Pop’s Café is pride of place on Maidstone’s High Street. With its art nouveau style curved glass window and door, it entices customers with its welcoming glow.
Although it looks like it could have been in situ for decades, Pop’s Café is in fact only a year old. Owner and manager, Aftab Rana started the business because he fell in love with the UK’s blossoming café culture, and thought he would bring a taste of it to Kent’s county town.
The historic building which houses the café inspired his offer, and has influenced Pop’s traditional serving style. For £14, customers can enjoy an afternoon tea, complete with classic sandwiches and scones. Take up on this offer has been phenomenal – Aftab says the phone has been ringing almost constantly – and it’s certainly managed to put his establishment on the map.
A range of teas are served at Pop’s, from relaxing Tetley Camomile to zingy Tetley Lemon Green, meaning customers can enjoy a hot drink whatever mood they may be in. The wide range drives sales of the indulgent cakes, pastries and muffins, which are displayed inside the café counter.
Lunchtime guests are a big part of the cafés business. Aftab worked in Maidstone before he created Pop’s, and says he understands what this market is looking for. Freshly made sandwiches are served alongside takeaway teas, perfect fuel for the office workers above Maidstone’s High Street.
The relaxed atmosphere of Pop’s Café stands out from many high street businesses. Ambient lighting, wooden furnishings and comfy sofas have created “a home away from home,” according to Aftab. Wifi and generously sized teapots encourage customers to extend their dwell time. Aftab has not been afraid of this strategy, and in return it has paid him dividends. Pop’s has become a favourite meeting place for mothers’ groups through to knitting clubs, generating a regular stream of weekly custom.
During the winter, hot beverages are particularly popular among chilly shoppers looking for a rest from the crowds. When the hotter weather arrives, Pop’s also serves a range of iced teas, to cool customers down. Hot tea is always served in a pot, and black blends are accompanied by a milk jigger, allowing customers to adjust the strength of their own tea.
This all goes into creating an offer that is ‘just right’ for the customer. When asked what the secret of a good cup of tea is, it’s no surprise that Aftab replies: “It’s all down to perfect preference.”
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