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What coffee shop and cafe owners say when asked, “How long is too long?”

How long is too long to be working from a coffee shop or cafe?

It’s one of the most frequently asked questions I hear when talking about the work we’re doing.

To shed a little light on this topic, I asked coffee shop and cafe owners, managers and employees to share their thoughts about the ideal period of time for working in their establishments.

The answer?

Overwhelmingly, those polled explain that when a patron is enjoying a local coffee shop or cafe while they work, there isn’t a time limit. No timer or internal clock that’s being monitored. What business owners want are happy patrons, busy shops and repeat customers.

The thing about happy patrons

This one’s simple – a happy customer spreads the word to others, comes back and brings people to the cafe for meetings and lunches. They spend more money on average over time and they have a vested interest in the business’ success. If setting up shop for two, three or even four hours while you get some work done is what makes you happy, they’re happy to accommodate.

But what about the people who leave because they can’t find a seat?

This is an interesting area to explore. I’ve talked to business owners who are indeed worried about this happening. And who wouldn’t be? The thought of people who want to spend money with your business leaving because they can’t easily find a seat is nothing to celebrate.

Some businesses are more likely to experience a capacity issue than others. The daily traffic for most coffee shops and cafes will ebb and flow – parts of the day being busier than others. The majority of people who visit these businesses are in the space for short periods of time. They’re not looking to find a seat in the first place and are not deterred by slim pickings in that regard. They’re getting their drinks and pastries to go. Again, this is not the case for every business but it is for most.

The social proof of a busy venue

Business owners know that people are more willing to come through the door when they see others already enjoying the venue.

Coffee shops and cafes are inherently social places. People visit to connect with that shared social experience. They certainly come for the coffee, the food and the goodies, but they’re more likely to pick a place if it’s already visibly busy. Wait time or not.

Are there best practices when it comes to working from a coffee shop?

Yep. I’ll be writing another more detailed post about the etiquette of working from coffee shops soon. In the meantime, remember that these places where we love to work are businesses. They need us to spend money while we are using their space. If we can’t drink another cup of coffee or chomp down another bite to eat, simply walk up to the counter and leave a nice tip. Follow that up by a “thank you” and a smile.

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