TIME for tea? How about room for tea?

Jennifer Perry launched her own business Room Forty – a play on ‘room for tea’ nearly eight years ago.

She offers traditional afternoon tea – all homemade and fresh each day – in customers’ homes.

Here, in our latest Food and Drink feature, Jennifer tells us how the business has grown and she now offers bread baking classes and how her live bake along sessions on the Warrington Guardian Facebook page were a big hit during lockdown.

If you would like to appear in one of our food and drink features or be business of the week, email heidi.summerfield@newsquest.co.uk

Jen opened her business in April 2016

Jen opened her business in April 2016

What’s your full name?

Jennifer Perry

What’s the name of the business?

Room Forty

What’s the address?

It is based out of my home in Woolston on Weir Lane. I bake and prep everything from my own kitchen.

Are you the owner/manager?

Yes, I'm the owner.

Room Forty afternoon tea treats taste as good as they look

Room Forty afternoon tea treats taste as good as they look

When did you open the business?

I opened the business in April 2016.

Has it always been in the same location?

Yes and no! Everything comes from my home in Woolston where I have lived for the last 10 years but every venue is different and could be anywhere. We’ve served afternoon teas all over Warrington, Manchester, Liverpool and Chester. We’ve been as far north as Whitehaven, done baking classes in North Wales and did a wedding in Derbyshire last summer.

Are you local to the area? Did you grow up here?

Yes, although my father was in the army so I was actually born in Hong Kong and have lived all over the north west. I attended Lymm High School.

Tell me a bit about your business

Room Forty is a mobile afternoon tea emporium and baking school. The name itself is a pun on ‘room for tea’. For the afternoon teas, I make and bake everything myself and then deliver and serve at customers’ homes or venues. It is a traditional afternoon tea: dainty cakes, scones and clotted cream and finger sandwiches all served on vintage china and on vintage tablecloths. Tea is loose leaf of course. I try to source products as locally as possible so the tea is Cheshire Tea and I don’t use any additives or preservatives in my baking – it’s always fresh.

I’m either one for a challenge or just bonkers - or both - but have never repeated the same menu twice. I think I’d get bored if I just did the same thing every day.

I started the baking school in 2017 and specialise in baking bread. The baking school pops up at venues across Warrington as well as in other local areas and specialises in teaching bread baking. We’ve taught more than a thousand people.

I’m thrilled that I’ve won nine awards but it’s my customer feedback that means the most.

Room Forty traditional afternoon teas are served on vintage china with vintage tablecloths

Room Forty traditional afternoon teas are served on vintage china with vintage tablecloths

What do you do? What services do you provide?

Room Forty provides a full vintage afternoon tea service delivered to customers’ homes or venues. I bake everything myself and don’t buy in. It is a traditional afternoon tea so expect small individual cakes, scones and clotted cream and finger sandwiches. I dress the room with bunting and vintage tablecloths, put flowers on the table and play vintage music. Even the staff wear vintage aprons. It’s a full 1930s experience.

I cater for all sorts of occasions - christenings, weddings, funerals, birthdays and hen parties.

Our bread baking classes are run at venues across Warrington and the surrounding area. We run a variety of classes teaching beginners breads - Italian breads, bagels and flatbreads, breakfast breads, even breads using alternative flours such as spelt and rye. Our classes are competitively priced as we want people to learn as well as have fun. We also run private classes for groups of friends in their homes.

Why did you decide to open your own business?

I wanted to combine my love of baking, my love of tea and my love of vintage as well as be my own boss. There was a gap in the market as no one else runs a service like this. I left my sensible, secure job to follow my dream.

I love my job. I get to share in other people’s special events. I love the feedback that I get and putting a smile on customers’ faces. The job also gives a great work / life balance. I’ve got a campervan and am out walking whenever I can between jobs.

What’s your business background?

My background is in marketing and PR. I had a secure senior role in a large organisation before starting Room Forty so that marketing, PR and event management experience has been invaluable.

Why this type of business?

What I do is unique and combines so many of my interests.

All Jens afternoon teas are homemade and she never repeats the same menu

All Jen's afternoon teas are homemade and she never repeats the same menu

How did the Covid-19 pandemic affect your business?

I adapted the business quite quickly to provide boxed afternoon teas delivered to doorsteps across Warrington. This was lovely and we had people sending surprise afternoon teas to housebound loved ones and couples who would normally go out to celebrate their anniversary were able to enjoy afternoon tea at home.

Aware that many people were looking to learn to bake during lockdown, I ran a number of free weekly bake-alongs live in conjunction with the Warrington Guardian on their Facebook site. We had people participating from as far away as Australia and America!

What makes your business different to others in the same area/field? What sets your business apart from your competitors?

I make and bake everything myself. Nothing is bought in so I know the provenance of all of my food. I don’t know of any other business that provides a mobile service like mine.

Why do loyal customers return to your business?

I like to think that I make people happy, provide good value service and good food. I also help the with the planning of customers’ special day. I take the catering worry away from people – I come in and set up, serve, clean up and leave. This means the host can relax and enjoy their day. I have an unbroken run of five-star reviews on Facebook and Google. My customers are lovely!

What’s next? What do the next few months hold for you and your business?

More of the same would be great! I have bookings already throughout the year and the diary is filling up fast.

The perfect place for traditional afternoon tea

The perfect place for traditional afternoon tea