Is the Anti-Coffee Shop Changing the Café Game?
In the heyday of the coffee shop boom, patrons were encouraged to come, sip and stay ... for as long as they wanted. Well, things have changed. More frequently, coffee shops are instituting no-lingering policies that, in essence, tell guests to keep it moving.
In Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood, Pushcart Coffee is now Citizens Coffee, and the revamp goes further than just the name. Instead of sit-all-day counter service, guests can only grab and go at the counter and are encouraged to sit at a table if they intend on staying. The catch? You’ll be visited by a waiter and handed a menu. When you’re done, you leave. Some say it’s harsh, but business owners have to think about turning over tables and filling chairs. One cup of coffee simply won’t pay the rent.
James Beard Award-nominated baker Mark Furstenberg has been known to ask what he calls “campers” to leave his Washington, D.C. bakery-café Bread Furst. If they are lingering over a latte or nursing that last drop of coffee, he will politely (but sternly) let them know that Bread Furst is not their workspace. Bread Furst is a neighborhood café that everyone gets to enjoy; it’s not an office. So, they did away with WiFi. “We have this notion that ‘any space can belong to me, and I can do what I want,’” Furstenberg told The Washington Post. “Technology has made it possible.”
Chicago coffee shop The Perfect Cup has developed a happy medium: Customers get to linger but it doesn’t wind up costing the shop in the end. Guests are provided with a WiFi code at the bottom of their receipt. The code lasts three hours. “We worked with a company called Zyxel,” a barista at The Perfect Cup said. “The system provides a unique code on each receipt and after three hours it expires. But guests can certainly come up and buy another cup and get a new three-hour code.”
At the Glass Hour in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood, time is also a factor. Snacks, coffee, and WiFi are all free; instead, customers pay for time. The first hour at Glass Hour costs $6. Every minute after that hour is 10 cents. After four hours, you are charged $24. Dubbing itself the “anti-café,” Glass Hour is taking advantage of the community workspace trend and offering an alternative. Your $6 hourly payment includes as much coffee as you like and access to its library, board games, a PlayStation, and a microwave to heat up lunch.
“The idea came from the fact that lots of people use coffee shops as offices, to sit in all day and work. They actually take spots from people who want to sit and eat,” co-owner Zlata Koshlina said. Hence the “no laptop policy” and no-lingering rules some shops are instituting. “We are somewhere in between. You can’t buy one hour at a coworking space, but you can here.” So, if your goal is WiFi and a chair, spots like Glass Hour could be your salvation. “We don’t have fancy macchiatos and baristas, but we do have coffee along with comfy couches, arm chairs and great WiFi.”