coffee shops

Coffee shops: the future of workplaces?

Coffee shops could be striding into the future. More people are working remotely than ever before, which on the face of it is bad news for cafés and coffee shops. Once the province of college students and stoned poets, suddenly they’re teeming with everyone from copywriters to pushy corporate types willing to raise fisticuffs over a free electrical outlet…

What’s a café owner to do?

coffee shopsYou could ban laptops, or you could make the café more conducive to work. That’s the approach at Urban Station in Buenos Aires’s Palermo Soho district. With copious desks, conference rooms, and electrical outlets in spades, the place feels like a trendy workplace that happens to serve coffee and croissants. From the company press release: “It’s not a coffee shop, it’s not an office. But if you are a mobile worker, it is something much better than both things together.”

So how does Urban Station make money?

It rents desks and they say it’s “less than a promotional breakfast in any Palermo bar.” The conventional wisdom is that charging for anything in a café is a bad idea; that people won’t even pay for wireless, let alone a seat. Urban Station’s trick is to throw in a raft of perks: Wi-Fi channels; food and drink included in the cost of the hour; printers; fax machines; scanners; lockers; and even a couple of bikes you can bang around on when you need a break.

There’s a real and growing market for this sort of thing. Over 20 million people work remotely at least some of the time and the figure will only increase as companies look to cut costs and workers increasingly rely on mobile technology. Freelancers and part-timers already use co-work spaces. Urban Station’s the same idea, but with free food.

Could this approach to workplaces catch on in the UK? If Urban Station and similar spaces are going to be the workplace of the future, it may be an exciting prospect.

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