In 1919 when Bettys first opened in Harrogate, it was exactly as Swiss-born baker and chocolatier Frederick Belmont had envisaged: customers were greeted by a tempting array of confectionery in the shop and served traditional English afternoon tea in the elegant café next door. Over a century later, more than two million customers visit Bettys each year. In addition to the original Bettys Café Tea Room in Harrogate, there are now branches in York, Northallerton, Harlow Carr and Ilkley, serving handmade bread, cakes and chocolates from the award-winning in-house bakery, the finest teas and coffees, and freshly prepared Swiss-Yorkshire savoury specialities.
As a business, fourth generation family owned Bettys is used to weathering storms. When it opened, World War I had been over for less than a year, rationing was still in force and it had been just a couple of months since the third wave of Spanish flu was declared in Europe. Bettys has always been proud to lift customers’ spirits by offering little comforting luxuries. Then, as today, beautiful cakes and treats are a reminder that pleasure can be found in small things. Just as Bettys has survived depression, recession and war in the past, it has kept going in the face of the present pandemic-related challenges. While the shops and tea rooms were closed during the lockdowns, the online shop saw huge demand and sent out around 415,000 parcels of its signature Fat Rascal scones, chocolates and cakes to people seeking solace, if only for a few minutes, over a slice of cake and a cup of tea.
In 2021, it was honoured to win the Community Award at the Yorkshire Post’s Excellence in Business Awards, which celebrates those who have made a tangible difference during the Covid crisis. Staff rose to the challenge of supporting others by finding creative ways to fundraise, diverting food which would have gone to waste into the community, and delivering parcels of appreciation to frontline workers in hospitals and care homes across the county. Each year staff also nominate charitable organisations they’d like to support; in 2021 Bettys’ dedicated team members raised over £91K for charities close to their hearts.
From the outside, Bettys looks like a traditional business but it is constantly adapting – and that includes becoming certified as carbon neutral. It delivers around 2,000 parcels each month by electric vehicle, uses 96 per cent renewable energy and has predominantly Yorkshire-based suppliers that includes sister tea and coffee company Taylors of Harrogate. Taylors is a founding member of the Ethical Tea Partnership (which works on long term programmes for a fair and sustainable tea industry) and was recognised by the UN at the recent COP26 in Glasgow with a Global Climate Action Award.
The impressive numbers over the last year speak for themselves: there were 5.9 million visitors to the Bettys website; 1.8 million visitors to the tearooms and nearly two million Fat Rascal scones and 800,000 fondant fancies sold overall. The cafés remain beacons on the high street, shining steadily in a world of constant change – and making each customer’s day a little brighter through excellent caring service and delicious, lovingly crafted confectionery.