The price is not right, say customers of Hawick park cafe

Councillor Clair Ramage outside Hawick's new Refresh cafe in Wilton Lodge Park.
Councillor Clair Ramage outside Hawick's new Refresh cafe in Wilton Lodge Park.

The long-awaited cafe in Hawick’s Wilton Lodge Park has come under fire for its allegedly London-like prices.

The Refresh Pavilion Cafe opened amid much fanfare in February as part of a £3.64m revamp of the Victorian park.

Hawick's Refresh cafe in Wilton Lodge Park.

Hawick's Refresh cafe in Wilton Lodge Park.

However, even before it opened, there were rumblings of discontent over the contract to run the facility being awarded to a company from outside the Borders, West Yorkshire-based Caterleisure.

And in recent weeks, Hawick councillors have received several complaints that prices charged at the cafe are out of reach for ordinary families.

A debate has also been raging on social media, with one Teri complaining the charges are more Hyde Park than Wilton Lodge Park.

It’s also claimed that its prices are more than twice those charged at the town’s Burnfoot Community Hub, and visitors have highlighted the high cost of treats aimed at children, particularly small iced slushes and ice creams at £1.95 and bottles of water at £1.65.

After the Southern made Caterleisure aware of those concerns, a company spokesperson pledged that the complaints would be considered at a review meeting next week.

Hawick and Denholm councillor Stuart Marshall said the pricing is a particular issue for those taking their children to the cafe.

He said: “I know the costs are limiting some from using this excellent facility.

“When the cafe was opened, we were told that Caterleisure would evaluate customer trends, and I certainly hope they reconsider pricing, particularly for items that can be purchased cheaper in other local retail outlets.

“The cafe is fantastic and has the potential to be a real tourist attraction, but they must cater for locals as well as visitors.”

Fellow Hawick and Denholm councillor Clair Ramage added: “When Caterleisure won the catering contract, people in Hawick were promised good-quality, locally-sourced food at competitive prices, but this has not happened.

“Many local companies bid for the catering contract with proven track records, but, for whatever reason, lost out to Caterleisure.

“I spoke to a young mother who said that she and her friends find the cafe very expensive and that they tend to bring their own drinks and snacks.”

The facility does have a staunch supporter in Hawick and Hermitage councillor Davie Paterson, however.

He said: “I am in the cafe at least once every week, and I have people regularly shouting its praises.”

“We had no choice with regards to the tendering process. If local people wanted to tender for the franchise, they were more than welcome to do so.

“I like the cafe. It’s a great asset for the town.”

Customers discussing it on social media sites have been scathing, though, with Hannah Chandler tweeting: “I’m not tight by any means. I’d pay higher prices for locally-sourced, freshly-cooked food, but a tenner for four Twisters and a Capri Sun for my little boy and nephews is totally pushing it.

“I got two lunches, cakes, coffee and juice for the same price at the Burnfoot Hub two days prior.

“Here’s hoping they take everyone’s comments on board.”

Karen Renwick added: “It’s not the price of coffee – it’s the same as most places. It’s the £1.60 for a bottle of water and £1.95 for small slushes and ice creams. Why are they pricing it high? Are they having to cover the costs of being there?”

A spokesperson for Caterleisure thanked the Southern for bringing the issue to the company’s attention, adding: “We shall look into these matters at our review meeting next week.”