What makes a café perfect? Good food and drink, cleanliness, and friendly service are all kind of obvious. I’m at a different café all the time and I have a few ways that these places could really go above and beyond other cafés.
Now, for the obligatory disclaimer: I’ve never owned or worked in a café. These are just some common sense, great ideas that the ideal one would think about if they are interested in becoming the best. I work from home, so I’ll often go out to a café to feel like a member of society. I’m still usually there alone, so I have a lot of time to judge everything about a place and really let things bother me without being distracted with pesky things—like talking to friends.
6) No credit card minimums
These minimums are for the greediest of café owners. As long as the average transaction of all customers is above a hypothetical minimum, it all works out in the end. Sure, it would be bad if everyone went in to buy $2 items with a credit card and the café had to pay an onerous fee from the credit card companies—but there are surely enough larger purchases to even it out. Do I think everyone with a credit card minimum is bad at math? No, I think they are greedy and it will turn away customers who don’t have cash. Alternatively, it makes people buy more than they wanted to but I also find this rude. Put up a friendly sign that asks for people who make purchases under $5 to use cash but that credit cards are fine if necessary. I’ve seen this before and I find it endearing.
5) Same hours every day
This is such a little thing but it matters! I want to be able to reliably go to a café and know it will be open. I’d rather a place I like be closed on weekends than have some weird shortened hours. The worst offender of this is when a place closes a half hour early a couple of days a week. It’s not worth the confusion. I love the symmetry of an hours sign that lists the same hours every day of the week.
4) Let the power outlets free
What is a café without power outlets? It’s a place that’s hiding them. Think of any place ever. How many outlets are in that room? The answer is more than zero. Yet there are cafés that don’t have any of them. Give laptop users their sockets, there are a lot of us! I’ll remember if a café doesn’t have any outlets and avoid that place if I have any thoughts about being there for a while. Bonus points: USB ports available from any seat. A café recently opened up in my neighborhood that has a plentiful amount of outlets and each outlet also has a pair of USB charging ports as well. I’ll always remember this place.
The only thing worse than no power outlets is no Wi-Fi. Every business should have free Wi-Fi, not just cafés. It’s a little extra cost and a huge amenity. Fast food restaurants have Wi-Fi. Starbucks has Wi-Fi. Get on the Wi-Fi train. It’s just that simple!
2) Love laptops
The last couple of points on this list are for people with laptops. Some cafés don’t like laptops. Why be that way? They want customers and a lot of those customers use laptops. Maybe it’s because the owner imagines a quaint, delightful café where everyone is a little less digital and a little more friendly. Well, someone using a laptop is just as anti-social as someone reading a book or whatever. Just let people do what they want! Alternatively, maybe the café owner is trying to make people feel unwelcome…
1) Embrace the space
Each of these little things sound like they might be expensive and won’t directly make money. It’s the food and the drink that make money. Well guess what outweighs all these little costs and doesn’t directly make any money on its own? It’s floor space. I had the thought the other day that so many cafés are huge, but why? I’ve already bought my stuff, why let me linger around for a couple of hours? There is always empty seating in them, so it’s not an efficiency thing. They mostly sell common to-go items. Why do they need so much space? Cafés know that having seating is important and will attract customers there yet size is one of the most expensive fixed costs. I won’t go to one at all unless I know I can get work done while I’m there. If a café can put this much money into essentially wasted floor space, that means these other things will pay for themselves with goodwill. A café owner should want reviews to say things like “really good Wi-Fi” or “great place to work.” No one will say they loved a place because there were “no power outlets.”