I spend a lot of time in coffee shops. I go to coffee shops to read and write. For work, I regularly meet students and colleagues in coffee shops. I even got engaged in a coffee shop. I’m a coffee shop connoisseur, a java junkie, a free wireless wonk. Here, then, are my top coffee shop quality indicators.
Tables—variety is key here. For the record, I’m a fan of six person tables, perfect for bigger meetings, but they need to be balanced with ample two person date/study tables. In my humble opinion, round tables aren’t good for laptops (which aren’t round). It’s best to give people options of table shapes and sizes.
Couches and comfy chairs. Yes. Do this, but let’s not get carried away. Lounge chairs are great for reading. Couches are great for folks who just want to talk. But, the regular table and chair should always be normative. Similarly, bars and bar stools are fine, but can be overdone. Special note: distance between tabletop and chair height is important to encourage healthy laptop posture.
Free (fast) wireless internet. It’s 2013 people! Enough said.
Music is important, but it should not get in the way. Silence, in this case, is not golden. Yet, thou shall not blast Christian rock. Sirius Radio commercials are for radio buffs, not coffee shop customers. When in doubt, let the baristas choose their favorite tunes.
Loyalty/punch cards. If you run a good place, I’ll be back either way. It’s a nice bonus, but only a perk. If you do have a frequent customer program, keep it simple.
Coffee. Of course, quality is key. I give huge props to shops who know their product and care how the coffee company treats their farmers. “Tea?” you ask. Who drinks tea when coffee is available?
Here mugs. These are super important and, tragically, often overlooked. My biggest pet peeve: as one who orders medium (sometimes large) drinks, tall mugs are much better than short wide ones. Wide-mouthed mugs don’t keep coffee hot enough! Coffee shop owners everywhere: do your due diligence and invest in quality ceramics.
Flair. Go for it, but remember it can get in the way. My favorite shops host local art, musicians on the weekends, and have big walls for local posters.
Don’ts (all, annoyingly, from personal experience): Don’t ask patrons not to plug in their laptops to save on the electricity bill. Don’t berate customers for putting their bag, momentarily, on a table. Don’t allow smoking at outside tables. Don’t serve espresso shots to four year-olds. Don’t use Styrofoam cups. Don’t close before 10 p.m. Don’t only allow 1 hour of Internet use. Don’t serve lukewarm coffee.
I could go on for pages, but I won’t. Shout outs to my favorite coffee shops: Java Monkey and Kavarna in Decatur, Georgia; Atomic Coffee downtown Fargo; Goodbye Blue Monday in Northfield, Minnesota; Costa Coffee in Ayr, Scotland; and Black Dog Coffee in Tallahassee. What are your favorite shops and their best qualities?