The , on Union Street, is a Park Slope staple — a place where you can bring your laptop, sip coffee or tea, eat, talk with friends, but also listen to great live music and sip something stronger at night.
But soon, far away from Park Slope over in Kuwait, you will be able to sit on a couch and drink any of their six organic-and-fair-trade-certified micro roasted coffees or 65 organic loose teas and it will not look too much different from the Brooklyn version.
The owner of Tea Lounge, Jonathan Spiel, has put a call out to businesspeople to own their own franchise. However, Spiel’s vision is more of an “unfranchise,” meaning that the franchisee (or better yet, the unfranchisee) has more creative freedom in building their very own Tea Lounge.
“In order for this unfranchise to work, I need the franchisees to be creative, come up with their own ideas and tailor their Tea Lounge to their community,” Spiel told Patch. “Each community is going to require something different, if that’s different music, a different drink or different food. The franchisees know their community better than me and what works in Park Slope may not work in Boston, L.A. or even Kuwait, so things need to be tweaked for the communities they are in.”
For the franchisee who is opening a Tea Lounge in a mall in Kuwait City, Mohammed Al-Arbash, he said his café will need to have multiple kinds of cheesecake.
“For whatever reason, they love cheesecake in Kuwait and it’s so important that they’ll need several types of cheesecake,” Spiel explained. “This is a perfect example of the unfranchise, if he did not tell me I would not have known about it.”
Since alcohol is strictly illegal in Kuwait, Al-Arbash’s Tea Lounge will serve mocktails in martini glasses.
But most other things, like the food (except for pork items) will be largely the same, down to the silverware, cups and plates. Even though Spiel gives his franchisees entrepreneurial freedom, everything will have to be run by him.
The initial franchising fee, Spiel explained to Nation’s Restaurant News, is $25,000, plus a 5-percent royalty and a 1-percent brand development fee.
If you want to be a franchisee, you’ll need to have a net worth of $400,000 and $100,000 in liquid capital. The initial investment to open your own Tea Lounge is between $145,750 and $346,250.
Spiel will train Al-Arbash for 10 days in Park Slope and give him a 175-page operations manual that reveals everything from how to make coffee to specialty food and drinks recipes.
An item that Spiel especially likes is their Shot Chocolate, hot chocolate with a shot of espresso, which was named one of the best hot cocoas in New York. He also thinks his Turkish Mocha and the Granita (what is also known as a frappuccino) are other standouts that will be enjoyed all over the world.
Spiel also flew over to Kuwait to help Al-Arbash pick the right location for Tea Lounge in the Middle East.
Mohammed Al-Arbash, who is a successful businessman in Kuwait, said he picked Tea Lounge because it has something other cafés don’t:
“After looking at many concepts in the United States and Europe, we chose to work with Tea Lounge because of its unique concept, beautiful atmosphere, very nice menu and the wide variety of wonderful teas and coffees and specialty drinks,” Al-Arbash said, who is the president of the Al-Arbash Group and Master Franchise for Kuwait. “The focus on customer service and the beautiful looking and great tasting drinks makes it a very special place.”
And according to Spiel, Kuwait City is not the only place in the Middle East where you’ll be able to find Tea Lounge.
“This is not your typical franchisee who wants to open one café, he wants to build a brand and open a couple of Tea Lounges in Kuwait and then more in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.”
Spiel believes his philosophy of service caught Al-Arbash’s attention.
“He loves the way we make our drinks for our customers: We stir in their sugar right in front of them, we melt their honey and pour their milk in front of them, we don’t send them to a station,” Spiel said. “Our customers just paid a lot of money for a cup of coffee or tea, so we make it exactly the way you like it, instead of telling them to make it themselves.”
And the hook, Spiel believes, is that they serve tea in a pot on a tray, with a cup and milk and honey on the side.
“The Middle East having a tea culture, tea is very important to them. They don’t drink tea in the Middle East in a paper cup to go,” Spiel explained. “So what they loved is how we serve our tea in a pot because it gives the chance for people who are out in town have that ritual they do at home.”
And how does franchising a Brooklyn café in the Middle East make Spiel feel?
“It makes me feel good, it makes me feel like we are better than other places and also very different,” Spiel said. “I’m not the first person to put a couch in a café, it’s about the vibe, atmosphere, service and product we have and being that community place.”