NEXT time you want to meet a business contact for a meal, forget lunch or dinner. Try tea.
More restaurants have begun offering afternoon tea daily and wooing customers from business executives to housewives with wallet-friendly menus served in a stylish setting.
Sun With Moon Japanese Dining and Cafe, for example, offers a wide range of sweet treats and snack-sized items such as mini hot pot rice dishes priced between $6.80 and $21.80.
Bakerzin also serves afternoon tea at three of its four restaurants, with cakes, tarts and souffles featured in two tea sets priced at $9.80 and $14.80.
Sales manager Kelvin Lee, 43, says he likes meeting his clients at Crystal Jade Kitchen outlets for afternoon tea as the eateries 'offer an ambience that is both classy yet relaxed'.
Restaurateurs interviewed admit that the idea of having tea on a weekday may be alien to most busy Singaporeans, but that looks set to change.
Mr Johnny Tan, 43, operations manager of Fosters Restaurant in Holland Village, says: 'Afternoon tea doesn't have to be an unproductive or lazy affair. We see a good number of business executives who hold casual meetings over high tea at our outlet.'
While Fosters has been serving afternoon tea since it opened in 1970, most restaurants launched tea-time menus only in the last two years.
Ms Lena Ong, 32, marketing manager for Jack's Place, says that all restaurants under its group, including Seafood Harvest and Eatzi Steakhouse and Bistro, are open for all-day dining.
To attract more customers during the off-peak hours between 2.30 and 5.30pm, an afternoon tea menu was introduced in May at all its outlets.
For Sun With Moon Japanese Dining and Cafe, afternoon tea is being offered as an extension of the Japanese dining culture it promotes.
The selection of food and beverages available has also grown.
If Western-style pastries and teas no longer tantalise your tastebuds, opt for Japanese buckwheat flour cakes with brown sugar syrup and soybean powder and a mug of cold barley tea from Shimbashi Soba in Paragon.
Or try an aloe vera and chrysanthemum cake with a glass of honeyed watercress juice from a Crystal Jade Kitchen outlet serving Cantonese high tea.
Foodies are saying yes to the trend.
Sun With Moon sees some 500 afternoon tea customers at its outlet in Wheelock Place every week.
Crystal Jade Kitchen says each of its 12 outlets has an average of 200 customers weekly during tea time.
Restaurateurs say the afternoon tea trend looks set to continue.
'Our guests love the concept and response has been good so we're keeping the afternoon tea menu,' says Mr Takayoshi Kofune, 28, marketing and communications manager for Sun With Moon.
Traditional afternoon tea haunts at hotel lobbies, however, have not suffered.
Carlton Hotel's Cafe Vic, which is open for afternoon tea on weekends, is 80 per cent filled.
Over at Goodwood Park Hotel, English afternoon tea, available daily at its L'Espresso cafe, has also been doing well, and sees reservations from Fridays to Sundays.
» Have a tea break