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  • Writer's picturegfmeade7


You may have noticed in the last few years more and more customers bringing laptops to cafes and coffee shops to quietly work away in the corner for hours on end while sipping the odd cuppa. This modern work practice has certainly changed the look and feel of cafes that are not really meant to be doubling up as a home office. Remote working however is a reality now and hospitality like everything else in life will have to adapt. It is causing a split in cafe culture though and there are two sides to every debate.

    The traditional cafe owner does not want to have these lone customers hogging good tables that need to be turning over throughout the day and bringing a different unwelcome ambience to their buzzy busy food premises. Some of these customers even ask straight away where the sockets are and what is the wifi code so they can lash into their working day. Okay it might not make a huge dent in the electricity bill but it’s the principal of it that might jar with some operators. It depends on the size of a place too; if you only have a few tables then of course it will have an impact on your trade.

The other side of the story is that these remote workers might live in shared accommodation or a tiny apartment and just need to get out of their own place for a change of environment. For cafe owners there might be an opportunity to actually accommodate them. After all they are probably a highly paid worker, may eat and drink more on say weekdays when places are quieter in mid morning and afternoons keeping the place ticking over. They might only be one off travelling salespeople wanting to catch up on a bit of paper work while on the road. We like routine and tend to return to places we know and where we were looked after on the previous visit. 

    So maybe it might be just worth the cafe owners while by installing single table power connected stations especially aimed for these customers who may become daily regulars if they are made more welcome. They might also hold meetings with clients or conduct interviews; indeed I do this myself several times a year when needing a neutral and comfortable venue. The customer profile is changing with the times and it has potential to be a revenue earner if places play along. They could certainly generate a lot of revenue if they are turning up every day and spending sufficiently.

Some are having none of it though, taking out wifi access and actually covering sockets so that it might dissuade the invasion of remote workers who they think will lower the tone of the establishment and not make it a pleasant experience for the regular customer who wants to hear the voices of other people, some background music and feel they are in a place of leisure and not work.

A halfway solution would be to facilitate remote workers on say weekdays only and not at weekends or perhaps have breakfast and lunchtime periods exclusive for regular customers and not remote workers. That way the cafe owner gets the best of both markets. The other aspect of this is that running a cafe has never been more expensive and less profitable so it only makes sense that all customers are made to feel welcome.

So no matter what they do they can avail of the place and service as long as it does not annoy customers at the next table so if volume is down and headphones are worn then remote workers should be able to be able to sit for as long as they like as long as they are spending some money and not ordering a single coffee for the whole morning. So coffee shop operators will need to wake up and smell this particular coffee posing as a new customer demographic and who needs catering for.

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