What would you guess is the most profitable restaurant menu item in the world? Most restaurant owners might be surprised to learn that the biggest profit margins come from…iced tea. For the past 28 years, China Mist has been in the business of helping restaurants create a more profitable iced tea program.
“At China Mist, we don’t try to be ‘all beverages to all people,’ we’re all about tea,” said Dan Schweiker, Co-founder and Co-chairman of China Mist. “We focus on one part of a restaurant’s operations – their iced tea business – which for some restaurants can make up 6 percent of sales, and we take all the headaches out of it for the restaurant operator. We don’t just supply iced tea, we provide restaurants with a comprehensive iced tea program with regular service, maintenance and reporting.”
China Mist: Proud to be the most expensive iced tea
Dan Schweiker says that China Mist is the most expensive iced tea on the market – and they’re happy not to compete on price.
“Iced tea is the only product where the difference between the best in the world and the lowest-quality is 4 cents a glass,” said Dan Schweiker. “We’re not the cheapest iced tea – there are iced teas out there that are 1/5 or 1/6 the cost of China Mist. But if you’re selling tea for $2 per glass, do you want to save 15 cents a glass, or do you want to sell another glass? Our focus is on giving restaurants a product and a customer experience that makes it easy for them to sell another glass.”
“Ultimately, we want to work with restaurants that understand that their profits come through the front door,” said Dan Schweiker. “If a restaurant is looking for backdoor profits, they’re probably not the best fit for China Mist. We look for restaurants that are sales-driven – and we give them an excellent iced tea to sell. If you sell one extra glass of China Mist iced tea per day, you’ll more than make up for the cost difference between China Mist and the cheapest generic iced tea out there.”
China Mist sells iced tea to all kinds of restaurants and foodservice institutions, ranging from high-end restaurants to convention centers to QSRs. Clients include Palm Restaurants, Starwood Hotels, and Panda Express.
The China Mist Advantage: “Tea-LC™”
When a restaurant signs up for the China Mist tea program, they get much more than just tea. China Mist provides its restaurant clients with tea brewing equipment appropriate for their volume requirements (often at no charge) and sends staffers for regular maintenance visits to ensure that the tea is being served at the proper temperature, that the tea brewing equipment is functioning properly, that the filtration systems and cleanliness levels are up to standards.
“Our level of service is why we’re the most expensive iced tea,” said Dan Schweiker. “Lots of people talk about ‘service,’ but the truth is that service is expensive and it’s easier to talk about than to fulfill. We give our clients the best tea possible, we give them the best service, and we also provide accountability for end users with our regular maintenance reports.”
China Mist delivers each restaurant a report card for its monthly preventive maintenance program, called the “Tea-LC™ program,” where establishments are graded on how well they’re keeping the equipment clean and how well they’re maintaining the standards of service.
The global future of iced tea
Iced tea was invented in America, first sold at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, where an English tea seller was having trouble making sales on a hot day, so he poured the tea over ice – and the rest is history.
According to Dan Schweiker, 80% of all tea consumed in America is iced tea. There is significant growth potential for iced tea in international markets. “If you look at the rest of the world outside the U.S., iced tea has huge growth potential,” said Dan Schweiker. “The rest of the world consumes 95% hot tea, and only 5% iced tea.”
China Mist has been selling iced tea in Korea for 25 years, and also has an international presence in Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and the Middle East. “We’re spreading iced tea throughout the world,” said Dan Schweiker.
New tea products for restaurants
For most of its early years, China Mist only sold freshly brewed tea – but the limitation of fresh brewed tea is that it is perishable, and unsold tea has to be thrown away. So the company spent 10 years developing a “bag-in-a-box” concentrate, making tea in an 11:1 mixture. The concentrated tea is good for six weeks after opening the bag and can be brewed without electricity, just by hooking it up to a water line.
China Mist has also recently introduced a bottled iced tea for restaurants, that can be sold just like a bottle of wine.
“We’re very excited about our new bottled iced tea for restaurants,” said Dan Schweiker. “Everyone loves China Mist Pure – the restaurant can sell it for $4 to $10 a bottle, the customers get a wonderful experience because it’s all organic ingredients, and the wait staff love it because they can sell a bottle of tea and add $1.20 to their tip.”
China Mist also develops custom tea drinks for restaurants, including liquor-and-tea combinations.
About China Mist
China Mist Brands started in 1982 with co-founders Dan Schweiker and John Martinson working from Martinson’s garage in Scottsdale, Arizona, mixing and tasting thousands of different tea leaf combinations. Today, the company makes over 16 flavor blends from its 17,000 sq. foot warehouse in Scottsdale. China Mist is open to receiving inquiries from restaurants and foodservice establishments worldwide.
China Mist is a member of the Specialty Tea Association (STA), and the company’s resident Teasmith, Scott Svihula, teaches classes for STA and the World Tea Expo.