Tea Room Management

From - The Fingerpost: A Guide to Professions for Educated Women, with Information as to Necessary Training. (Central Bureau for the Employment of Women. 1906.) A useful guide to the practicalities and economics for women considering opening a tea room at the dawn of the 20th century. A persistent dream, in one Agatha Christie story (Miss Marple?) a woman is willing to bump off several relatives to get the money to open a tea room..

Tea-Room Management. Gertrude Limb.

In choosing a suitable place for a tea-room, it is wise to bear in mind two things: position, and the number of residents and visitors who may by customers. Even if an extra outlay of capital is required, I am convoked that it is well spent on a good position. The old adage, "Out of sight, out of mind", is especially applicable to a tea-shop. Then it is "the number that pays," and it is best t choose a place favoured by tourists as well as residents, and if it is place by the sea where boards call, so much the better.

To open a tea-shop without previous experience and training will in all probability spell failure, for to be able to make tea charmingly in one's own drawing-room does not necessarily mean that one has all the many gifts necessary for success in business. Embryo pupils write to me - "I am considered attractive socially." "I have made cakes at home for year." "I have good taste, with a correct eye for form and colour," and probably when the socially attractive pupil enters she has no idea that flower glasses require to be washed, that coffee must be ground, that chairs and tables must be policed, and, for the girl who has made cakes at home, she has yet to learn that cake making as a business is a very different matter.

Then how many girls who think they can run a tea-shop can keep the simplest accounts correctly?

Some people cannot quite understand how a lady can take up waiting in a tea-shop. Doubtless there are many disagreeables, but gentlefolk always seem to understand by intuition when a girl is well born and will treat her accordingly. I find that the better born a girl is the more tact she has with people and the less inclined she is to take offence at imaginary insults; neither does she give people the impression that it is quite a favour to wait upon them, as the would-be lady does.

Here is a rather good little story sent to me by a former pupil who is exceedingly well connected, and who has  a tea-shop in partnership with a friend.

Two girls ordered their tea and said to me:
"We hear these rooms have been opened by two ladies, is it true?"
"By myself and a friend," I said.
"Oh!" said they, "One never can believe what one hears."

Early hours are essential. We begin work at 7a.m., in order to get most of the cooking done before the kitchen is required for the preparation of the trays. I would advise the making of all cakes and brad on the premises, for people are delighted to get really good cakes and home-made bread and tools, and will come over and over again for them alone and will tell their friends.

I think it best to begin on a small scale at first, to furnish simply but artistically, to buy only the barest necessaries and to add more as profits increased, to supply food of the best quality and to have all china, glass, plate, cutlery, etc., kept perfectly clean.

Two of my pupils have gone as far afield as Paris, but the difficulties of a foreign tea-room are far greater than at home, and unless the circumstances are exceptional it is better to make a start in Great Britain.

A servant is better for the rough work than a charwoman, as she is always at hand and is more under control and a non-resident servant is easy to obtain.

Experience in catering is essential, and it is necessary to watch carefully that there be no waste since that would soon absorb a large amount of the profits.

One of the difficulties in a tea-room is that a large party many come in unexpectedly, and in cases of emergency it is a good plan to have a store of tinned meats to fall back upon, since for a large party the staff is wanted for the preparation of tea, and there is no one to spare to send out for extra supplies. Everything should be in readiness as far as possible beforehand - butter pats made, coffee ground, tea weighed, sandwiches and bread and butter cut, cream jugs filled, etc.

Provided a tea-room is well managed, and is in a good position where there are plenty of possible customers, it is one of the best investments of the day. The work varies according to the time of year, at one time being easy, but during the season constant and rather trying on account of the heat. But whatever branch of women's work is undertaken for a livelihood there will be some drawbacks, and any work that is to be a success must be entered into with all one's heart and soul, and must in consequence be 'hard work'.

Catherine Cranston tea room
(C.Rennie Mackintosh)
A seaside tea-room had many charms, and it is wonderful what a marked improvement a few months by the sea, combined with healthy and interesting work, will often make in a previously delicate girl.

It is difficult to state the amount of capital necessary, as one person will make £100 do when another, who has not learned the value of money, will require £200. Much also depends on rent, rates, etc. but a small tea-room would require from £150 to £200 for furnishing and working expenses.

Length of truing, according to former emergence of pupil: 3 to 12 months

Probable cost of training: 2 to 8 guineas, non resident.

Board and rooms may be obtained from 15/- per week.

Probable initial salary: about £1 per week.

3 thoughts on “Tea Room Management

  1. Anonymous

    Running a tea room is fraught with challenges. At any moment, two drunks may wander in and demand cakes and the finest wines known to humanity. Miss Blennerhassett will need to phone the police.

  2. admin Post author

    Thanks Colin for Agatha info. Actually I heard it on the radio recently and you are right it's Poirot; the village setting suggested Miss Marple but it was the solipsistic Belgian!


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