Beacon, Britain’s leading purchasing company, is urging operators to take advantage of the rising popularity of afternoon tea ahead of Mother’s Day on Sunday 11 March. According to OpenTable, the desire to take part in an afternoon tea experience is growing, with bookings increasing by 54% over the past two years.
A traditional British treat, the afternoon tea experience has evolved in recent years, offering more operators the opportunity to enter the market, and make their mark. From high-end hotels charging £500 a couple, to cafés offering tasty treats at a mere fraction of the price – any establishment can take advantage of the opportunity.
Alice Bexon, Purchasing Manager at Beacon, working alongside suppliers, Alliance National, Tetley Tea and Destiny Foods, shares her advice on how to offer the perfect afternoon tea experience.
The main event!
“According to our supplier Tetley Tea, the UK out of home tea market remains extremely buoyant, increasing by 13.6% in value between 2015 and 2017. In terms of afternoon tea, loose leaf tea should be considered due to soaring sales, with 29% of the public drinking more loose-leaf tea out of home than this time last year. With this said, it is also important to offer a wide range to appeal to all tastes, with the non-black tea sector also seeing significant growth in the past year. Peppermint tea has seen value growth of 11.8% compared to 2016 and herbal, green and fruit teas are also increasing in popularity. Offering a full mix of refreshing and soothing blends will ensure that you maximise appeal for all customers. This could include the likes of Mint Fusion and Camomile, as well as intensely fruity flavours like Raspberry and Pomegranate and Green Tea with Mango.
“There is a consumer trend of wanting to snap and share food photos on social media platforms such as Instagram[i], and this is something operators are becoming increasingly aware of. An afternoon tea experience provides the ideal social snapshot, and our suppliers, including Destiny Foods, attribute a rise in the sales of colourful cake products to this. From bright macaroons to vibrant icing – the importance of a visually pleasing range is vital. By making your offering picture perfect, it also encourages more customers to share their experience on social platforms, which simultaneously gives an operator word of mouth advertising.
It’s all experiential
With this said, one of the most effective or impactful ways to stand out from competitors is by adding an element of theatre. One of our customers, The Best Western Clifton Hotel, Folkestone, has seen a major boost in its afternoon tea profits, increasing bookings by 900%, with the use of a stunt cake artist. Extravagant food artistry can range from chocolate teapots to icing flower arrangements – really give your consumers something to start talking about, and of course post on your social media pages to spread the word!
Tableware to impress
“Not only does the food and drink need to be visually attractive, but what it is displayed on also needs to look the part. Our supplier, Alliance National offers a range of plate stands with striking designs that can help to make sweet treats and sandwiches stand out, but visual appeal should also extend to the other china used, even when it comes to serving the tea itself. Dependent on each individual operator’s brand a different end finish will be required, however offering extra special presentation can really help to enhance the appeal of an afternoon tea offering.
Experiment with flavours
“Whilst a traditional afternoon tea experience remains highly desirable, featuring well known confectionery such as a Victoria sandwich, there is also a growing demand for more creativity. Destiny Foods suggests innovating with flavours and opting for interesting, softer ingredients such as elderflower, rose and lavender. Putting a twist on an old favourite can also help to set your menu apart, for example a raspberry and rose éclair, as offered by Destiny Foods. If traditional flavours are chosen, such as orange and lemon, operators can add more provenance to the menu by naming them after the provenance of the fruit, for example “Brazilian Orange”.
Within the overall food industry, the trend of hybrid and fusion cooking is becoming evermore popular, specifically with Asian influences. Tetley Tea recognises this, stating that consumer demand for natural, earthy flavours such as matcha, ginger, turmeric and cumin is evident. Customers are now seeking more bold and adventurous flavours, whilst also pursuing alternative health benefits associated with the ingredients, following the rise of the health-conscious consumer. With this, there is a willingness to pay a premium price for healthier products. Research from Tetley Tea found that 65% of consumers are willing to pay more for a premium drink, highlighting that there is plenty of opportunity for operators to maximise sales.
My main advice to operators who may want to add an afternoon tea to their offering or innovate their existing menu, would be to ensure that they understand their demographic, as this will significantly influence not only their product choice, but how they execute the experience.”
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