One of the changes the pandemic brought about was the increase of telework. People had to take calls and attend meetings online while making sure children were being taken care of. After the restrictions were eased, some wanted to avoid the commute while having social interaction. The result: working from a coffee shop. It has become almost emblematic, the image of people with a laptop sitting at a table and sipping a coffee.
This new dynamic has resulted in some undesired effects. Many coffee shop owners sometimes see a reduction in the flow of customers due to tables being occupied by people working. A cafe where there’s barely any place to sit may deter potential customers. According to Nation Wide Coffee, some coffee shops in the UK have decided to implement a ban on laptops. Their wish is to have coffee shops as a place to meet friends and socialize. The “original” goal, as the website states. Many people though have been resistant and upset about the bans.
We sometimes don’t have a table available for other customers who come to eat.Coffee shop owner, Brussels
An alternative is to provide a voucher with a code to access the internet for a limited time. Depending on how large the order is, the user would be allowed to surf the internet for a certain number of hours, with a minimum of one. According to Nation Wide Coffee, this ensures that remote workers are paying their way, while also encouraging those who just want to have a coffee with friends.
There’s an extra element that has now been added to the mix: the energy crisis. Many have opted to factor in the cost of one or two coffees and a cookie, while reducing their costs on electricity, internet broadband, and heating.
In Brussels, some coffee shop owners have decided to take some measures, as reported by Belgian news outlet RTBF. A café in the municipality of Saint-Gilles has decided to have the music volume a bit higher than necessary. “It’s true that we like loud music”, explains the owner. “It annoys people a bit, but it’s part of what we need to do”.
According to the RTBF, the cafe owner has also had to block access to the WiFi for some of the computers. “We want to keep our customers. But if we don’t act, we sometimes don’t have a table available for other customers who come to eat lunch. This is the most profitable time. A lot of workers on their computers don’t eat here. They don’t eat much”.
With winter coming, the owner fears that more people might come. He is thus evaluating other possible measures such as reducing the heating or cutting off the access to electrical outlets.