Bournemouth University graduate Patrick Duffy devised Beatons as a contemporary take on traditional British tearooms.
He set up at Tisbury in Wiltshire and then in Blandford, before hitting on the franchising idea which led to tearooms in New Milton and Petersfield, Hampshire.
The name and the visual style are inspired by what Mr Duffy calls the “ageless style” of the artist, photographer and designer Cecil Beaton, whose home was near Tisbury.
Mr Duffy said the business combines a modern touch with the traditional table service of a British tearoom. And he said there was a place for tea in a world dominated by coffee shops.
“Coffee tends to come with a very distinct service. It tends to be counter service and it tends to be all about delivering something quickly,” he said.
“We serve coffee as good as anyone else but our tea is the proper loose leaf tea.
“We want our customers to leave feeling restored. It’s about it being a more pleasant, more restorative experience.”
Most people are not used to drinking loose leaf tea, and the teapots at Beatons arrive with a timer so that people can give it long enough to brew.
“The overall experience is better when it’s done right. People don’t always know why they go away feeling great,” he added.
Mr Duffy, 52, studied business at what is now Bournemouth University, and at the same time ran a cafe at Winton Recreation Ground.
He worked in cable television in Singapore for eight years before returning to the UK in 2010.
“I wanted to do something that was English,” he said of the Beatons idea.
“It was going to be a low-stress, easy thing that I could work in but within a couple of months I realised it would be something a bit different.”
He already has some ideas for more Dorset locations for franchised outlets. “I’m very keen. I think Dorset is an area that we really should be putting efforts into finding franchisees for,” he said.
He said many people were attracted by the idea of owning a tea shop but were put off by the regulations and logistics.
“Most people look at it and that’s as far as it goes. What we offer as a franchise is everything you need to make that happen,” he said.
“We do have a brand with some awareness but that’s not really the main thing. The main thing is a system that works and the experience we can give to it.”
Franchisees are expected to invest around £55,000, including a £15,000 fee, for which they receive support in setting up the business.
They are also given advice on working with local communities, including ways to support local charities.
He said the idea was ideal for market towns. “That’s not to say we couldn’t put it in a high street or town centre but the nice thing for us is about developing this relationship with local communities and that’s far easier to do in a small community where you become known,” he added.
Source: Bournemouth Echo