By Enyeribe Ejiogu
Overseas, tea rooms exist and are well patronized by connoisseurs. The cozy, warm ambience of such places provide the right environment for couples or romantically partners to meet and chat, as well as have a break from the frenetic pace of their daily engagements.
Business discussions can also be held and deals sealed in the laid-back and relaxing environment of a tea room as the people involved savour their preferred tea blend, pastries or the like. For instance, there is a major five star hotel in Ikeja, which is part of an international chain, which has a tea room as part of its other special offerings.
Properly conceptualized, designed and well operated, tea rooms now offer a great business opportunity for daring investors and other people passionate about tea. What is required is for the person to have the right business model. A person with entrepreneurial orientation can establish a small tea room.
According to Chron.com, a tiny tea room can save you a lot of money on staff, rent and other costs if you go about turning your passion for tea into a business and income source. As with all business endeavours you have to take the right steps, do the right things, have an appealing product offering and do good marketing. In a nutshell, “you need to offer good tea to win clientele.”
Besides water, tea is the world’s most popular drink, but that doesn’t guarantee your tea room will be a success. Making your tea room tiny is a good move toward profitability: less rent, less furniture to buy, fewer supplies and fewer empty, wasted tables. It also means fewer customers at a time, so you’ll still have to work to maximize your profits per customer. Are Nigerian willing to go out and spend time in a tea room? Oh, sure, Nigerians are ever willing something new, as long as it is well packaged and given a touch of class and glamour. As with any startup business, you have source finance in a creative manner, do market research and feasibility studies, look into the legal and licensing requirements set by the government in respect of food and beverage services. However, there are some steps that are unique to the tiny tea room.
The floor plan
The rule of thumb for restaurant tables is that they should be 24 to 30 inches apart. When you’re figuring how many tables and chairs you can install, keep that in mind. You also need space for your staff to move between tables and for customers to enter and leave the restaurant without bumping into anyone. Squeezing in extra tables to squeeze more cash from customers can work against you: design your tea room with the customer in mind, not just your bottom line. Study pictures of other tea rooms and create your own unique floor plan.
Once you calculate how many people you can fit at a time, you’ll have an idea of how much revenue you can generate in a day. Don’t forget to budget space for an office and for storage of supplies.
Tea and Scones
A small tea room doesn’t require the crowds that flock to Starbucks. You’ll still need a tea menu that will draw customers, and possibly a food menu as well. It might take market research – visiting and studying local tea shops, talking to tea lovers – to know what can work for you and help you achieve your objective.
If you have a local population of serious tea lovers, you might be able to get by offering tea alone. To keep customers coming back, you’ll need a wide selection, possibly 50 blends of tea for them to try. You’ll need good-quality tea too, so you’ll have work hard on finding the best suppliers. Today, Nigerians are beginning to fall in love with different blends of tea. So key into the growing romance between Nigerians and tea.
If the population of tea enthusiasts in the area where you want to set up is smaller, it might be more profitable to reduce the tea selection and add food. A really small location might not have room for anything in the kitchen but the kettle. However, many tea stores buy cookies, brownies or other snacks from local confectioners and serve to their customers. Adding food can expand your customer base beyond tea lovers. Even if your tea is top quality, adding food could make the difference between success and failure. However, it also adds to your space requirements: more storage and, if you’re doing any cooking, a small kitchen.
The right site
A tiny tea room with fewer customers requires less parking than a more conventional restaurant. Spaces that wouldn’t support, say, a Joe Van Gogh coffee shop could be perfect for you. Beyond that, look at how much foot traffic you need. The more customers you need to stay in the black, the more important it is to find an area that attracts high foot traffic.
One strategy that sounds counterintuitive is to pick a site near a competing tea shop. Your competition’s advertising will draw customers to the area, then you can use your quality offerings to lure them in. One advantage of being small is that if you have customers, your store will look constantly full, and therefore more desirable.
►Adapted from smallbusiness.chron.com