We’ve all seen the person in the corner of Starbucks, leeching on the electrics and making one espresso last three hours. Heck, we’ve probably all been there. It’s a common cafe owner’s lament, how to encourage people to come again without overstaying their welcome.
We’re working from home (see local cafe/softplay/carpark) more than ever and some hospitality businesses have started capitalising on our ever-increasing need to ‘hang around’.
“There’s a societal need for individuals to dwell in city centres,” says Ben Davies, marketing manager of Liverpool-based cafe Ziferblat, which works on a pay-per-minute model. Instead of paying for the coffee to use the space, people who wish to linger for social or work reasons pay eight pence per person per minute and everything else is free. Says Davies, “Our relaxed atmosphere is designed to be comfortable and inviting to encourage guests to stay. We have super fast wi-fi, soft furnishings, domestic kitchens with unlimited teas, coffees, cakes, biscuits, fruits, cereals and breakfast goods.” There are also newspapers, board games and crafts. Dogs are even allowed.
“Cafe culture is here to stay,” says Davies, simply, “we feel embracing this culture head on is the best recipe for success in urban areas.”
While encouraging customers to spend more time in store is not a new thing, actively encouraging them to plug their laptops in and mess around on Facebook is. A study from Samsung found that 37 per cent of people rate their favourite coffee shop on whether there’s free WiFi and 60 per cent consider it important when picking a cafe. And we all know that WiFi users have social media and we all know what social media is good for.
“People are working differently today,” agrees Darren Elliott, founder of Timberyard, which has locations in Old Street, Seven Dials and Soho in London. The chain fuses creative workspaces speciality tea and coffee and, says Elliott, “challenges the traditional coffee shop format by encouraging its customers to stay as long as they like and providing products, services and environments that are conducive to their evolving needs.”
Elliott believes that by encouraging punters to stick around, he is also contributing to the greater good: “More than 30 creative new enterprises have been established, books have been written, food and drink products have been conceived, online services have been coordinated.” He adds, “Timberyard also gave light to The Giggling Pig, a delicious pork crackling snack product that was since renamed The Snaffling Pig and has gone on to achieve funding from TV show Dragon's Den.”
The fact is, that all the while you’ll always get the dude charging his many devices for the cost of a cuppa, you’ll also get the woman who brings all her business associates for every lunch meeting and books several tables for her events.
It’s not just trendy city-centre coffee shops cashing in. Anthea Orchard runs Cardelium, a small, independent card, gift and balloon shop in Halifax. She says, “We don’t have a heavy footfall like in a large town centre so I have more time to give my customers one-to-one.” She frequently makes her customers a cup of tea and encourages them to sit and chat or just hang out. “People love it,” she says, “I feel like an agony aunt some days, giving relationship advice or listening to people disclosing the worst about terminal illnesses.” It pays off, “I have some lovely reviews on Facebook,” Orchard says, “saying how welcome they feel. It makes people want to come back.”