Shelly’s Tea Rooms Brews New Franchise Opportunities 

Sean and Michelle “Shelly” Sinclair brought their award-winning tea room concept across the pond in 2022, and its well-received hospitality has prompted them to begin franchising in the United States. The Sinclairs launched Shelly’s Tea Rooms in England in 2007, after their homeland’s tea rooms fell short of their expectations. “All too often, we left disappointed. Either the service was poor or the food was. We started Shelly’s Tea Rooms to change this,” Sean says. 

In the United States, where coffee reigns supreme and coffee shops are ubiquitous, tea has carved out a substantial niche. A report from the Tea Association of the U.S.A. Inc. points out that Americans consumed 85 billion servings of tea, equivalent to more than 3.9 billion gallons, in 2021. On an average day, more than half of U.S. residents, or about 167 million people, drank tea in 2022. The nation imported more than $508 million in tea in 2023, the U.S. Census Bureau disclosed, a $350 million increase from the early 1990s.    

Industry experts predict that the tea market will continue to grow steadily, Sean says. One contributing factor is scientific research proving the health benefits of tea. For instance, a UCLA study released in November 2022 found that regular consumption of black tea lowers blood cholesterol and reduces the risk of heart disease, heart attacks and strokes.  

If that doesn’t turn coffee drinkers into converts, well, Shelly’s Tea Rooms will serve them java — it’s on the menu, too, along with over 100 teas to be enjoyed either hot or iced, including black and white teas, oolong herbals, decaf and high-caf. It is not just about the tea either — customers can indulge in finger sandwiches and pastries, including scones. Shelly’s Tea Rooms can also meet the needs of customers who want non-dairy, gluten-free, and vegan fare. 

So who are the heavy (tea) drinkers in America? Residents of southern and northeastern states, The Hill reported in January 2024. So the prosperity of the first American Shelly’s location, in Plymouth, Mass., is not surprising. 

That 2-year-old stateside restaurant has built an enthusiastic following just as the first British sites did. In fact, against the vast competition in England, Shelly’s won Tea Rooms of the Year in 2019, 2020 and 2021. In 2023, it was awarded the honor of Most Authentic English Tea Room in LUXlife magazine’s 2023 awards. 

About Shelly’s Tea Rooms:

Sean and Shelly Sinclair’s success wasn’t a shot in the dark. Before teaming up as entrepreneurs, both had strong retail experience, and Shelly also has a diploma in catering. From the beginning, their brand has been 100% customer-focused, Sean says. “We give them delicious tea blends, amazing made-fresh-daily scones and crumpets, high-quality cutlery and napkins, teapots that don’t drip – and more. Every decision was, and still is, made with the goal of delighting our customers. 

“When people visit Shelly’s Tea Rooms, they’re immersed in a theater-like experience of indulgence. There’s pageantry and pomp. It’s an authentically English, memorable event that keeps customers returning time and again. Often people want a place to catch up time with friends and loved ones, and Shelly’s Tea Rooms is perfect for that. There’s a tranquil ambiance unlike anything else out there, taking people back in time to a more relaxed way for a spell.” 

Why Choose the Shelly’s Tea Room Franchise: 

And while Shelly’s Tea Rooms are a joy for customers, the franchise promises significant perks for potential franchisees. “Our franchise is unique, premium, fresh with broad appeal, and it has low staffing levels and no late nights. Shelly’s Tea Rooms are open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week, and typically just three employees are needed to staff the tea room each day. It also offers amazing returns, has no direct competition, and there are large, exclusive territories,” Sean says.  

“Shelly’s provides outstanding value to guests, and franchisees benefit from the knowledge and experience that we’ve gained while running tea rooms in England and the U.S.,” he adds. “You’re gaining the British tea room authenticity that money couldn’t buy until now. Tea is not a fad, and the customer demographic for Shelly’s Tea Rooms, while mostly female, is extremely broad – from young girls coming for their first tea experience through to 90-year-olds. They come from diverse ethnicities, geographic locations, cultures and educational backgrounds.” 

Expectations for Franchisees:

To join the Shelly’s Tea Rooms team, potential franchisees must be enthusiastic and energetic and involve themselves in the day-to-day operation of the business, whether they are owner-operators or semi-absentee owners who hire managers. Sean expects them to work hard and adhere to the brand’s systems and processes. They should uphold high standards for food and beverages, customer service, and all aspects of running their businesses; they should want to give back to their communities, too.  

Experience in the restaurant or catering industry isn’t required. Franchise leadership provides comprehensive one-to-one training and will be on-site for the openings of each unit. The franchise will assist in selecting each site, with about 1,100 square feet required. “We’ll also review each franchisee’s financial data on a monthly basis to head off problems,” Sean says. 

The Shelly’s Tea Rooms Difference:

“We decided to franchise in the United States because we fell in love with America more than 20 years ago,” he says. “It had long been our dream to bring a taste of England to the U.S.A., where there is nothing like our concept. The existing coffee shops, pizzerias and sports bars are not relaxing and are all so much alike that you have to check the menu to see which one you are in. Shelly’s is completely different, and customers instantly feel at home. “We have a passion to bring a Shelly’s to every community across the U.S.A. We are confident that Americans will love a space such as ours to unwind in, to try a different culture and expand their taste palate.”

Source: FranchiseWire 

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