Is your coffee shop someone’s office? Want to keep it that way?

Coffee shop owners… Just a little tip for you this morning.

Look around your shop mid-morning and mid-afternoon. Is there a slew of laptops and little business meetings going on?

If so, think about how you can make your business friendlier to those using your shop as an office. Don’t look at them as dust bunnies using up a table. They’re customers who get into a groove in your shop and use it repeatedly.

Until you run them off.

In the last month I’ve been on the road (air, whatever) quite a bit and have been run out of a few coffee shops because they don’t seem to want me working there.

There seem to be a few common issues, at least recently.

$10/day wireless. Borders and Barnes & Noble just don’t get this. I know, they don’t want to deal with administering it. Still, there has to be a solution. These places are like a ghost town mid morning and mid afternoon for this reason. You very rarely see anyone working there. This is a really dumb way to “cheap out”. Yeah, some people will come in, use the internet, buy nothing and leave. Guess what…they aren’t customers anyhow. Maybe they’ll buy someday, maybe they wont. Charging $10 a day for internet access just ticks off all your REAL customers.

No sound-proofer doodads on the frappe machine (that super noisy blender thing that creams the ice). You know how loud they are, though you may not notice anymore because you are used to it. This is one thing that Borders (usually) has over other shops. They actually USE theirs. Most independents that I visit don’t have em or the staff doesn’t use em. City Brew, a chain here in MT doesn’t have or use em. Why does this matter? Take a seat somewhere in the shop. Call your spouse from your cell phone. Signal a barista to hit the frappe machine and start making an ice drink. Now try having a conversation. Ouch. Remember, you’re not in the coffee business.

Electricity. Laptops suck the life out of batteries, even today’s. Clearly, its difficult to have a plug at every table, so just keep this in mind when you place tables in your shop. Do the best you can. When there’s no power available, the laptop crew will either not stay long or will not stay at all.

Firewalls. City Brew (no, I’m not picking on them – in fact, the local area manager of the stores in the Flathead is a really sharp guy who truly gets it). Recently, they put new routers or a new firewall in all their shops in northwest Montana. Result: NO ONE can use the internet anymore because they didn’t take the time to test them, configure them, or something. It has been going on so long that there are signs about it on the cash register. Very un-CityBrew-esque. In 1 (Whitefish), I can get browser access. No other ports work (think cpanel, ftp, any custom application, ODBC). In the rest that I’ve tried (Kalispell), it doesnt work at all. The last time I was in one in Kalispell, no less than 5 people approached me asking if mine was working (I was writing and didnt need the internet). Suddenly, the laptop crowd is gone from City Brew. They come in, they try to connect, figure out it isnt working and they are gone. Notice the routine of your business clientele. They come in, they setup their laptop, they get hooked up and hit the check mail button and then order coffee and whatever else. If they never get connected, you just lost a sale.

Train your staff to be aware of their surroundings. Today I’m sitting in a coffee shop in a small town. I know the owners aren’t dense, as they have 4-5 shops in this area. However, the entire staff of this shop is in the office, watching video on the internet at a volume level that *I* can hear 40-50 ft away, and the staff is giggling and carrying on so loud that you cant hear yourself think. The only customers in the shop at the moment are working, several on laptops, another interviewing an potential employee, another doing paperwork of some kind. Not a good first impression.
That’s enough for now.

By the way…you should be blogging too.

3 replies on “Is your coffee shop someone’s office? Want to keep it that way?”

  1. But do all of the shop owners want people officing there? Restaurant people speak of table turn. Does the table make more money when a customer uses it as his office compared to when others come in, stay for a drink and leave? There’s been an article in our local paper about the lack of tables in coffee shops because of the number of people using their laptops there.

    Now if the shop owner wants to encourage “officing” then they can make it more friendly as you suggest. I especially agree with you about the charges for wi-fi. Cheap you-know-what that I am, that is the show stopper for me. I can sit here in my chair and brew my Folgers for $.55 a gallon vs. the $33.00 a gallon at Fourbucks. Instead of a frappe machine making noise, all I have is a cat yowling to be let in or out every five minutes.



  2. Glenn,

    I suspect it varies from shop to shop, and possibly by shop size and location. OTOH, if they dont want laptoppers there, why do they have wireless?

    The one coffee shop owner I know gives me the impression that they want em there. Course, Im sure they want them spending money – but making it part of their business habit is one of the ultimate goals.

    Dont get me started on the cats. Arrgh:)


  3. Seems others are finding this an issue as well:)

    NOTE: The NYT link may go dark eventually. Recommendation: get the NYT reader app. Its a great view at the future of newspapers, at least online.

    Excerpt from New York Times Article:

    What Starbucks Can Learn From the Movie Palace

    WI-FI service is quickly becoming the air-conditioning of the Internet age, enticing customers into restaurants and other public spaces in the same way that cold “advertising air” deliberately blasted out the open doors of air-conditioned theaters in the early 20th century to help sell tickets.

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