Adding a retail gift area in your tea room is a relatively easy way to increase your sales. You have a built in audience with your restaurant guests, and there are few activities that women enjoy more than shopping. It is always cheaper and easier to get an existing customer to spend more money than attract a new customer, making a gift area a great way to pump up your dollar total per guest. We know that most tea room owners love the food and hospitality industry, rather than retail, but we know first hand how having a small retail operation can really increase your bottom line.
In our Victorian house, we use 3 of the 4 public areas for the tea room and use one room as a dedicated gift shop area, as well as gift displays in the main entrance hallway. We pack a lot of merchandise into about 500 square feet, including bone china table top, vintage cups and saucers and lots of teaware, a bit of home decor, scented candles, pretty lace and floral clothing, jewelry, scarves, handbags, stationery, soaps and lotions, and seasonal gift items. We are known for our color-themed displays and our display mantra is "lush abundance", which makes it possible for us to showcase a lot of product in an appealing and easy-to-shop fashion in a small space.
We have a full-time gift shop employee who also serves as host/hostess for the tea room. All guests are presented a check at their table and then pay their bill in the gift shop on their way out. This system works well for a number of reasons. 1. It allows the servers to thank their customers and say goodbye when giving them the bill and are then free to focus on their other guests. 2. We have fewer people handling cash or messing up the till. 3. Guests walk past our displays on their way to the counter and often find something they cannot leave without. 4. The gift shop sales more than cover the cost of the hostess. 5. Each guest is asked how their experience was, so in the rare case of a service issue, we have an opportunity to make it right. 6) Gift shop sales more than cover the payroll cost of the gift shop/hostess.
How much space should you dedicate to retail sales? Take a look at your floor plan and number of tables. Are you using every table for the maximum number of turns each day? How many dollars does an under-utilized table bring in? Look at your average daily sales and figure what 10% of that number is. If it is more than you make at the table in question, consider turning it into a gift area. You can certainly increase your sales by more than 10% by adding retail, but this is a safe number for a small area. Obviously, the more space you have, the more you will sell.
A small gift area in a tea room should include packages of the tea that you serve in your shop, teaware, like infusers, pretty tea spoons, and a selection of tea cups and tea pots. Gourmet food items, especially if they are things you use in your tea room are good, as then folks can take the experience home with them. Jewelry sells itself - women love to encourage each other to treat themselves to something pretty and it takes up very little room. Scarves, tote bags and hats are great too. Clothing requires more space and special racks to display well, so unless you have lots of room, we suggest skipping that category. A selection of scented candles will sell, but unless your gift area is separated from your tea room tables, can be off-putting for diners; same with soaps and lotions.
We understand that most tea rooms do not have the space, time, money or interest in stocking a full gift shop, so we will be putting together some packages to make it easy to test the water.