Why the success of other tearooms should be part of your marketing plan.
Three very different tea experiences:
A cafe in Scotland tiny tea room in Bath, UK The Ritz in London
It is always tempting to consider other similar businesses as competition, and try to find ways to keep your customers from learning about their business. We feel differently, and welcome other tea businesses in our region and while we don't exactly encourage our clients to try the others, we do not view them as "competition" as much as "marketing assistants".
We work hard to be the best in our business. We enjoy afternoon tea while traveling and are always looking for ideas we can adapt to our use, even at other types of restaurants. We try to strike a balance between traditional afternoon tea and creative/innovative modern options. We make sure that our tea is a good value (not the same as inexpensive!), with plenty of food (no one should leave hungry), high quality ingredients, great recipes and beautiful presentation. We also try to change our menu and decor (table runners and draperies) seasonally, to keep it fresh for guests, and we make a really big deal out of Christmas. We don't worry about someone else having a "better" tea room than us. We are all just different...like a box of chocolates. You may love the cream filled chocolates, but you still want to try them all, just in case you find a new favorite.
We believe that every tea room is a reflection of the proprietor. One of the most memorable afternoon teas we ever experienced was in a tiny shopping mall-like building. The tea room was little more than a kiosk-like cart with a broom closet kitchen and a few small tables arranged around a fountain in the center courtyard. The owner was the most welcoming and friendly older lady, who upon learning we were there to have tea, sat us down and started bringing out food, just like going to grandma's house It was certainly not traditional afternoon tea, as there was bread to dip in olive oil and balsamic, toasted panini sandwiches cut into fingers, a fruit cup, and some tropical pineapple chicken thingy that was delicious, and a variety of desserts. She filled our teapot with her house blend tea, kept our water glasses full and shared that her father was Italian and her mother Filipino, so that is what she served. It was lovely, and although I have never had such an eclectic tea set again, it remains one of my favorite afternoon meals, and I believe that every tea room has something special to offer, whether a beautiful ambience, cozy atmosphere, amazing food, fancy pastries or impeccable service. Guests can each have a different preference, which may change based on the day or the occasion.
Years ago, a group of tea room owners in our area formed an association to share marketing ideas and co-op advertising. We met every few months at one of our locations to share a meal and chat. We honestly did a lot more socializing than serious "work", but it was great to have a group to share ideas and discuss the joys and pitfalls of owning a tea room. Sadly, all the others in our group have since closed or retired, but several of us still get together annually to catch up. Our shops were all very different, but we had many of the same customers.
Once people discover the afternoon tea experience, many become aficionados and want to try other tea rooms. Best of all, most people don't eat alone, so they bring a friend or two along and some of them will get hooked on the experience too. We know that every tea room that opens will increase the number of people who fall in love with afternoon tea and who will eventually find their way to our shop. It is then our job to provide an amazing experience that they will want to repeat.