Drink Up or Power Down…Coffee without the Perks???

Crossroads Coffee - MacBook hiding
Image by kfisto via Flickr

Been to a coffee shop in say, the last 10 years?

Well if the answer is yes, (and that should about cover the majority of the planet,) than you’ve noted that coffee shops have spent a lot of time and effort wooing folks who bring their laptops.

In fact, many self-employed and sales people tend to use the local coffee hangout as their office. The chains encouraged this and the habit has been ingrained in our digital society.

As the economy nosedived, apparently some coffee shop digifolks lost jobs and weren’t buying much product. A recent article in the WSJ highlighted the situation in ‘Coffee without Perks.’

As coffee shop patrons have been using electricity and buying fewer, or in some extreme instances buying nothing, some shops have started banning laptops from the shop or limiting hours they can be used on the premises.

Many digifolks are outraged by this about-face of the shops they’ve come to know and love, and where in more prosperous times, they’ve left a significant amount of money.

What to do? While we can certainly see both sides of this equation, is it short-sighted for business owners to power down the customers who will certainly once again feed them? And is it fair for people who do buy while working. to be impacted by stringent rules of usage?

While this may be a problem for some coffee shops, I think they’re in the minority and I think there may be better solutions to deal with the problem.

For instance:

It would be great if there were coffee shops designated as ‘innovation’ cafes where you were expected to pay a minimum for a designated time period and that entitled you to drink, power & chair at a communal space designed to facilitate laptop users as well as those looking to collaborate…sort of taking ‘huddle spaces’ to the coffee shop circuit.

There does seem to be a business opportunity here.

Can companies such as Microsoft, Sun, Google, Amazon etc  underwrite a newly configured work space in coffee shops, say taking the MIT Media Lab concept modified, to a coffee shop near you?

Or could local colleges such as Babson & Olin participate in the ‘Innovation Connection‘ by providing the coffee shop setting which would encourage young entrepreneurs and community members to have a coffee, use a laptop, and dialogue together???

Perhaps separate areas for wanting to only work on your laptop and another area for meeting with people as well as laptop work?

Enterprising coffee shops could offer an ‘Innovation Club’ membership that might include certain benefits.

I think there’s room for discussion on this issue and I firmly believe there’s a significant opportunity for enterprising entrepreneurs.

What do YOU think?

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