Coffee shops are widely used as part of the morning commute, in the afternoon for a break or as a social hub. Coffee shops have become places for people to connect and interact over a drink. This phenomenon was only heightened during the pandemic, where 70% of professionals in the UK worked remoted in April 2020. Even after COVID-19, employees and employers have discovered that they don’t need to travel into a busy office to be efficient. Many employees across the UK have now started working full time remotely, or have at least implemented a ‘hybrid’ office/home work balance.
This flexible working schedule has given rise to a movement of employees flocking to their local cafes, coffee shops and eateries to conduct their work. Free Wi-Fi, a change of scenery and an abundance of high-quality coffee are all potential reasons for this dramatic shift.
However, from the perspective of coffee shops, this trend isn’t as beneficial as it may seem from the outside. In fact, customers working in cafes can reduce daily revenue whilst simultaneously increasing monthly bills. For many coffee shops, this then begs the question: Should they ban laptops?
Why Do People Use Laptops in Coffee Shops?
Coffee shops are known as social and working spaces, which attracts a variety of customers to help build loyal and regular custom. Coffee shops offer a welcoming atmosphere, an abundance of hot food and high-quality coffee, free Wi-Fi, and a change of scenery for remote workers. It’s not hard to see why so many flock to their coffee shop to conduct their work.
However, with remote working continuing to rise, despite being out of the pandemic, coffee shops are beginning to struggle with the influx of ‘working customers’.
Why Are Some Coffee Shops Banning Laptops?
Many coffee shops have struggled to keep a flow of customers due to many remote workers taking up valuable space throughout the day. Oftentimes coffee shops are full of people working, which in turn puts people off going inside due to a lack of suitable seating/table space. Many have found that coffee shops with a vibrant, bustling energy attract footfall, whilst remote worker dominated coffee shops create an atmosphere of silence. This has forced some coffee shops to implement a ban on laptops, to return them to their “original” purposes as gathering spots for friends and venues to enjoy a sack and a well-brewed cup of coffee.
Smaller, independent coffee shops rely on frequent customers to survive the day and generate the revenue required to keep their doors open. Remote workers who occupy a table for long periods of time, but yet have a lower average spend than most, are leaching onto the companies’ profits.
Reclaiming the Social Coffee Shop Culture
Coffee shops are finding ways to deter laptop users from taking up valuable space within their shops. Many have made dedicated areas just for remote workers, to keep the rest of the shop open to normal customers. Some others have resorted to covering plug sockets, limiting their Wi-Fi access, or banning the use of laptops altogether within their coffee shops. This is all in the hopes of regaining the fun, social atmosphere that many customers love.
Limited-Time Wi-Fi Access as a Solution
For coffee shop owners who want to eliminate the lurking issues associated with laptop users, there is a potential solution to this problem. Instead of banning laptops altogether, provide customers with a unique Wi-Fi code with their purchase. This code will provide them Wi-Fi access for a designated amount of time, depending on how large their order was (think of 2-3 hours). It ensures that remote workers and freelancers are paying their way, whilst still encouraging a community feel within the coffee shop without isolating workers.
Will There Be Backlash?
Many have been resistant and upset about new bans across the UK against laptop use. However, these bans have brought back the social culture we know and love with cafes and coffee shops.
Whatever coffee shops are choosing to do to keep their business flowing, all consumers can do is be mindful of coffee shops and make sure they are regularly purchasing beverages to support their favourite work environment.