Australia's CEOs could learn a thing or two from how the CWA tea rooms at Sydney's Royal Easter Show are run

Scones, jam and cream. Image by Chris Pash

Barbara Reichardt has results many CEOs would envy.

As chair of the CWA (Country Women’s Association) Tea Rooms Committee, she has an eight-member management team and staff of 417.

Together they run the tea rooms for the 14 days of the Royal Easter Show in Sydney. Their most famous product is the scone, selling about 3,500 of these each day.

The grand total of scones sold to the end of Wednesday, the last day, is 49,152 scones compared to 46,900 last year. A daily tally board is kept each day of the total scones consumed.

And at the end of those two weeks, the tea rooms will have made about $120,000 profit. That’s a successful business whichever way you look at it.

Scone Count. Image: Chris Pash

“It’s a big job,” Barbara tells Business Insider during a short break.

The tea rooms are an institution and the quality scones are considered one of the best deals and a must-have at the show. Tea and two scones with strawberry jam and cream costs $8.

She orders two tonnes of flour at the start of the show and inevitably has to order more. Each day, 70 litres of cream are used.

“I did spit the dummy before the show,” Barbara says. “I thought I’d just run a batch of scones through the stove and it was a disaster. I don’t know what happened but the oven wouldn’t work for me. There are two chefs on site at the RAS (Royal Agricultural Society) restaurant so I got them over and they tried everything. Anyway, we started from scratch again and they turned out fine.”

All the staff are volunteers and have to be organised into two shifts a day for the two weeks of the show.

Barbara, from Gloucester on the NSW Mid North Coast where she and her husband run beef cattle, has been on the committee for four years and has been a volunteer since the show moved to Homebush from Moore Park in 1998. This was her second year as chair.

Her secret to keeping hundreds of volunteers happy?

“I just think you have to be so polite and welcome them and thank them so much,” she says. “I think that’s half the battle. I am so appreciative of all that they do. I make sure I thank everyone when they finish and look forward to seeing them next year. Being courteous goes a long way.”

She hasn’t had any hassles for her two years running the tea rooms.

Her management team are well looked after. During the show, Barbara cooks dinner for her and the other eight members of the committee each night.

“Spaghetti bolognaise tonight, nice and easy and a baked dinner tomorrow night,” she says.

And together they wash, dry and iron 50 aprons before they depart each morning at 5.30 to start another day at the tea rooms.

“I think it’s just the atmosphere here,” she says. “Everyone works well together. They all know their job and anybody new we explain exactly what has to happen and before they know it their shift is over.”

Now the show is over for another year, Barbara and the rest of the committee will get together to go over operations, seeking to fine tune the way they work.

“We meet again in May and rehash everything to see what we can improve or what didn’t work for us but here’s not a lot of that this time.”

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