the excellent cakes are important and should continue. William and I are working hard to make the transition invisible for cafe customers.”

Thanks to loyal customers
William finished by saying, “We wish the team at VBG good luck and every success.

“Lastly the Royal and Bridget wanted to thank all our loyal customers for supporting us over the last two years.”

Listen to Interview with John Curtis.

Image: Ron Saunders under CC BY 2.0

Monday, 26th March, 2012 12:32pm



Filed under: Business, Isle of Wight News, Ventnor

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34 Comments on "Ventnor Botanic Garden: John Curtis Asks The Royal To Leave Cafe"

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Very disappointing. It seems strange to make the decision so soon. There’s a lot to deal with so keeping consistency with the things that work already would seem more sensible. Why not let the Royal stay there anther year and get others things around the gardens settled first?


I agree, why so keen to get rid of something that works so well?


What a shame. I thought it was a winning combination. Hope what it’s replaced with is as good.


The old army saying comes to mind “If it works, don’t fix it”.

Lex Parsimoniae

The grapes from the Royal are sour in spring.

I assumed this would be happening at some point, but thought it might take a little longer to end the current agreement. If they have done their calculations and can make more money running it themselves, it is to their benefit to take it back unless The Royal want to sweeten the current agreement. They can still run it in the same way, but they get more… Read more »

How much money have VBG seen from the Royal since they took over the catering , without, allegedly , ever signing a contract?
What percentage of takings have VBG ever received?
How much do they pay for the lease to VBG-ie, the council, ie, us,the council tax payer?
Are they not a business?
Are we getting value AND quality?

I hope Mr Curtis is better when it comes to gardening ! to let the Royal go is a hugh mistake, they are easily the best caterers on the Island and l suspect Mr Curtis as no idea just how difficult this is going to be and how much money he will loose while trying to work it out. I suspect the Royal will get a call… Read more »

Terribly predictable!


Huge mistake letting the Royal go, they are a slick operation and to run a cafe is not easy, believe me I know, if you are charging people to enter the BG they will expect a high standard, good luck with that one Mr Curtis!


works so well for whom…The Royal maybe, but with the simpering about entrence fees, it must surely be a good idea that the people pledging to help the gardens survive be allowed to capitalise on its few economic streams and run the cafe themselves for their profit.


Wow £10K rent is a bargain – if it makes money then it would make sense to keep hold of it and plough money into keeping gardens going.


I hope it doesn’t return to the bog-standard sandwiches and jacket potato offering that we can get anywhere on the island. The food wasn’t particularly fancy at the cafe but it was certainly a lot better than what was on offer before.

It made going to the botanics even more special.

I’ll be sad to see it go.

There are so many problems with the Gardens, the one thing that was great was the way the Royal had turned the catering around. Getting rid of a caterer who would attract customers to the gardens is madness. Does this mean we will be going back to the old days and the appalling food we used to get two years ago. lets see what the new caters… Read more »
Lizzie Jane
Why on earth would Mr Curtis want to change something that so obviously works well? I think it’s a real shame. Since the Royal took over the cafe has taken on a new lease of life. I’ve spent many an afternoon there and the place has always been bustling (and not just from the many coach passengers). I really think letting the Royal go is a mistake,… Read more »

sigh!!..because Mr.Curtis now has to make the gardens financially viable, rather than making the Royal more money.

You wanted the gardens saved….now let the saviours get on with doing so


I agree No5.
Fundamental business rule.
Quality and control can be difficult when a business operates inside another.


(As we Eye readers know): good reasons to avoid P.F.I.s & privatised services!


Good luck then in finding cafes and restaurants that aren’t in private ownership.

It would seem to be perfectly good business sense to take over the cafe if that was an option and doesn’t that show Mr Curtis is trying to get as much revenue possible for VBG? I agree they should have a good food offering and they will need to get that right – but it’s hardly rocket science, great cakes and sarnies. I am sure that people… Read more »

Wot no Bridget’s famous meringues :(

I have watched as the cafe has transformed from serving a few cakes and sandwiches to where it is today, and it didn’t happen over night! The staff have made the cafe a ‘work in progress’ and changed their menu’s accordingly.It is a great shame that having spent two years coming up with the result we have today, they have been asked to step down. I will… Read more »

The place won’t be the same without Bridget! What about the chutney?!?

I can’t believe after all the great work The Royal has done at The Royal Cafe that they have been asked to leave. They are one of the best caterers on our Island. Has Mr Curtis really thought this through in such a short space of time. Im not sure anyone can match Bridget’s lovely cakes for taste!!!!! What a great shame, I will be sad to… Read more »

The cafe looked really stylish and had a bit of flair about it. The very talented Chef Bridget made some wonderful cakes and sausage rolls. She always had a winning smile unlike the people who used to work there before, that was so depressing.

ready steady ... go!

I take all my friends who visit the Island along to VBG and the highlight is the lovely lunch (And afternoon tea) it isnt something that is going to be easily replicated – A hard act to follow!

Not sure I will head that way once they are gone… May simply go for afternoon tea at the Royal!

Chris Wilmott
Why is he taking over the café? I don’t think you need to be Einstein to work out that, having acquired the Gardens (sigh) his interest lies in making as much money as possible from them. If the Royal concession is as successful as everyone says, to the new operators it’s just another profit centre worth acquiring. After all, if your interest is fundamentally business, why would… Read more »
I’m really pleased that the gardens will be saved from possible closure, but let’s be under no illusion about where this is all going. Someone referred to John Curtis as a philanthropist at the public meeting. Excuse me, but he’s an investor. Yes, he probably anticipates a loss in the first couple of years, but will be reaping in the profits in later years for sure. Just… Read more »

Message to Mr. Curtis…back out of this deal…locals would rather pay money to The Royal for a meranque than save the Botanical Gardens…you don’t stand a chance.

Winghers rejoice

The Good Fairy
well.. if they can save the buisness, and im assuming they are not daft.. maybe they have plans for the cafe. The royal is not the only catering operation in town, sure their food is good.. but so is a lot of other cooks and chefs fayre. If they want to save money, this seems a viable way to save it. Despite the rent, the profit, if… Read more »

I agree, last I heard the royal hadn’t even signed a contract which begs the question how much financially have they supported the garden over the last 2 years?

witchfinder general

If they are having an entrance fee to the gardens, I would have thought that those who just use the cafe would go elsewhere anyway. So after a while the Royal would have to re-negotiate the rent to make up for the short fall.


The entrance fee is, as I understand it, going to be voluntary, in order that anyone wanting to just use the visitor centre (for classes, exhibitions or the like) need not pay to enter the botanical gardens. I’ve only eaten in the cafe as few times, but have been very impressed with the standard. If the quality can be retained I’ll be happy.

James P

“working hard to make the transition invisible for cafe customers”

The trouble with investors is that they think money fixes everything, but you can’t make Bridget’s cakes (for example) without Bridget.