Bubble tea shops have increased wildly in popularity with visits to such businesses jumping by as much as 192 percent in 2015 according to data collected by Foursquare. Franchises for coffee and tea abound. But just like starting your own coffee shop, starting your own bubble tea business is a real option. Here’s what you need to get started.
Steps for Opening a Bubble Tea Business
Design Your Store
There’s no secret formula for a successful bubble tea shop. So you can customize it to your unique business needs. When designing your store, choose a space to set up your kitchen area and customer facing counter. You might also consider setting up some seating areas or space for customers to really customize their beverages. You can also decorate the space in a unique way that really helps set your business apart.
Pick the Perfect Location
The actual location of your store is also incredibly important. If you can choose a storefront in a high traffic area, you’ll improve your chances of attracting customers, especially early on. Or if you want to keep your startup costs low, you can consider a more non-traditional location like a truck, cart or kiosk at a mall or school. No matter what format you choose, you’ll want to make sure that your location is easy for customers to find and convenient.
Consider the Competition
Another thing to consider, both in terms of your location and your offerings, is the competition. Bubble tea is a growing niche. But it still tends to be more popular in cities like New York and Los Angeles. In those locations, you’re likely to have some competition. And in less populated areas, you’re likely to have less competition. But you may have to work harder to get people interested in what you have to offer. Just do some research on the customer base and try to find a way to make you business stand out if necessary.
Invest in Equipment
You’ll need some pretty specific equipment if you want to serve specialized beverages like bubble tea in different varieties. There are special shakers and sealers that you can get to create a more professional product. And you’ll also need a heat source like a gas stove or electric induction heater. Smaller pieces of equipment like stirrers, tea jubs, sugar dispensers, cups and straws are also necessary. And of course you’ll need a point of sale system to actually run your operation.
Develop Your Menu
While bubble tea is a fairly specific niche, there are still plenty of different flavors and varieties to choose from. So before actually opening your new business to customers, you have to think about what you want your menu to include. You can offer milk teas, fruit flavored teas or a combination of different types. And you can use different flavors to really set your business apart and attract curious customers.
Source Your Ingredients
Once you have all the necessary equipment in place, you’ll need to consider the ingredients you wish to use when creating your bubble tea. Since bubble tea originated in Taiwan, many of the ingredients can also be sourced from there. Do some research on suppliers that fit with your budget but also provide quality ingredients for your menu. You’ll likely need to source different flavored syrups, tapioca, pearls, cream and other mix-ins. Then you’ll also need some basic ingredients like milk, sugar and tea.
Train and Hire Employees
Your employees often serve as the face of your business. But they’re also responsible for crafting the beverages that you sell to consumers. So you need to be sure to hire people who are capable of learning the recipes and providing great service. And then you need to provide all the right training so that your team understands what all is involved in making bubble tea beverages that are up to your high standards.
Secure Any Necessary Permits
Since you’ll be serving a prepared food product, it’s likely that you’ll need some inspections, licenses and permits to do business in the area of your choice. Check with your state and local governments to see what is required of restaurants and coffee shops. And you’ll likely need to go through those same processes in order to get your bubble tea business off the ground.
Market Your New Business
Once you’ve got all of the above issues taken care of, it’s time to actually open your business. Even if you’ve developed a great menu and set up shop in a high traffic location, you’ll still probably need to do some marketing. Consider having a grand opening event or doing some local advertising to draw interest. Starting an online presence, at least with your own website and Facebook page, may also be worthwhile.
Bubble Tea Photo via Shutterstock