How to Start Your Own Bubble Tea Business
You may have noticed that in recent years, the bubble tea industry has been booming. With major bubble tea franchises such as ChaTime, Quickly, Gong Cha, and CoCo Fresh making their mark worldwide, it is clear that there is an ever-growing demand for these frothy and delicious beverages.
If you are someone who is passionate about bubble tea, you may have already considered the possibility of turning this recreation into a career. So now the big question is, how do you start? Here are some helpful steps to follow for starting your own bubble tea business.
Define the Concept of Your Store
Now that you know the core of your store products will be bubble tea, you can design the concept of your shop. Will your business be carryout, sit-down or self-service? Will your bubble tea menu be simple or extensive? Do you want a personal or impersonal interaction between your bobarista and customer? Figuring out the type of shop you want to run is one of the first steps you should take towards starting your business.
Create and Understand Your Brand
Having a solid brand identity for your bubble tea business is necessary for understanding your mission, connecting with your customers, and establishing the personality of your brand. Research your competitors and the target audience they attract, and find a way to set your brand apart from theirs. Your store’s name should be meaningful and authentic as well -- whether it’s a reflection of your store’s theme, your personal story, or even the origin of your products.
Pick a Good Store Location
This is a critical step in starting your bubble tea shop, and it can either make or break your business. Simply put, the best locations come down to ease and convenience. If you plan on having customers spend time inside your shop, choosing a busy area with high foot traffic and plenty of parking spaces can directly benefit your store. If you plan on having a bubble tea truck traveling to various locations, pick the best times to reach your intended customer base. It’s also important to understand the history of your store location as well. If the area is unsafe or has undergone several business turnarounds, these are red flags indicating that particular location may not be the best option.
Write a Business Plan
Having a well thought out bubble tea business plan can help you through several facets of building your store. This document can not only serve as a strategic roadmap for you, it can also help your brand’s communication with banks, sponsors, manufacturers, and the marketplace so that you can better reach your goals. Since this plays a vital role in the creation of your business, make sure that each component of your plan works well with one another.
Find Finance Options
This is the step that stops most people from opening their own bubble tea shop -- lack of financing. However, between banks, small business agencies, and private investors, it is possible to secure funding. You can also find other options through online lending, grants, crowdfunding and many more. Remember to show up to your interview prepared and professional, showing potential investors that you know what you’re doing.
Design Your Menu
Your bubble tea menu goes hand-in-hand with your brand identity. The design should not only be memorable, it should also be a clear reflection of your store concept and personality. Although there is no right or wrong way to create your menu, common mistakes include unreadable font, misalignment, and overused clip art and disclaimers. A well-written restaurant menu is descriptive, while being uncluttered and easy-to-read. Pay attention to the actual items on your menu as well. You can spice up your menu with happy hours, daily specials, or you can surprise your customer with trending flavors or seasonal beverage options.
Design Your Store
Although there’s no secret formula for a successful bubble tea shop, the design of your store should be a balance between aesthetics and seating capacity. You can customize your shop to your unique business needs, but always keep practicality in mind during this process. While it is important to decorate your store space in a unique way to set your business apart, you should also strategically set up your kitchen, seating, and counter areas to best fit your customer’s needs.
Invest in the Right Equipment
In a typical boba tea store setting, it is common to have a gas stove or electric induction heaters to brew tea and cook tapioca pearls. Another must-have is a refrigerator to keep your ingredients fresh, as well as a water filter system to ensure that your drinks are clean and safe. Since most bubble tea drinks are served cold, don’t forget about getting a commercial ice machine. Having smaller items such as tea warmers for easy access to a variety of teas, a fructose dispenser to customize sweetness for each drink, and a cup sealer to neatly seal plastic beverage cups can also greatly benefit your boba shop. Some businesses even use shaker machines to improve their beverage consistency and overall efficiency. Your commercial equipment ultimately depends on what you want for your bubble tea shop.
Source Ingredients and Supplies
Be sure to research quality and reliable suppliers that can provide quality ingredients that fit your shops budget and bubble tea menu. You’ll likely need to source a number of bubble tea specific ingredients such as good quality milk, non-dairy creamers, powdered mixes, flavored syrups, tapioca pearls, tea leaves, sugar and other mix-ins. You will also need supplies such as bubble tea plastic cups, cup lids or films for sealing, and boba straws. Here's an useful guide about selecting plastic cups, lids and straws for your bubble tea business
Use Technology and Tracking Applications
Even though some businesses still operate with hard copies and manual materials to organize their data, using technology and tracking apps can now help streamline this process. When these tools are used correctly, owners can vastly improve the way their bubble tea shop operates. Certain apps allow customers to order or request pick-ups online, while giving them the option of paying digitally or with their credit card. Other apps focus on data analysis, which is helpful when it comes to managing employee scheduling, inventory tracking, budgeting, and customer behaviors. However, if you don’t want to use individual apps, something as simple as using Google Drive can also greatly benefit your shop.
Hire and Train Employees
Your employees often serve as the face of your business, and they’re also responsible for crafting the beverages that you sell to customers. Ideal employees are capable of learning recipes quickly while providing excellent service. Your responsibility is to provide them with the right training so that they understand what it takes to make bubble tea beverages that align with your high standards. Job perks such as health insurance, employee discounts, and a respectful work environment can also help you retain your employees while avoiding a high turnover rate.
Obtain Appropriate Permits and Licenses
Many inspections, licenses and permits take several weeks, even months to be approved. Be sure to start filing the necessary paperwork as soon as you know you’re good to go with financing. Common licenses and permits include: IRS identification number, Seller’s Permit, Health Operational Permit, and a Food Safety Certification. However, you should always check with your state and local government for a full list of specific coffee/tea shop requirements.
Market Your New Business
No time is better than now for promoting your new bubble tea shop. If you haven’t created a website already, do it now, and be sure to include your menu, prices, store address, and hours of operation. Traditional advertising such as newspaper and radio ads mixed with new media promotion is still a must for new restaurants. Social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram), review platforms (Yelp, Zomato), restaurant apps (Belly, FiveStars), and even delivery services (Grubhub, Doordash, Postmates) can do wonders for marketing your business.