The story of the Willow Tea Rooms and our owner Anne Mulhern’s inspiration began a long, long time ago…Kate Cranston, the famous Glasgow Tea Room Entrepreneur, and one of Mackintosh’s biggest supporters, was born in her father’s hotel in George Square, Glasgow in 1849. The Cranston family were avid supporters of the temperance movement and Kate’s brother Stuart gets the credit for opening the first Tea Room anywhere. He was a tea merchant and his enthusiasm for his product led him to having a kettle on hand in his shop to provide samples for his customers.
Stuart then hit upon the idea of charging for this and set up some tables and chairs in the premises. He began selling cups of tea with the optional extra of cakes. The idea proved lucrative and soon Tea Rooms were sprouting up all over the city.
Taking inspiration from her brother, Kate decided to open her own Tea Rooms business. She had a total of four in Glasgow, Argyle Street, Ingram Street, Buchanan Street and Sauchiehall Street. The Tea Rooms were an immediate success, partly due to Kate’s own distinctive character. A compassionate employer, Kate visited the homes of the girls who worked for her, ran a compulsory insurance scheme and made sure they all had three meals a day, a great perk given that many of the staff came from large poor families.
Although a touch old fashion and eccentric in her dress sense, Kate was the opposite in her business decisions. She used two relatively unknown designers at that time, George Walton and Charles Rennie Mackintosh – both of whom ensured that the Tea Rooms were truly unique, the interiors being critically acclaimed in the newspapers and art magazines of the day.
Coming back to today….Anne opened the Willow Tea Rooms in 1983, expanded to Buchanan Street in 1997 and into Watt Brothers in 2016.
Over the years we have also been lucky enough to be offered other great opportunities for the Willow Tea Rooms, we have been part of tea ceremonies in Japan and Springfest at Loch Lomond – where we went to for a weekend and stayed for 6 months!
One thing that has been consistent over our years in business is that all our visitors want a quality product, locally sourced, homemade and home baked and our menus today reflect this. As well as our traditional menu, our Miss Cranston’s Free From Menu caters has a great range of gluten free, vegan and vegetarian options.
Our afternoon teas are unique! They are available all day – so if you fancy afternoon tea at 9.30 or a tasty breakfast at 3.00 pm then we are the place for you!