Tuesday, November 16, 2010

In the (ahem) coffee bar, the road warrior is not well-liked

If you like fast food, a McDonald's is a nice place to visit, but you wouldn't want to stay there for long. The seats are plastic, the venue is loud, and the place is practically designed to repel you so you don't occupy valuable seat space.

The alternative would be the coffee shop, where you can hang out, drink some coffee and pastries, relax in the comfy chairs...and bring out your netbook, laptop, or mobile device and communicate with the world. For long periods of time.

But not everywhere, according to this Mashable post on the advantages of coworking:

“As someone who has friends who work in coffee shops, it’s just rude to go somewhere and sit down with your laptop and occupy that space for hours,” [Jeff] Park says.

And how much do the employees dislike it?

Some cafe owners have intentionally made their businesses unpractical work places by banning laptops, blocking outlets or shutting down their Wi-Fi.

I haven't run across this in my experience, and normally California is the leader in these trendy things. But this trend comes from New York:

When Café Grumpy’s owners, Caroline Bell and Chris Timbrell, decided to open a third location, in Park Slope, last year, they built a solution to the laptop problem right into the design. The furniture consists of a counter in the back and a chest-high table in the front. A bench outside is for lingering.

Name aside, this Café Grumpy is not a cafe. It is, unmistakably, a coffee bar.

“I don’t think I’d ever do a bigger space with tables and chairs again,” Ms. Bell said. “I appreciate the idea of when you go someplace and it feels like a home away from home, but I don’t think it should be a home office away from home.”

Apparently the point of the coffee bar is to put the emphasis on the COFFEE and to have customers who are thinking about the COFFEE and not Farmville or whatever. In fact, at least one place is taking the emphasis on coffee to an extreme:

When Stumptown Coffee Roasters opens its second New York coffee bar next month, in Red Hook, Brooklyn, baristas there will be focused on brewed coffee to the exclusion of almost everything else, including espresso....

But if you look online, you can naturally find a backlash:

A reviewer on Yelp who liked the coffee at Bluebird gave it a poor rating because she didn’t have room for her homework. And the restaurant blog Eater nominated its window counter for the “Worst Outdoor Seating in New York” feature because it is “so small it can’t even hold an iPad.”

But Alan Beatts at Borderlands Cafe believes that the trend is on his side:

Not many (are upset), really. And most of them don’t become customers. They walk in, ask if we have WiFi, get a negative answer, and walk out. But for each person like that, we probably get ten or more who say how much they like the absence of it. And probably half of those people comment positively on the absence of music.

Only one problem with Beatts' strategy. Seth Fischer, who interviewed Beatts, conducted the interview via e-mail. From a coffee shop down the street.
blog comments powered by Disqus