WHEN an Afternoon Tea costs more (than a sarnie, scone, tea & cake)

(Due to chaffy feed back – – please note I am not criticising the fine Afternoon Tea places of Norwich, just the few who over charge for what its worth – I love afternoon Tea and have added my Fav’s at the bottom)

You know when I moaned about cocktails costing more than the ingredients & all because they are just so bleedin trendy. Well the same is happening with afternoon tea.

Me and my daughter decided yesterday to go for afternoon tea today, we had a little google search round and I was shocked at some of the prices – – some little cafes are now charging £15-20 per person with some restaurants charging £20-£30.

That’s the price of 5 portions of Grosvenor five quid squid, that’s 6 freshly battered squid rings, a mass pile of Norfolk chips and a wedge of lemon, times six. That’s the price of 4 Moorish stuffed pitta breads, oozing with freshly cut salad, smothered in humus, tahini, chilli sauce and mint yogurt and wedged with 3 plump falafels & eat in!, that’s the price of 3 Nanas Mexican fat burritos crammed with rice, beans, salad and slow cooked pork, that’s the price of 2 x lunch mains and a glass of matching wine meal deals at the Farmyard or 1 x 3 course meal including a juicy rump steak and a glass of milk!  – – – – it just doesn’t equate!

I’m not mean – I’m just careful. I’m happy to pay a good price for a good product.


Here’s the figures –

Let’s start with cocktails – – say for instance a Mosco Mule is 1 shot Vodka £3.50, 1 ginger ale £2.50 and a shot of lime 50p, that bought separately from a bar would be £6.50 but if you bought it as a cocktail the price would be £10. What’s more annoying is that some cocktails don’t even offer full shots – some cocktails are mixed using half measures!!!!! So, the average cocktail might only have 1.5 actual measures in it and a mixer. That’s £12 please Madame!! Let’s get back to cake.


Let’s talk about the cost of Cake

Norwich Afternoon Tea sells between £12.50 – £25, let’s say the average price is £17.50.

The average price for 1 sarnie is between £3.50-6.50 = £4.50 (plus you get a garnish).

1 large scone with all the bits £2 – £4 = £3

1 piece cake £2.50-£4.50 = £3.50

A pot of tea for one = £1.80 -£3 = £2.50

Totalling = £13.50, that’s a short fall of £4 – £4 minimum more bought as an afternoon tea.

So basically, you’re paying 25-30% more for the hire of an afternoon tea stand.


I know it’s not completely like for like – after all if you’re lucky you’ll get 3 – 4 choices of finger sarnies with the crusts off, but it’s still a round of sarnies. Plus of course you’ll get 3 – 4 mini fancies and not always a slab of cake but again very similar in cost price. And ‘yes’ on a restaurant side of things ‘an afternoon tea’ is more work & you should certainly get more service, with the free tea top up but that’s not much if anything in actual costings.

And after all who would walk in to a tea room and ask for a sandwich, a scone, a piece of cake and a pot of tea – – and “please, bring it all at once’. So, for cafes you’re actually getting more sales because the average spend goes up.


So why the price difference?

I’m not saying there is not always a price hike – the really good ones charge a fair and reasonable price. Like the Old Bank in Bungay we went to today, £13.50 per person if for 2 (£15 pp, solo) – – a fabulous price for the surroundings, the service and the quality – fresh loose tea, bakery bread, salad & crisps, massive scones, clotted cream and a choice of cake and we didn’t even have to give them 24 hours’ notice or wait until 3pm for it to be served.


But for the odd ‘rip-of-Britain’, the ones who are jumping on the band wagon, adding it to the menu and charging a stupid price, and there is a lot out there, it’s kind of unfair.

It’s not good value for money – it’s just abusing the popularity of a British classic and food fad and ripping your customers off.


I really hate it when food costs don’t flow on a menu – you know when some items are great value for money while others are ridiculously high or small portioned. As if the chef or manager knows nothing about costings. Like when you pay £6.50 for a tagine of slow cooked lamb on cous cous as a mezze, but pay a ridiculous £8 for 2 mini chicken thighs skewers on a lettuce leaf.

Yes, I’ve had this.

Costings, chef!!!


Let’s look at the costs of an Afternoon Tea

(this is fag packet rough – don’t quote me)

2 slices bread – 20p

1/2 slice good ham or other filling – 60p

a teaspoon local pickle – 10p

a touch salad or garnish – 20p

1 home-made fruit scone – 25p

jam, butter and clotted cream – 70p

Fresh loose tea etc – 45p

Ingredients to make a portion of VIP patisserie – 70p

Total – £3.20, bugger it, let’s just round it up to £3.50

That’s a profit of £15 per person on an average over priced afternoon tea that’s a 500% mark up and let’s face it people don’t usually do afternoon tea alone, they bring friends and family. In fact, the majority of Afternoon Tea Pundits are ladies who lunch in groups – brining in big business mid-week afternoon-ish, a time that for food businesses is usually dire.


I once got told if you want a restaurant sell stuff made with flour – – it’s cheap and goes a long way.

Think of a pancake – cost price 10p each

Waffles – maybe double that.

Cake, pastry’s, bread, pies, tarts, pizzas – – – –  cheap cost price, great yields especially if its fluffed up with egg or yeast.


Look at Pizza Ex?!?!? The average cost price for one of their pizzas is £1, the average selling price is £10. You can make a pizza in 5 minutes and cook in 6!  That’s a good business to be in. Especially when the dough comes in a freezer bag! And the tomato sauce in a jar.

Theres this fabulous Pizza chain expanding like putty all over London called ‘Franco Manca’ they’ve taken the pizza made it the best it can be by using a fresh sour dough base and priced it under any one else – selling from £5.50-£7.70 each – – Genius! People are getting amazing value for money, compared to everywhere else and ‘Franco’s minting it!!! Formula perfecto! Quality and a fair price.

There’s so many of these pop up pizza vendors now – charging £10 for a take away pizza served on a piece of cardboard with less than a tablespoon of topping on top which you have to eat perched on the steps of the Forum, avoiding the chewing gum – cost price around a quid-ish. Yet you can eat in a restaurant for the same price (I love you ‘Brick’ and ‘Donnelies’ (£6 lunch menu) & Sicilian Pizza market man, you got the price right xxx)


Back to Tea –

Afternoon Tea – yes, it’s a lot of work, but its low-cost with the exception of smoked salmon & prawns.

That’s why this year I was able to offer afternoon tea as a pop up at Lodge Farm for a lowly price of £12.50 per person.

Making a selection of scrumptious sarnies – – smoked salmon & rocket, chicken coronation (1 cooked large chicken (£4), yielded 20 rounds), cucumber & cream cheese along with home-made treacle crusted ham with local chutney (I even had 1kg spare for the family). A choice of 2 scones each with local strawberry and champagne jam, clotted cream and butter, plus an array of 5 different patisseries all washed down with Wilkinson’s fresh loose tea. And I still made a profit meaning we could all go out for lunch as a treat for all our hard work, also allowing me to give £100 to the ‘Little Lifts’ charity plus pay my daughter a good wage for organising it with me and put some rather nice vintage china crockery and bunting through the books, plus I told everyone to take home the left overs for some change in the ‘little lifts’ pot – that raised another £40.

I know I’ve got no overheads and I don’t pay myself a wage but a good chef can turn water in to wine and high prices don’t always mean bums on seats & cheap prices with cheap foods doesn’t either.


It’s all a matter of balance, great food and efficient management – – that’s generally what makes a successful business.


So – – – I’m not saying businesses shouldn’t be making money, I’m just saying a fair price for a fair meal and then we are all happy. Food businesses make profit, chefs and waitresses get well paid (hopefully), customers are happy to give good tips, owners are smiling, tills are pinging and customers come back for more – – – oh, and they tell their friends. Just like at ‘Franco Manca’ – – I’m guessing it’s just a matter of time before that arrives in Norwich.


Some of my favourite places – (also see a previous post of Afternoon Tea’s in Norfolk)

I still think The Assembly Rooms is the best afternoon tea in the city centre – great place, good quality, fab service £40 for 2.

I mentioned The Old Bank in Bungay above

I loved Biddys – Its quirky with a pick your own section of cakes £13.95 pp

My London favourite is The Savoy – London big hotel prices at £55 pp the cakes keep on coming, they top up the sandwiches with the best Chicken coronation, a lovely round Victorian room with a pianist and the best service with an amazing selection of fresh loose tea.

On my list of places to try in the future –

The Maids Head Hotel – No price on their website (or I can’t find it!)

St Giles Hotel – £16.95 pp, Trip advisor gives it great reviews and I love their lunches.

The Roof Top Gardens  – £20 pp, the price seems high and I wasn’t impressed with The Cliff Hotel (tea bags, bought in scones, bought in tarts) (was the same owners), so I’m hoping for good things but not sure if it will deliver – – However I think they offer one of the best Sunday lunches in the city for a good £15 pp.

Cafe Britania – £12.95 pp, good reputation and you can drop in anytime for Afternoon Tea.

Zena Leech-Calton ©