It is not often that I make this admission, but I am fortunate to have a central London office. And what do I pay for this privilege? Nada. Nothing. Diddly-squat. The fact is, I am an enchained employee of a big organisation; the office comes as part of the package. But, other people are not so fortunate (or are much more fortunate, depending on your point of view). The self-employed, freelancers, start-up entrepreneurs all have to find their own office space. For some this will be a designated corner of their own home; for others it will mean renting space in a specially designed unit; for a growing number it will translate to frequenting a local coffee shop.
I have never enjoyed coffee culture, primarily because I am equally content with a spoonful of Nescafé instant in a chipped mug as I am with a skinny mocaccino with chocolate sprinkles in a ridiculously oversized cup. However, on my infrequent visits to coffee shops, one thing that I am always struck by is the array of office equipment on display: laptops predominate; mobile chargers flicker and whirr; a network of USB connectors and cables snake between tables. There is the sound of loud conversations on mobile phones: meetings being arranged; deals being done. It is the buzz of business, more potent even than the buzz of caffeine.
Of course, the explanation is simple. When the cost of urban desk space is so exorbitant, a coffee shop provides all the equivalent amenities at a fraction of the cost.
Prime central London location, close to the West End; 10 square foot of operational work space; fast broadband; WIFI; electrical charging points; access to a kitchen area and toilet facilities: it could be an estate agent’s advert for a superior office rental, or it could be a description of the corner table at Costa.
There is an unspoken symbiotic relationship between start-up entrepreneur and barista, and I’m surprised that global-savvy coffee shops haven’t already tried to exploit the arrangement: the Costa Office.
Here is the business plan. Limit broadband and WIFI access to a designated area within the coffee shop. Bring in free-standing PCs. Divide the space by partition walls. Charge an hourly rental, rather than rely on the vagaries of the income accrued from an eternally eked-out small Americano.
And leave the rest of the coffee shop free for people who have genuinely come in to enjoy a cup of coffee. No matter how infrequently that might be.
© Simon Turner-Tree
Simon Turner-Tree feels a caffeine rush coming on.