Running a cafe with style, sustainability and kindness – a conversation with Tania Lodi

Tania Lodi

We are living in times where flaunting one’s whereabouts on the gram is everything. More often than not, we are looking for places with that “instagrammable” aesthetic. As per the Cambridge dictionary, it means:

attractive or interesting enough to be suitable for photographing and posting on the social media service Instagram.

In this episode of F&B Talks, we are in conversation with Dubai-based Tania Lodi, the owner of one of the world’s most instagrammable cafes. Most of the Middle East’s popular social media influencers have their picture taken against the cafe’s famous “Hey there, Habib-tea” background. And why not! When you find yourself in a pink-painted oasis with rose gold touches, a splendid marble floor, and quirky notes adding puns to your tea, you do get the picture (pun intended).

Tania shares some key lessons on running a cafe business – right from restaurant design to menu design, customer acquisition, and the importance of practicing kindness while running a business.

Understanding the concept of a mindful menu 

Over the past few decades, public awareness of diet, food intolerance, and allergic reactions has increased. Consumers have varied diet preferences such as gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, keto, vegan, and vegetarian. Therefore, a “one-size fits all” menu simply doesn’t work. 

Curating a menu that meets everyone’s requirements is critical to offering a great customer experience as it makes customers feel welcomed, included, and cared for. 

“The rise of auto-immune disorders has shown us that a lot of people have different food intolerances. So, we want to make sure we can accommodate all of these dietary restrictions. But also, stay full-flavored and delicious. We don’t serve boring food…We want to put a fun twist to it,” says Tania about her unique menu offerings. 

Tania's Teahouse Menu
Menu | Tania’s Teahouse

Learnings on creating an authentic brand 

The restaurant industry is inundated with a variety of options for cuisines and experiences. This creates stiff but healthy competition within the industry wherein it becomes important to do things differently. As Tania points out, “You don’t want to be a follower. You want to be a trendsetter.” 

Something that’s working in a different country may not work in yours. It is important to stay away from simply copying the concepts and instead apply your unique ideas and thoughts. Doing so requires thinking outside the box in addition to having fun while you’re at it. 

Designing the restaurant space

Tania’s Teahouse was designed to be a stylish yet welcoming space for socializing. The design has been one of the crucial aspects of its massive success as one of the top ten most instagrammable cafes in the world. That said, it just doesn’t only serve aesthetic purposes; there’s a bigger impact of design at play here. 

Tanias teahouse

Tania believes strongly in the cafe culture and how it has created safe spaces for people to meet up, and wind down. The design reinforces this belief through its relaxed ambiance, comfy seating, delicious food, and soothing music. When these forces come together, they end up creating a healing aura in the place. 

Restaurant design and customer acquisition

Although great food holds precedence over anything else, you can’t enjoy your meal if the seating is uncomfortable or the restaurant ambiance is depressing. Tania used her knowledge of psychology as an honors graduate in the subject and made use of the right colors, decor, seating arrangement, and artworks.

“Being in places which are aesthetically pleasing, makes you feel better about yourself,” says Tania. Well-designed spaces make you feel good, bring a sense of belonging, and increase happiness. 

Creating a menu 

There are two sides to designing your restaurant menu – i. experiential, and ii. operational. You must think about how your customer would perceive your menu when they enter your restaurant for the first time. Here’re some key considerations, 

  • Keep the menu simple: A 50-page long menu does nothing but overwhelms your customers. Such a long menu would make it difficult for them to decide what they want to have. Having a simple and concise menu, on the other hand, makes the experience better. Think about these questions while you’re at it 
  • Is the menu easy to browse?
  • Do customers find it easy to understand the menu items? 
  • Do the menu items look exciting and appealing?
  • Does it include options for everyone, keeping in mind their dietary preferences?
  • Do you provide staff training to help customers with item selection?
  • Reduce food wastage: Food wastage is a huge problem in the restaurant industry. Having recycled ingredients has helped Tania reduce wastage at her cafe. In addition to it, she recommends staying mindful of the quantity of ingredients you order. Being a small cafe, Tania’s Teahouse stores only the required amount as per the menu design. 

Restaurant franchising requirements

Restaurant franchising is a great way to expand the brand footprint and spread it across different locations across the world. That said, there are a few prerequisites that need to be in place,

  • A sustainable business model 
  • A model that is easy to replicate 
  • A business partner that shares the same values 

Tania’s Teahouse has been operational and has received a lot of franchising inquiries. It’s finally the time when the brand is being opened to the franchise model. With the current focus being GCC and the UK, the brand is open to collaborations from across the world.

As for advice to the budding F&B entrepreneurs she says, “If you want to start your business, it is very important not to romanticize it, ” says Tania. Starting and managing your own business requires a lot of hard work and accountability. Entrepreneurship is hard work – you have to be prepared for all the challenges that come with it.  That said, if you’re passionate about what you do then it is completely worth it. 

Tania also stresses the importance of running a business ethically. It is extremely important to practice kindness with employees and customers. As a business owner, what you do and how you do it sets the tone for your brand image and work culture. 


Rating: 5.0/5. From 3 votes.
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Prachi is the Marketing Manager at Restroworks. In her current capacity, she establishes connections with key stakeholders in the F&B industry and serves as the host of The Restaurant Times talk show, "F&B Talks," tailored for the restaurant sector. With hands-on experience in international sales and marketing, Prachi has led initiatives in the LATAM and USA regions, contributing to the platform's global outreach.


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