We Grill – The Pink Teapot
Sonya Conway and Lisa Hobson run The Pink Teapot in Otley, West Yorkshire. The 1940s-themed cafe, which has appeared in the ITV soap Emmerdale, is now celebrating its 11th year and they believe the secret to their success is homemade hearty dishes served with love.
Tell us about The Pink Teapot…
The cafe was an existing business which we took over and renamed. It was in desperate need of a redesign and refurbishment; starting with moving the counter and bringing in an open kitchen. We had limited funds at the time and people kindly donated furniture, which was a huge relief – except that it was very old fashioned! Then, coincidentally, because we were frying bacon daily and the smell got everywhere we decided to tie our hair back in pink and white spotty scarves. Suddenly when we looked around the place it felt like we’d stepped back in time! We decided to loosely base it on the 1940s, and once the customers got to know, they brought in memorabilia for us to display, donated a cake cabinet and we started to play music from the era.
Who are your customers?
We have regular customers of all ages, but we do tend to get more older people; local and tourists. They love the ambience of the place; the fact they can get a proper sandwich in a safe, friendly environment. They also enjoy listening to the music and it’s great to see them smile and reminisce about the ‘good old days’!
What is your best selling dish?
Our bacon sandwich – on a Saturday we sell 100! Customers say it’s the best bacon sandwich they have ever had! We had one customer who had been abroad for six months and he came here straight from the airport for a ‘proper’ bacon buttie! The bacon comes from our local butcher, we don’t cut any fat off and cook it on the griddle. We serve it on a white ‘flat cake’ – a bun – with butter and charge £3.80. After that, our egg mayo sandwich and also our scones, made by my mum and packed with fruit, are a big hit with our customers.
What else is on your menu?
Nothing that is good for you! We tell our customers that when they come in and it’s also written on our menu. We offer homemade hot and cold sandwiches, paninis, jacket potatoes, teacakes and cakes, and hot chocolate covered in whipped cream and marshmallows. We use proper butter, milk and sugar – basically everything is full fat and high in calories – and we aren’t shy with our portions either! You don’t come to The Pink Teapot for a light lunch – you come to have a treat and a decent meal. For us, the joy comes from serving our customers delicious, hearty dishes they love to eat. And if they have room, hopefully they won’t leave before finishing with a doorstop piece of cake!
What’s the secret to your success?
Knowing what works and sticking with it. We pride ourselves on serving homemade, hearty food – and thankfully our customers are happy with that. Our menu reflects the limited space we have – 24 seats – because we have a fast turnover of customers. Our priority is to serve customers quickly and efficiently and that dictates what’s on our menu, because all the options are quick and easy to prepare.
How do you keep the business profitable?
By keeping things simple where we can and only offering a limited menu. For example, we only serve Tetley tea and don’t put table sauces out, but offer individual sachets of sauce – Heinz Tomato, HP and Hellman’s Mayonnaise – that way nothing is wasted, and the customers ask for the sauce if they want one. If anything from the menu doesn’t sell we take it off straight away. Surprisingly, soup never sold well so that came off. We aren’t stingy on portion sizes and our customers leave here knowing they have had value for money, and probably won’t need to eat for the rest of the day!
What’s your busiest day?
Saturday. We are open 10am to 3pm but there has not been one Saturday since we opened where we haven’t turned people away or asked them to wait – which is great considering all the local competition. However, because of our limited menu and our efficient service, we are able to manage a quick turnaround, so customers never have to wait long to be seated.
Do you offer a take away option?
This is something we have thought about offering, but we feel that our priority is our customers already seated in the cafe or those waiting. We pride ourselves on serving our customers quickly and efficiently, as well as having time for a natter with them – something the older generation particularly love. If we offered a take away service this would be affected and I’d hate our loyal customers, who come because of the friendly atmosphere, to feel alienated.
Are you on social media?
We do have a Facebook page that gets lots of lovely comments but we don’t have a website or a phone. Plus, after starring in an Emmerdale scene a few years ago, we get so many coach tours coming in wanting to see the ‘famous’ cafe we haven’t needed to advertise ourselves anyway!