The scenario is something as familiar as the pre-iOS 11 control center: You enter a coffee shop looking for refuge from a hot day and a cup of joe to save what’s left of your consciousness from sleep only to find there are no empty seats. Of course, you’d get a little pissed. At best, you’ll get an iced coffee to enjoy while you’re waiting for a seat to free up.
Students seek it as a place to hang out and study without the distractions of their room, while professionals make it a venue for a few meetings. Given the amenities of sockets, good AC, a clean bathroom, and relatively stable Wi-Fi, it’s easy to understand why one person can linger for five hours at the shop, even though the purchase is just a drink or a small snack.
A few people find the latter behavior a bit off-putting and even abusive. Does a coffee shop really profit from “overstaying customers”? Is there such a thing as “overstaying” in the first place?
For students and professionals, coffee shops are the best option between a library and their bed. When Anjo Pacumio, account manager at SevenAD, was still a student, he found it convenient spot. “You get your coffee to stay awake plus the vibe of the other people gave me extra motivation to work,” he says. This was in contrast to his condominium unit, where his bed was, tempting him to skip stuff. And I bet all of us can agree that sometimes, where you sleep isn’t the best place to cram your projects or write that overdue paper.
Between shoots and several other commitments, my boss has called for a meeting in a coffee shop a few times. The change of venue, even if it’s just 30 minutes away from our office, gives a different feel to our usual routine. It can inspire new ideas to pop up and is a breather especially since we are at the same cubicles every single day. Do we overstay? The least I can tell you is that we don’t leave until the work is done.
So is this behavior fair for the business side of a coffee shop? Is there a proper coffee cup to hours spent ratio we must all secretly know? I asked Chuck Crisanto, businessman and former coffee shop owner. “For big coffee shops, they have an open policy. That means you can go in, get a drink, and stay forever. These establishments have found that it’s more profitable to have that community image, where everyone is welcome and free to stay.”
I know it sounds like a worn-out publicity spiel. But when you think about it, it’s quite true. With groups of students taking up several tables, you’d think the coffee shop would be charging them a little bit more, or prioritizing customers who order more than the small-sized servings. But Chuck says that’s not the case for most of these establishments. “What you would rather have as a coffee shop are not big-time customers but regular customers. And that your coffee shop is often full of people.” In this sense, a customer who spends P2,000 on one big order once every few months isn’t as profitable as the average student who comes in and spends P150 at least thrice every week.
It’s also why coffee shops put a premium on experience. When you think about the coffee shop you frequent the most, you can’t honestly say you just go for the coffee. “That’s the trend when selling anything these days: the experience. Coffee is expensive in these cafes, whether run by a big chain or by an independent group, but you just don’t pay for the coffee anyway,” says Chuck. When it comes to smaller coffee operations, on the other hand, they do limit your stay, it’s just done covertly. Chuck explains that this is why some shops have policies when it comes to Wi-Fi access such as membership cards or against bringing in food from other establishments. These rules change per shop, depending on the market they want to reach and the profit they want.
So breathe easy. As long as you’re not making the coffee shop your camping site until the next Star Wars premiere, you’re safe to stay for as long as you wish.