The English tea room with Apple at the core of its business

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Blackbird Tea Rooms

Pinnies, 1940s music and kitsch tea-pots are all part of the new Blackbird Tea Rooms in Brighton, serving scones, sandwiches, and … you guessed it, traditional English tea. A place where you wouldn’t expect to find the brushed aluminium and gorilla glass of Apple’s ubiquitous gadgets.

But instead of the ping of the cash register, it’s a swipe of the iPad that keeps the business running. Here, our John Lewis guest blogger has a brief encounter with this unlikely combination of old and new in the British seaside town.

Brighton’s well- established Tea Cosy Tea Rooms offers its own code of etiquette: “Conversation should never be louder than two tones above the chink of a tea cup,” and mobile phones are banned. Biscuit ‘dunking’ is also frowned upon.

In comparison, the new Blackbird Tea Rooms bends the rules somewhat – they serve coffee for a start. While there are, of course, delicious scones with cream and jam on offer, and cakes galore, their Victoria Sponge uses blackberry instead of raspberry jam, in fitting with the name. And the use of mobile phones is mandatory – at least for the staff, who take down orders on iPhones.

Indeed, Blackbird uses Apple technology to run its business efficiently, with iPad 2 accessories such as stylish covers for iPad 2 and wireless printers making for useful and un-intrusive business aides.

Tablets and tablecloths

iPods are connected to printers in the kitchen using Airport Express, and also to an iPad at the till. Different orders can be automatically sent to different printers, so food goes to the kitchen, while tea and coffee stay near the counter. So even if someone orders a whole load of things, you press send and the Ambur app automatically sends cakes and drinks to one floor while hot food orders get printed out for the chefs in the kitchen.

The use of tablets may seem out-of-place in a tearoom that uses frilled white tablecloths, but the owners say it actually helps maintain the vintage feel. The iPhones are held in classic Moleskin wallets, while an iPad at the till acts as a point-of-sale (POS), offering a sleek alternative to clunky towers or screens, which can also be expensive.

“It made sense for us to use iPads – I’m surprised it’s not used more in England,” said Hannah, who with her partner Matt has spent months restoring, decorating and bringing these tea-rooms to life.

Based in the US, a top selling point of the Ambur app for Hannah was that it allowed the addition of iPods to its network. “I had to take a leap of faith,” said Hannah, of shelling out to a US company. But that leap was cushioned by “excellent customer service and a reliable system”.

Ambur isn’t the only app business can use as a POS either. Apple for Business is currently showcasing the Square App on its website, which has similar features. The apps scale up and can become as complicated as you like, managing payroll, stock and more.

But it seems that this quirky English tearoom has found its perfect match.

This is an sponsored post.

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