July 14, 2015

Sencha Tea Bar: A Full Reinvention

How to take a brand through a full reinvention

Many of you may know the Tea Garden for their bubble tea drinks, their oddly pleasing tapioca pearls, and the college dorm-like furniture (most likely hosting a group of 8-10 teenage girls congregating for a Friday night hangout).

The Tea Garden, now referred to as Sencha Tea Bar, represents to Shea a process we call a rebrand. The goal? Expand the customer base, while keeping the teenagers, and create a compelling business and consumer experience that can become more successful in current locations, and grow.

The Tea Garden began as a family owned tea shop 12 years ago in Uptown Minneapolis and since grew to six locations total. The small chain was purchased last fall by an ambitious entrepreneur who saw great potential for reinvention. The new ownership came to Shea with a half-way rebranded concept, a slightly confused customer base, and a hopeful business case to start completely fresh.

We love these projects.

Situation Analysis

We started the process wanting to understand the client’s view of the problem, the opportunities, and the end-goal vision.  Once that was noted, we want to collect that information through our own lens.  Cue the investigative site visits.  We sent several people to the site on different days, during different hours of operation, and just to ensure a well-rounded analysis, some of the Shea people we recruit aren’t even on the project team.  Heck, sometimes we’ll even drag our friends and family with us to really give us an “untrained” consumer opinion.  We gather, discuss, assess and strategize.  What aspects of the experience actually need to change?  What’s already working?  What does this reinvention need to accomplish to grow and sustain a strong business?

Establishing the Goal

In this case, the Tea Garden had already developed a strong nighttime business, primarily led by the bubble tea sales, and a 16 – 22 year old customer base.  They needed a plan to diversify their target customer, so we decided to shift the target to an older demographic, and work to mature the younger audience, helping them grow along with the brand.  They also needed to grow morning and afternoon business, and increase sales in their highest profit margin item: loose leaf tea.  Loose leaf tea is a slightly intimidating product, so let’s add achieving approachability to the list.  And, the name?  It had to go.  The new name on the table, Steepery?  Probably not right either to achieve the goals.

Then, we work through the logo that serves as the foundation for the rest of the identity development taking us through menu design, packaging, signage and art graphics

Introducing Sencha Tea Bar.
Design Development

When diving into the next layer of the consumer experience, we always refer to the project goals. The space needed to put loose leaf tea on center stage, to increase loose leaf sales and provide a great tea introduction for newbies. We redesigned the order line to include an integrated tea bar component, complete with counter seating and an overhead suspended tea rack displaying the 100+ loose leaf tea options, rotating and fully functional for the baristas and tea tasting.

The menu and ordering experience needed to be simple, easy to understand and mildly educational.  The menu was deconstructed and reorganized – a major surgery with the millions of tea possibilities.  Retail displays guide traffic through the line, showcasing tea-related retail.  And sampling became easy with the back line display of colorful pre-steeped tea varieties.

The rest of the offerings and atmosphere needed to draw the “coffee shop office” workers for the late morning/afternoon business.  We made sure to provide plenty of power integrating regular/USB plug-ins at every seat, bring on the brain fuel with a refreshed food program, and provide lots of comfy seating to keep people in the store just a bit longer.

The result is a shiny, new flagship location for the Sencha Tea Bar concept, and a prototype design for all other existing and future locations. Do we hear plans to expand nationally?

Sencha Tea Bar – a business, brand and full tea experience re-invented.

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