There’s something energizing about working remotely from a cafe. The aromas of coffee and baked goods waft through the air. Caffeinated patrons read books until their dates or business associates arrive. Writers wearing headphones pound away on laptops. Why is everyone here? What makes the perfect cafe?
by Josh Smith
Finding the perfect cafe is a popular quest. In fact, there’s an entire app called Workfrom dedicated to comparing amenities and environments for working off-site. Most remote workers and gig seekers eventually settle on a favorite spot. Unfortunately, even the best co-working spaces fall short somehow.
Some wonder whether the perfect cafe even exists. There are just so many variables to consider. Years of working and traveling all over the world have helped us summarize the most critical factors that make or break a truly great co-working venue. If only a place would open up that meets all 29 points in the following wish list, then maybe remote workers would finally have the perfect cafe.
Perfect Cafe Essentials
Wi-Fi: Productive remote work depends almost entirely on internet access. Wi-Fi should be fast, consistent, free, and easy to access. Some cafes manage access with a password that changes periodically. Some require an email address or accepting terms of service. Occasionally, cafes (like Panera) may even set a time limit. These inconveniences disrupt work. Excellent Wi-Fi is essential to attracting remote workers.
Power: Plentiful electrical outlets keep remote workers going. Without outlets—or without enough of them—workers are limited in how much time they can spend online before they need to rebase.
Restroom: Sipping coffee at a cafe eventually means taking a break. Few disruptions are as annoying as discovering that a cafe doesn’t have a restroom. The ideal restroom has a beefy hook for jackets and backpacks, a baby changing station, and a clean shelf to set down unfinished drinks.
Seating capacity: All the amenities in the world don’t matter if there’s no place to sit and enjoy them. Without enough seating, remote workers might be relegated to moving on or improvising a standing desk at a shared high-top table.
Comfortable seats: Working at a cafe for a few hours is much easier when the seats are comfortable. Hard, wooden chairs are less desirable than cushioned booths and arm chairs are.
Temperature: The perfect cafe is cozy. The temperature is set just right year round. In summer, an air conditioned cafe is an escape from the heat. In winter, remote workers can comfortably shed outer layers so they don’t need to type with mittens on. Two-stage, airlock-style doors prevent frosty gusts of wind from freezing people out.
Drink quality: A diverse selection of tasty beverages keeps remote workers slaked and awake.
Food availability: At lunchtime, it helps to have restaurants a short walk away. While many remote workers drink the same coffee every day, most prefer to have several food options to spice up mealtime from day to day.
Food quality: The perfect cafe should offer tasty, healthy food in both meal-size and snack-size portions.
Dietary restrictions: Ideally, cafes offer plenty of food and drink for people with dietary restrictions. Sugar-free, dairy-free, gluten-free, soy-free, nut-free, and vegan options are a good start.
Co-working space price: One advantage of working remotely is saving money on office space. Dedicated co-working spaces charge a monthly fee or day rate. Affordability varies wildly, but remote workers tend to get what they pay for.
Drink price: Boutique cafes often charge a premium for coffee and tea. A couple cups a day can add up quick. The perfect cafe has beverage prices that workers don’t mind paying day in and day out. Free refills, like the ones available to Starbucks Rewards members, are a huge bonus.
Food price: Having a variety of price points allows remote workers to select how big of a snack they want to buy.
Free water: Some cafes actually charge for water. Access to clean water is a human right, and charging for it is pretentious, inconvenient, and tacky.
Payment methods: Cash-only venues are rough. It’s great when venues offer a range of payment options, including credit cards, apps, Apple Pay, and other contactless options.
Hours: Remote workers sometimes work unusual hours. When cafes open early and close late, then workers enjoy the flexibility to work whenever it’s convenient.
Quality: Great service means friendly, welcoming staff members who embrace remote workers no matter how long they linger. They learn names and favorite drinks. They also correct mistakes when they inevitably happen.
Speed: Overworked baristas deserve everyone’s respect and appreciation. Good coffee takes time. However, sometimes remote workers just need to get started working as soon as possible. The perfect cafe provides fast, efficient service.
Cleanliness: The perfect cafe is clean. The tables are dry and crumb-free. The restrooms are maintained. The coffee station is stocked, organized, and wiped down.
Pets: Pet-owning remote workers appreciate the flexibility to bring their dogs to an outdoor seating area complete with leashing pylons. And for everyone else, looking at cute puppies is always fun.
Health department rating: Imagine placing an order at the cafe and then noticing a low score on the cafe’s posted health department rating. How unsettling. The perfect cafe gets straight A’s.
Accessibility: Obviously, every cafe should be completely accessible to people with disabilities. That means having ramps, signage and menus for people with visual-impairments, a positive attitude toward service animals, and other accommodations.
Theft Deterrence: Remote workers carry laptops, tablets, phones, cameras, and other expensive gear. The perfect cafe deters thieves using security cameras and attentive staff.
Noise: Noise is a bit subjective. Some like their workspace to be totally silent. For many, though, a little background noise is actually helpful. The perfect cafe plays good music—without ads—at a volume low enough to be outplayed by a pair of headphones.
Proximity: Enjoying a great cafe is easier when the cafe is in a convenient location. It’s close to home and near public transit. Plenty of off-street parking is available, too.
Networking: Some remote workers value the chance to meet new people. The perfect cafe uses seating arrangements to encourage networking. And of course, the cafe also offers plenty of solo space for introverts, too.
Sustainability: Working remotely is supposed to protect the environment. Unfortunately, high-traffic coffee shops can produce a lot of waste. That’s why the best ones offer for-here mugs and reusable flatware rather than using disposable items exclusively. They also allow frequenters to bring their own coffee cups. All the waste is compostable or recyclable, and the rubbish bins are clearly labeled so everyone knows where to put their trash. Also, there are plenty of bike racks and maybe a charging station for electric cars.
Shades and umbrellas: Work goes on rain or shine. Having intuitive window shades allows guests to keep solar glare out of their eyes and off their screens. Umbrellas offer shelter outdoors for workers getting fresh air.
Decor: Working in a beautiful environment can inspire creativity. Calming plants, great lighting, eye-catching art, and appealing interior design make the perfect cafe the sort of place that attracts remote workers every day.
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I first published this article at ProEdit.com.