Opening a tea room is a dream for tea lovers and business owners alike.
For the consumers, it allows them to enjoy high-quality teas and delicacies in a pleasant and relaxed ambiance.
For the owners, it’s the chance to participate in the preservation of places of socialization for food lovers without facing the complexities of running a restaurant-like kitchen.
In this post, we are going to show you all the aspects you need to take into account to open a successful tea room in the UK.
From the living room of a house to luxury hotels: the evolution of the tearoom
The concept of the tea room has evolved tremendously over the years. It all began in the 19th century when British high-society women gathered for tea in the drawing room of their homes. In these “afternoon teas,” they enjoyed a good conversation accompanied by a cup of tea and some pastries.
As time went by, luxury hotels started to come up with their tea rooms. Tea became much more than just enjoying a drink, it was about quality socializing.
During Victorian times, tea rooms became a symbol of British culture. This concept then spread to France, the United States, and Japan, until it reached a large number of countries around the world.
Nowadays, it is rare to find a city anywhere in the world that does not have a tea room.
Moreover, these places are becoming a meeting place for eating, drinking, and culture, but without losing the tradition of enjoying a good conversation over a cup of tea.
What do I need before opening a tea room?
If you are reading this, it is because you want to take your passion for tea one step further and make a living from what you love. Here’s a summary of the most important elements you need to take into account before opening a tea room.
To open a tea room, you need:
- A business plan, including a marketing plan,
- A good location that attracts customers,
- Suitable premises + licenses for food-related businesses,
- Furniture, kitchenware, and decoration,
- A well-thought menu with teas and other products.
Let’s dive deep into some of these topics.
The search of the perfect site to open a tea room
The location of your business is key to attracting customers. The more pedestrian traffic you have in the street, the more likely you are to catch the attention and get customers to walk through the door.
If you ever walked around the narrow streets of Notting Hill, you know how easy it is for the shops around to attract many customers from the flow of locals, tourists, and shoppers.
To find the perfect location, you can either use online advertising portals or hire real estate agents. They will charge you a commission on the price, but they have valuable data on the best areas in each city to open all types of businesses.
As a general rule, the best locations in a city are the central, commercial, and touristic areas. These are the so-called “hot spots” in the real estate market.
A tea room in a shopping area is perfect to start an afternoon of leisure. In a touristic area, it can be the place to recharge your batteries after a long day of sightseeing and activities.
On the other hand, in the hot spots, you will have to pay a higher rent.
If you offer casual food or snacks, you can also find opportunities in business districts. It would not only be suitable for breakfast, lunch, and dinner services, but it could also be a great place for some business meetings.
I already have the location. What are the requirements for the premises?
The premises you choose for your business must have enough space to host the lounge where the tables and chairs will be placed. Count additional space for a toilet, a small storage room, and a work area for the bar counter and kitchen.
Regarding legal requirements, we advise you to go to your local town hall and find out everything you need to know in terms of licenses: access for disabled guests, emergency exits, regulations, health & safety…
The decoration of your tea room: love at first sight!
The decoration of your tea room is key to attracting customers and making them feel at home. Think of it as an opportunity to create a unique and memorable experience.
For this, we recommend using neutral colors such as white, cream, or other pastel tones for the walls. A colorful painting on a white wall increases the visual impact. If you want to give a more refined or high class atmosphere, use decorative wallpaper, like the classic British tea rooms.
Make sure the chairs or armchairs are very comfortable. Always take into account the relationship between the size of the tables and the chairs. It’s not just the fabric or softness that is important; make sure they allow for comfortable seating and are at the perfect height for the table.
Use large plants to convey a feeling of freshness connected to nature. A natural or warm light for the evening, together with a good selection of classical, chill, or jazz music will create a relaxed atmosphere in which time will be secondary.
Consider surrounding yourself with professionals if your budget allows it. They will know how to convey your message and upseel like no other.
Don’t forget that the decoration and atmosphere will be the first impression that customers have of your business. It’s a key factor that will make them come back over and over again.
The menu of your tea room: the number 1 key factor of success
We have already seen the importance of creating the perfect assortment for a tea shop. For a tea room, the same logic applies.
Unlike a tea shop where you only sell tea, a tea room is also a place to eat and drink. That’s why your menu should display tea, coffee, soft drinks, smoothies, even wine and spirits (if allowed), and some food, pastries or snacks.
While preparing the menu, you should always keep your potential customer in mind in order to suit as much as possible to their tastes and preferences. How well you do this will be key to the success of your business and the loyalty of your customers.
Here is a breakdown of the sections your menu should have.
Tea & Herbal teas
Tea is unquestionably the star product of a tea room. The menu must be extensive enough to satisfy all tea lovers. It is even advisable to have a menu only for teas and another one for the other drinks and food.
This menu should be divided into tea families. Then, within each family, you should separate the pure teas from the blends.
Describe the tea to help customers making their choice: taste, ingredient list, allergens, caffeine strength, origin, flush, or grade for single estate teas…
Next to each tea, you can include a symbol to quickly indicate whether the tea allows adding milk or ice.
The final part of the menu can be dedicated to herbal teas, fruit teas, and rooibos. This section is ideal for those customers who cannot drink caffeine, and also for those in search of the benefits of herbal teas.
Regarding the quantity of teas and herbal teas, there is no standard. There are tea rooms with 40 references, and others with 200. What we recommend is that the first part of your menu should be used to highlight specific recommendations and seasonal teas.
Customers will appreciate the guidance and will easily understand popularity cues.
Make it clear on the menu that it is possible to buy loose tea to take home. This will help you increase your profit!
Tea and coffee are friends! Just as tea is drunk in coffee shops all around the world, coffee is also sold in tea rooms.
Here you have 2 options:
- Focus on tea and offer only one good quality coffee.
- Offer a small menu with 4 or 5 single origin coffees (popular origins would be Colombia, Ethiopia, Brazil, Kenya, Honduras, and Guatemala…)
Keep in mind that there will be customers who will come accompanied by people who prefer a coffee rather than a tea. If you have some alternatives to make them happy, the more likely they are to choose to visit your tea room.
In your tea room, you should offer different types of beverages to target a wider audience. We will divide them into 2 :
- Natural and non-alcoholic drinks,
- Alcoholic drinks.
In the group of non-alcoholic drinks, you can offer natural juices, smoothies, and even milkshakes with tea, ice cream shakes, and soft drinks.
In alcoholic beverages, we recommend you have:
- Beers (you can have some basic and some more special or craft beers).
- Wines and Champagne (commonly sold by the glass)
- Cocktails (you can have from the classic mojitos, margaritas, or gin tonics to more original ones made with tea).
Your tea room should offer some food for the tea service and for those guests who want something to eat.
The best food options to accompany tea are pastries like cookies, muffins, scones, cakes, and biscuits.
You can also offer some simple snacks such as sandwiches, hamburgers or salads as well.
In this post, we have extensively discussed the most important aspects of setting up a tea room.
In summary, we can assert that a significant portion of your success hinges on securing a prime location, furnishing the premises with exquisite decor, and crafting a well-structured menu. Focusing your efforts into delivering high-quality tea and impeccable service, will be the key to achieve your dream.
We trust that these insights will be valuable as you endeavor to bring your dream tea lounge to life. Should you require further information or guidance in selecting your assortment, you can rely on professionals who will guide you on the path to success.