Why Tealive’s tiny store is a sign of big ambitions

By Sarah Stowe | 24 Feb 2020 View comments

Tealive is the newest entrant in the busy bubble tea franchise marketplace. And it has signalled its intentions to be flexible and innovative with its latest store, a converted ATM opposite Melbourne’s State Library.

The smallest Tealive location to date and potentially the smallest QSR in Australia has opened as a cashless quick service restaurant with only two staff members able to work at any one time.

Bryan Loo, the founder of Tealive, is excited about the possibilities that this new concept store could bring. 

Tealive has many formats and when we saw the opportunity that this location offered, we wanted to rise to the challenge and see if such a small space could work. If we can prove this concept successful, it opens the doors for great cost-efficient locations across Australia and internationally,” he said

Shane Francis, CEO of Tealive Australia, says “We’ve had to be innovative. The reality is as we enter a more cashless society, ATMs are going to need to be repurposed and this creates a huge opportunity if we can make this location work. We’ve had to figure out how to serve customers a quality and timely beverage in a seriously limited space and it is our mission for this site to succeed.”

6 things to learn about Tealive

Inside Franchise Business spoke to Shane Francis to get the lowdown on the brand.

1. Tell us about the brand and why it’s different from other bubble tea chains

Tealive is a cutting-edge brand that aims to modernise tea and how the world drinks tea. We look to create breakthroughs in everything we do – from our unique tap dispensers that we use to pour our tea, through to our smart menus and clever cloud-based systems that provide excellent efficiency and reliability benefits.

Tealive tap dispensers | Inside Franchise Business

Tealive tap dispensers | Inside Franchise Business

2. How else are you innovating?

One recent example is our Swanston Street store design that let us open a shop in a space that is only 6 sq m. Despite the store’s small size, we were able to deliver over 1000 drinks to loyal customers in a short four-hour period on our launch day. Smart innovations such as this help us combat the high costs of retail rentals and wages, which are two of the biggest issues facing any group operating in Australia.

Tealive is operating out of an ATm space | Inside Franchise Business

Tealive is operating out of an ATm space | Inside Franchise Business

3. What are your growth plans?

Through our research and analysis of the current market, we feel there is room for at least 30 – 40 Tealive sites throughout Australia and New Zealand within the next 24 months.  

For us, it’s not about the size of the Tealive footprint across the country, it’s about the sustainability and profitability of our stores.

We are also fortunate enough to be partnered with Loob Malaysia, a significant food and beverage player in Malaysia who operate a number of brands and have large resources dedicated to product innovation and systems innovation. 

4. What is the business model?

We operate three business models – corporate, joint venture and franchise. We are looking at a joint venture in Melbourne for a couple of sites. In one instance the partner is putting up the capital and we’re running it for them. In the other case, the partner wants to keep their weekday work and only wants to work in the store at weekends. We’ll help train and staff the store.

We’re flexible and we’ll put up some funding for the right partner.

Sustainaibilty and profitability are key metrics we look at when deciding if a location stacks up to do a franchise. If not, we’ll run it as corporate.

5. What locations are you targeting?

A: Our focus at this point is on NSW and Victoria, but ultimately, it’s about culture and building the right team. We’re looking to bring on partners who share our values of entrepreneurship, honesty, teamwork and passion and who can deliver on our pillars of success – excellence, fun, impactful, innovative and future focused.

If we feel we’ve met a partner in a territory outside of NSW/VIC who supports our brand values and can deliver exceptional customer-centric service, then we’re very open to making something happen.

We’re looking for the right people for a long term approach and relationship, that works for both of us.

6. What marketing campaigns are you running?

Obviously, when launching into a new territory, it takes time to build awareness and momentum around the brand. With Tealive, our immediate focus is on the sustainability and profitability of each new store we launch.

As we are still growing, we’re able to be very focused in our campaigns, capitalising on local area marketing and geo-targeted executions for each store to raise brand awareness in its location and drive traffic into the store. This is also supported by activations, sampling and PR.

For the moment, we don’t mind if broader Australia isn’t fully aware of Tealive, so long as everyone that lives or works near a Tealive store knows all about it. As we continue to grow, we will also gradually run more mass-market brand building campaigns.