Tearooms dot the landscape here in the U.S. from coast to coast, but quite often their service is really lacking. As a public service for both patrons and owners, I present my personal tips for improvements I’d like to see.

Separate off the salad to keep its flavors fresh and apart. (From Yahoo! Images)

Separate off the salad to keep its flavors fresh and apart. (From Yahoo! Images)

1 Be Congenial

A short time ago I came across the story of a tearoom in Britain that is staffed by some real “grumpy heads.” They say that they come from a part of the country where a taciturn disposition is rather common and expected. To that I say, “Then choosing a line of work requiring you to deal with the public in a more congenial manner would seem incongruous.” Part of owning a tearoom involves at least a smile and a “Welcome” to your customers. Some folks will find your scowling and sulking to be part of the atmosphere, but many will not. It’s tough to get people to walk through your door the first time and even tougher to get them to come back or recommend you to family, friends, and acquaintances. Which brings us to #2.

2 Don’t Underestimate the Power of Word of Mouth

They say that bad news travels like wildfire. Thanks to the internet and texting on cell phones, it now travels at the speed of light, making that wildfire look like a pokey old tortoise. Sadly, customers can take advantage of this and become overly demanding or they can get upset at a triviality that you aren’t even aware of and blow it out of proportion with a well-timed tweet. You tearoom owners need to be sure to ask customers how everything is going for them. You customers need to give them a fair chance and let them know if you’re not satisfied.

3 Have a Timer at the Table

The last time hubby and I were at a tearoom, the server set the teapots, already steeping the tea, on the table and told us to wait five minutes for the steeping to finish. We had to go by our best guess, not having a timer handy. Sure, there are various apps for those smart phones out there, but not all of us have them. And timers are pretty inexpensive and show your customers that you care.

4 Have a Receptacle on the Table for Spent Tea Leaves/Bags

If you use bagged teas, T-sacs, infuser tea balls, etc., have something on the table for your customers to put them in once the steeping time is done. Otherwise, the tea will continue steeping and more often than not turn quite bitter. Nothing will deter future visits and even cause any serious tea drinkers to see your tearoom as an anathema to their enjoyment of the leaf. If you steep the tea loose, that’s great, but have a chahai (tea pitcher) into which the excess liquid that doesn’t fit into your customer’s teacup can be poured. This gets it away from the tea leaves and stops the steeping process. And don’t offer to add more hot water to a teapot until the guest has drunk most of that liquid.

5 Isolate the Salad

Salad on the plate with a sandwich results in parts of the bread getting soggy. Ugh! Salad next to any other foods tends to distort them both. Yes, I’m being picky. And some of your customers, although they may not tell you outright, are picky, too. A nice fresh salad should taste that way. A lovely pasta with your own special sauce should taste that way and not have the balsamic vinaigrette or the country french dressing interloping. I know it’s more dishes to clean to have the salad off separate in a bowl or on a plate, but sometimes these extra efforts are very worthwhile and really make your customers feel appreciated.

I hope these help you owners keep your clientele coming back for more and you customers have a more enjoyable tea time!

See more of A.C. Cargill’s articles here.

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