Tea Lounge Founder Brews Up ‘Unfranchise’ Community Café Concept

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Combination of fine teas, coffees, tasty café food and family entertainment creates community-centered business now ripe for expansion

I like to call it ‘the unfranchise,’ because I want every owner to operate as creative, spirited entrepreneurs and put their own imprints on the business,” said Spiel.

People who meet Jonathan Spiel might regard him simply as an owner of a successful tea, coffee, baked goods and sandwich café. However, Spiel knows his Tea Lounge concept is as much a community gathering place for good cheer as it is a point of sale for tasty food and drink.

Today, with training and marketing procedures standardized, Spiel will officially launch Tea Lounge’s franchise opportunity on May 31, 2012. As excited as he is about franchised growth, Spiel is reluctant to use the word “franchise” when describing Tea Lounge.

“I like to call it ‘the unfranchise,’ because I want every owner to operate as creative, spirited entrepreneurs and put their own imprints on the business,” said Spiel. “For every Tea Lounge to thrive optimally, it has to reflect the atmosphere of the community it is located in. In other words, not everything that works here in Brooklyn will work in Houston or Los Angeles, so each owner has to identify what’s unique to their community and make it part of their Tea Lounge.”

Founded 12 years ago, Tea Lounge filled the surging consumer desire for good tea and coffee, as well as “a place where the neighborhood people came to talk, see each other and hang out,” Spiel said. “I saw early on that it wasn’t just a place where people sometimes want to be alone to work on a laptop, but a welcoming atmosphere where all guests felt a sense of belonging and connection to their community.”

While the organic, fair-trade coffee and tea drinks are the foundation of the business, along with baked goods, hot sandwiches, breakfast and salads, Spiel added the bar element so patrons could sip a tea or coffee and experience Tea Lounge as a remote office by day, but then enjoy a beer, glass of wine or a cocktail and listen to local musicians or enjoy other events by night. As Tea Lounge’s offerings grew, relaxed, family friendly entertainment entered the mix.

“The many entertaining layers to the concept and overall guest experience creates a spirited community environment, and that is the biggest distinction how Tea Lounge operates compared to others in the space,” said Spiel. “We have music five nights a week, storytelling and sing-alongs for kids and can even be a gallery were local artists can showcase their work. Most importantly, it’s a place where people—anyone from 3 years old to over 80 years old—can be comfortable whether they come here in a group or by themselves.”

Over the years, because friends and business prospects continually told him that they wanted to open a Tea Lounge in their own communities, Spiel began laying the groundwork for expansion and has already heard from potential franchisees who’d like to open the concept in communities beyond the Northeast. With a franchise support team already in place that is closely involved with growing the concept and providing proven systems to franchisees, he welcomes to chance to share his culture-driven concept in communities across the country.

“Entrepreneurs looking for a business opportunity that appeals to their interests for community culture, food and drink, and nightly entertainment, would find great joy in owning a Tea Lounge,” said Spiel. “Every Tea Lounge needs to work within its own community to be truly unique, so new franchise owners must add ‘unique layers of local’ to the business. To ensure growth is done correctly, the brand looks to partner with franchise owners who have the right mix of systems-oriented and creative-thinking.”

ABOUT TEA LOUNGE: Tea Lounge is a community-centered café serving a wide array of organic, fair-trade and micro-roasted coffees and loose-leaf teas, beer, wine and cocktails, baked goods, breakfast, sandwiches and salads. With a longstanding reputation as a neighborhood gathering place for all ages, Tea Lounge features family friendly entertainment such as live music and story-telling, and features works of local artists. Believing the Tea Lounge concept would work in nearly any city, owner Jonathan Spiel is now franchising. For more information, visit http://www.tealoungeny.com.

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Greg Avdoian
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