Picture this scene: you’ve got a big project to tackle and you’d like some alone time outside the office or even your home. Where do you go? Obviously you go to a coffee shop! Starbucks, Panera, or your local coffeehouse… all popular places to set up your laptop or tablet and use their free Wi-Fi to your heart’s content.
But how do you know if you are taking too much advantage of these courtesies? Do coffee-crazed patrons need to give a second thought to the way they use coffee shops?
“It’s a question that comes up and we’ve heard before and people have asked us," says Keith Zolner, owner of Perq Coffee Bar in the Southside Village neighborhood of Sarasota. "There’s not specifically one answer. Basically, when you think about it, most small independent shops are looking for support in the community, and we want the community to give support back to our business.”
It’s important to note that chains like Panera recently asked their customers to please be considerate from 11:00 AM to 2:00 PM, which is the restaurant’s busiest hours, and limit their stay to a half hour at most.
But not all of us can work that fast, right? To get around this, it’s usually considered polite and courteous if you just keep your orders coming at a steady pace throughout your stay.
“When you come in and you’re going to use a coffee shop as an office or a workspace, obviously ordering something is an important part of the relationship; that’s what we’re here for," Zolner explains. "It doesn’t have to be coffee, depending on how much coffee you’ve had during the day and afternoon… It’s one of those things were if you’re coming in an asking for a free water and sitting down for an hour, it feels a little bad that you’re not getting any support in return, but there’s no specific definition. Come in, find something on the menu, if you’re going to be here for a longer time, order something else.”
So the next time you need to get some work done at your local coffee shop, just keep in mind that their time is just as precious as yours, and they’re trying to run a legitimate business as well. The signs may say the wi-fi is free, but nothing in this world is truly without cost.