Posted: 18th November 2015
As a nation of tea lovers it should be enough to open your doors and pour steaming brown liquid into hefty mugs for grateful customers; but liquid refreshment is competitive market, not in the least with purveyors of the other brown steaming beverage. But if you do your research and find your niche you’ll soon be tapping into the tea loving public.
Choosing the right location is absolutely crucial; tea room customers have an immediate (often spontaneous) need so your business will need to be located where customers are “doing something else”, shopping, sightseeing, walking etc. Not necessarily on the high street it could be in a garden centre or near a tourist attraction. Spend some time people watching looking at patterns and activities to see how your potential customers behave and buy.
You want your customers to choose you over the competition and keep coming back, so the experience must be comfortable and unique. To stand out look at having a theme or niche; vintage or retro for example lends itself really well to a Tea Room (you can dress up and offer food from the era – 1950’s for example). Big companies spend a fortune on interior design and layout to improve the customer experience but there are some brilliant free tools to help you achieve the same impact. www.floorplanner.com As an independent Tea Room you can afford to be quirky and different with your décor; it can even be part of your USP “The Pink Tea Rooms”!
Tea and cakes, biscuits or sandwiches go beautifully together and it’s a good way to increase customer order value and satisfaction; especially if you can source local artisan foods. You will need to make sure you comply with all the food hygiene regulations www.food.gov.uk and health and safety of customers and staff www.hse.gov.uk/catering/ The rules are different if you are cooking on the premises and most likely more expensive; in the early stages it may be better to rely on suppliers. Visit farmers markets, food hubs and farm shops they have a range of locally produced home made products on offer that can be purchased wholesale.
Develop a good working relationship with your suppliers and offer a wide range of top notch products (organic, herbal, local). Feature special teas, have mini tastings, make suggestions and train your staff on all the products. You will need staff immediately, the customer will not wait! Your staff are your best ambassadors; choose people you know you can work with who are customer facing, train them, treat them fairly and be clear about their duties and responsibilities.
You will need to talk to the local council especially if you need a “change of use” for the premises www.planningportal.gov.uk/permission/commonprojects/changeofuse/ and don’t forget to factor in fixtures and fittings which be expensive; you’ll need water boilers, dishwashers, fridges, crockery etc. but there is a vibrant second hand market http://secondhand-catering-equipment.co.uk/
This website (although it coffee) has some great resources and guides www.howtostartacoffeeshop.co.uk/