Couple utilizes Florida SBDC at USF to grow in new industry
McLane’s Country Garden, Inc. of Highlands County
Lolly McLane has never owned a restaurant before. Her career was spent in garden nurseries and landscaping. But she and her husband Scott, saw an opportunity for an outdoor garden café, and decided to open McLane’s Country Garden.
“Downtown needed a restaurant and we thought that it was an opportunity and that, hopefully, we could encourage other people to come to downtown and open other businesses,” McLane said.
Three and a half years later, the McLane’s have a successful outdoor garden café that specializes in fresh foods. In addition, customers can stroll through the gardens while they wait for their table, or even sit amongst the flowers while eating. The restaurant is open year round. While business is good, the McLane’s weren’t always sure they were making the right decisions and had to learn on the fly. That’s where David Noel, a certified business consultant with the Florida SBDC at University of South Florida, located at South Florida State College, came into play.
“They gave us a lot of ideas,” McLane said of David’s assistance. “Some of the things we’ve been able to do and we know that eventually we’re going to do more of the things he’s told us to do.”
Noel initially did a review of the facilities to improve signage and curb appeal from the road. Next came a look at their accounting procedures. In addition to Noel’s involvement, he brought in additional consultants to assist with marketing ideas.
“They were struggling with customers at one point in time,” Noel said. “This year they seem to be having constant customers even into the summer months. The McLane’s have gotten a strong presence here.”
McLane agrees, saying business is booming. “Our sales are up. We are the number one restaurant in Highlands County and we are number one on Trip Advisor, and that is very hard [to get] because customers rate you.”
While sales are up, McLane admits they still have room to grow, and she intends to continue to work with Noel to accomplish some tasks down the road.
“I see that we’re moving forward,” she said. “We still have certain areas that I would love to get better at but I think we will. Everyone there has something to offer that you have not seen. They come with very open minds to try to help you and, if you are open minded to accepting their help, you’ll go forward. There’s nothing wrong with asking for help.”