By May 21, 2012 Read More →

Coffee shop working

Coffee shop working
Free wifi is now available so widely that home workers who need to do a spot of coffee shop working can feel quite put-out if it’s not on offer in every cafe they visit.

But looking at it from the point of view of independent coffee shop proprietors, there are sound business reasons why they might take the decision not to offer free wifi. They have to pay for it and so must generate enough extra custom to cover the cost.

You might think it’s obvious that there are now enough people in need of coffee shop working for this to be easily achieved. Sadly it’s not quite as simple as you might expect, because not everyone behaves in a unselfish way when using a cafe. I’ve even heard of people who take in their own drinks and consume them at cafe tables.

And you may have heard on the national news about the owners of a coffee shop and stall in Norwich who recently decided not to serve customers who tried to order while talking on their mobile phones. The owners felt it was rude to mouth and gesticulate at their staff while in conversation with someone else. Apparently a rough poll taken of customers showed that about 80% of them agreed, so there is some hope.

The owner of a small cafe told me he couldn’t run the risk of an individual coming in for free wifi and coffee shop working, spreading out at a table for four and staying for hours on the strength of one coffee. He could miss out on the custom of a family wanting lunch, and he didn’t fancy the hassle of having to move people on.

Code of Conduct for coffee shop working

My friends over at mobile app WorkSnug, which helps home workers on the move to find good places to work, have developed a Coffee Shop Code of Conduct from suggestions made by their coffee shop working community. Cafe owners can display the Code to remind customers about best coffee shop behaviour.

Do you enjoy coffee shop working? Or do you work in a cafe and see examples of bad coffee shop conduct that make you wish you could turn the wifi off?

Posted in: Mobile working

20 Comments on "Coffee shop working"

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  1. My local coffee shop dropped their wifi at the start of the year. I understand the cost of ‘business’ wifi is rather higher than my home broadband, and they just couldn’t justify the cost of continuing with it. It is a shame but I totally understand the decision.

    Wonder if cafe’s could manage it with providing wifi but no power sockets? My laptop certainly wouldn’t last very long without a plug 🙂

  2. Judy says:

    Hi Paul, that is quite brilliant. But I think it might only work once, with the mobile worker never to return! I wonder though, if it was a nice place, good coffee, friendly atmosphere etc…
    Any thoughts, anyone?

    • I wouldn’t go into a local indie cafe with free wifi even if we had one. It is not ok in my opinion for me to stay thee for a full work session only having one drink and maybe a sandwich. I also don’t want to eat food I don’t want because I am there.

      I am a regular enough customer in Nero and if it gets full, I’ll leave. There is rarely a lack of space to sit down though as everyone comes and goes in waves. I arrive and leave in line with the right volumes of people.

      • Judy says:

        I agree, Rosie – surely it doesn’t take much imagination for a freelancer to realise that, just like them, a coffee shop has to make a profit and isn’t a public amenity? Meldrew moment coming on!

  3. Tim Church says:

    I must admit it had never occurred to me to request the use of a power socket in a coffee shop. I would never intend spending long enough to need it and always ensure I have fully charged batteries on laptop and phone. The only time I have used a separate power supply is on a train or in a travel lounge.

    I suppose if I had an urgent need I would consider requesting a power supply but would expect to pay something towards it.

    • Judy says:

      Tim, you are a coffee shop’s dream customer! I’m surprised they don’t have a picture of you behind the counter and drag you in off the street as you go by!

  4. Kay Heald says:

    I think the Coffee Shop Code of Conduct is an excellent idea – it’s a shame that reminders are needed, but the Infographic hits the right notes – informative, yet fun!

    • Judy says:

      I agree, Kay, I’m not sure I could have made it so unpreachy when I think some of that behaviour is completely out of order. I’d love to know if any desperate coffee shop owners have had to resort to sticking it under the nose of a bad customer!

    • San Sharma says:

      Thanks Kay! It was a ‘crowd sourced’ project, so we can’t take all the credit 🙂

  5. I work in coffee shops a lot – mainly the same one which is my local Nero. The vast majority of laptop workers behave beautifully – only the occasional bandwidth hogger. The staff are like friends, remember your drink, and are wonderful when I order my large staying in one shot skimmed milk latte which isn’t on the menu.

    • Judy says:

      No doubt they appreciate your consideration, Rosie. And as you say, most people do too, but the coffee shop cowboys just hack everyone off.

  6. Jonathan says:

    I do find it ironic that I am reading this in a coffee shop, after 3 meetings in the coffee shop, and I usually take a table near the power point. So mi’ lord, guilty as charged.

    • Judy says:

      I’ve had back-to-back meetings too, Jonathan, but I reckon that’s fine as long as you keep ordering drinks etc. And I always need a socket at the mo because my laptop battery is slowly dying and I’m determined to extract the most I can before shelling out for another!

  7. Marie says:

    Solution – Low Cost Fee for Community Workspaces?

    People like to work in local lively friendly places with a nice relaxed communal atmosphere.

    Why not simply charge some low hourly fee where people can plug in and spread out? Then sell them add on stuff?

  8. Alice Hobbs says:

    I work on a coffee shop to and I agree that a lot of people would take advantage on the free wifi connection in the cafe, so what we did, we put some restriction access so that only our customers can access to it. Also, if they want to stay longer they need to make another order. It’s a lil harsh but its an effective way to control and have more customers.

  9. hannah loveplaywork says:

    I only ever work in coffee shops when we are travelling and its a necessity to respond to customers etc. Its so easy for time to run away and you end up longer than you want- I’m guilty of getting by on a hot chocolate and a muffin in a big chain but local places we’d definitely keep the orders coming! Of course in Spain everywhere closes all afternoon anyway so not much hope of getting into a lengthy flow!

    • Judy says:

      Sounds like good discipline, Hannah! I wonder if Spanish home workers also take the afternoon off and resume work in the evening?

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