Coffee shops aren't what they used to be. Once upon a time, coffee shops were just an establishment to Ziferblat Pay To Stayenjoy a delicious caffeinated beverage and perhaps even a sinful desert. Today, coffee shops are social meeting spots, office spaces (for those that work virtually), and even a place to hold corporate functions. How we use coffee shops has changed, but the way coffee shops serve us still remains in its traditional format. Which is why some innovators are taking a new approach to the coffee shop business.
One of these businesses is Ziferblat, a London cafe that offers the caffeine and sweets that make coffee establishments wonderful. So no need to panic that they have abandoned these staples, as it is the rest of their business model that takes on a very different form. The catch is that they make their money, not by selling you food and drink, but by charging guests for use of the space.
They do this by charging a price per minute, so you pay to stay. This sounds like it could get expensive quick, but in fact they only charge 0.03 GBP per minute. They aren't misleading you by claiming to be a cafe either - they offer those items - that just isn't the direct product that visitors pay for. Everything at Ziferblat is self-serve, but a visitor can help themselves to as many drinks as they'd like from the espresso machine, or to the provided baked goods. At just 3 pence per minute, it takes approximately 90 minutes for a stay to cost as much as the average cappuccino, so it is an affordable coffee shop experience.
This particular cafe isn't the first of its kind. Ziferblat is gaining more attention since landing in London, but it has also found success with locations in Russia. It eliminates people buying just single beverage while monopolizing space for hours for a meeting, or for even an entire workday which remote workers often do. While cafes like loyal customers to return often and feel comfortable making their establishment a kind of "home base", too many customers engaging in this behavior ultimately reduces sales. This is no longer an issue when people aren't buying their time by purchasing items, but by literally paying for the time that they occupy space.
Ziferblat owners and patrons alike also claim this business structure creates a more welcoming environment that feels more like staying at a friend's house. Apparently, patrons feel so comfortable that they even wash their own dishes, though they are not at all obligated to. They claim that their concept is more of a social project than a business model, particularly since the whole idea started by giving poets a meeting space funded by voluntary donations. They continue to encourage patrons to socialize and work together when they're using the cafe space.
It is definitely a smart business idea, and perhaps we will see it gain some momentum in North America as well.