Interesting article about S.F. cafes and wifi squatters

the business of coffee houses

Interesting article about S.F. cafes and wifi squatters

Postby jepy on Sun Mar 11, 2007 10:12 pm

jepy
 
Posts: 46
Joined: Sat Oct 29, 2005 9:59 am
Location: Bay area Ca

Postby Marshall on Tue Mar 13, 2007 9:53 pm

I was in one of San Francisco's most heralded "Third Wave" shops one evening a few weeks ago and found the scene immensely depressing. The espresso was fabulous. But the landscape was dozens and dozens of silent, solitary people pecking away at their computers. I thought coffee houses were for social life. :(

Marshall
Marshall
 
Posts: 505
Joined: Thu Oct 06, 2005 10:21 pm
Location: Pasadena, CA
full name: Marshall Fuss
company: Marshall R. Fuss, Attorney at Law
: http://www.linkedin.com/in/fusslaw

Postby Mark Prince on Tue Mar 13, 2007 10:53 pm

I'm as wired (or wireless) a guy as anyone can be.

And still, I can't stand the sight of cafes with just wall to wall notebooks. A few peppered here and there, and not an issue or problem - but a sea of solitary people with squares in front of them? Not for me.

My subnotebook goes with me everywhere. And about 100% of the time I'm in a wifi cafe, it gets used. But many times, it gets used quick to check email, IM a few people, check a few sites, then click, lid closed, and a book comes out, or I carry on the conversation with the people I'm there with.

That said, With this new generation of self employed people, the cafe is literally "the office" for many, for reasons of sanity and many other things. I can't begrudge that.

But I wish there was more temperance. Some of my favourite cafes are now just awash with notebooks and no discussion at all. For instance, I absolutely love the space that University Zoka is. But the five or six times I've visited there, I couldn't stand it - I swear it looked like there's more notebooks than people in there, and almost every visit, there wasn't a single seat available.

There are technology ways to deal with this too - for instance, 1 hour max limits on a computer's time (tagged via the wifi card's NIC address); or maximum amount of users at any one time, or a combination of both. Sure, there's ways to get around these things, but for most people, they won't know how to spoof their NIC.

I don't understand why more cafes don't do this. I can set time and max connections limits on my home wifi box (and do for every ip signing in except for permanent home computers - I share my wifi signal in my condo) Every day or two, I see the same three or four people log in, get their 90 mins max time, then get booted off.

Some other suggestions, and some I've seen in some cafes: posting a "Polite Computer Users' Policy" that includes stuff like making patrons aware that taking up a four seat table all day long while only buying one drink is bad. I'm not sure how well this works, but at the very least, if a situation occurs where a group of customers come in, wanting to get a seat and drink coffee, and every table's full with notebook campers who have been there for four hours, the staff can politely show a few of them the card or poster.

Mark
Last edited by Mark Prince on Sat Mar 17, 2007 2:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Mark Prince
Just in it for the espresso and coffee, Vancouver BC
Mark Prince
 
Posts: 1064
Joined: Mon Jun 27, 2005 10:13 am
Location: vancouver bc
full name: Mark Prince
company: CoffeeGeek.com
: www.CoffeeGeek.com

Postby phaelon56 on Wed Mar 14, 2007 5:49 am

I've been to Florida twice in recent months as my parents now spend the winters down there. I finally stumbled on a cafe that has great coffee and very good espresso (and seems to be fairly consistent). It's http://metro-coffee.com in Sarasota.

They're using Counter Culture, a GB5, doing decent milk texturing etc.

The reason I mention them (other than pointing you all to a good place for coffee if you're stranded on the FL Gulf Coast) is that they offer free Internet access but ONLY of the wired variety. No wireless available - you must sit at the bar (six stools in total) and ask the barista to plug you into a local access switch. That certainly simplifies the control process.

I was in that same SF cafe back in january and must agree with Marshall on this count (Marshall - I missed you by just a few days - we were there with Richard R. in mid January). We had to scramble to find a place to sit (and ended up on a couch in the corner way in the back) yet there were loads of empty chairs - all at four tops or two tops each of which had one solitary PC/Mac user parked.
Owen O'Neill
Syracuse NY

Phaelon Coffee
and
New York Central Coffee Roasters
phaelon56
 
Posts: 736
Joined: Tue Sep 20, 2005 5:58 am
Location: Syracuse, NY
full name: Owen O'Neill
company: Phaelon Coffee / New York Central Coffee

Postby Ryan Mason on Wed Mar 14, 2007 11:26 am

MarkP wrote: ....snip....There are technology ways to deal with this too - for instance, 1 hour max limits on a computer's time (tagged via the wifi card's NIC address)...snip...

Mark




This is how we opperate the Wi-Fi at my shop. Buy a drink, get an hour free. Each access card is printed with a unique code that will automatically log you out after an hour. The network is administerd through WEBbeams so you have the option of free or fee. If you choose free, you get an hours worth of time.

This system works great for us. It's still a closed network so we don't have people lurking on it. And if anything goes wrong, we call tech support and they fix it. Having trouble getting online? Call tech support. Zero worries for us.
Ryan Mason
Roast Coffee Company
Milwaukee, WI
Ryan Mason
 
Posts: 117
Joined: Mon Jun 27, 2005 8:31 am
Location: Milwaukee, WI
full name: Ryan Mason
company: Roast Coffee Company
: www.roastcoffeecompany.com

Postby Matt Milletto on Wed Mar 14, 2007 11:47 am

Network Security is very important as well. We too have a WebBeams administrated wi-fi set-up at our school. It is run right thru our POS so that the cashier can give out a free hour, or half hour, or charge by the hour. It is pretty reasonable, $4/hr ... with no monthly charges, or you can sign up and pay monthly for an account.

I would try emailing Brian at WebBeams with any questions, he gives a seminar at Coffee Fest on this same subject.

- Matt
matt milletto
american barista & coffee school
http://www.coffeeschool.org
Matt Milletto
 
Posts: 550
Joined: Mon Jul 11, 2005 3:04 pm
Location: Portland, OR
full name: Matt Milletto
company: American Barista & Coffee School
: http://www.coffeeschool.org
: http://www.baristaexchange.com

Postby Mark Prince on Wed Mar 14, 2007 12:11 pm

Cafes could also do what they do everywhere in Bern, Switzerland... charge something obscene, like 25 euros for 2 hours of access :twisted:

.... yet people seem to accept it there!

Mark
Mark Prince
Just in it for the espresso and coffee, Vancouver BC
Mark Prince
 
Posts: 1064
Joined: Mon Jun 27, 2005 10:13 am
Location: vancouver bc
full name: Mark Prince
company: CoffeeGeek.com
: www.CoffeeGeek.com

Postby Brett Hanson on Sat Mar 17, 2007 1:03 pm

MarkP wrote:There are technology ways to deal with this too - for instance, 1 hour max limits on a computer's time (tagged via the wifi card's NIC address); or maximum amount of users at any one time, or a combination of both. Sure, there's ways to get around these things, but for most people, they won't know how to spoof their NIC.

I don't understand why more cafes don't do this. I can set time and max connections limits on my home wifi box (and do for every ip signing in except for permanent home computers - I share my wifi signal in my condo) Every day or two, I see the same three or four people log in, get their 90 mins max time, then get booted off.


Really? I heard there's a group of folks trying to set up free wifi near the shops that dare charge for wifi, even when the charge is for access to a T-1 dedicated to surfing.

I can see a parallel between this thread and the "would you give cash back to a customer" one. How far will you go to get a customer in the door? How far will you go (electric bill, people jumping ahead of the line to demand the wifi be restarted, etc) to keep them in your cafe? How long do you want them to hang around?

I like the bit about Lloyd's of London in the article. Were cafes back then really all about socializing as Marshall suggests or were they 2/3 business with socializing filling in the gaps?

I'm curious about how Ritual feels about their cafe environment being interrupted with shouts of "any good xml'ers in the house?"
Brett Hanson
 
Posts: 241
Joined: Sun Sep 17, 2006 11:45 pm
Location: Seattle, WA
full name: Brett Hanson
company: nerdist
: http://www.nerdist.com
: http://twitter.com/smoovebcoffee

Postby Matt Milletto on Sat Mar 17, 2007 1:26 pm

This is how Ritual feels: :)

Image
matt milletto
american barista & coffee school
http://www.coffeeschool.org
Matt Milletto
 
Posts: 550
Joined: Mon Jul 11, 2005 3:04 pm
Location: Portland, OR
full name: Matt Milletto
company: American Barista & Coffee School
: http://www.coffeeschool.org
: http://www.baristaexchange.com

Postby Marshall on Sat Mar 17, 2007 2:57 pm

Brett Hanson wrote:I like the bit about Lloyd's of London in the article. Were cafes back then really all about socializing as Marshall suggests or were they 2/3 business with socializing filling in the gaps?


Whatever they were, they weren't executive suites with coffee. They didn't look like a college library the night before finals.

Marshall
Marshall
 
Posts: 505
Joined: Thu Oct 06, 2005 10:21 pm
Location: Pasadena, CA
full name: Marshall Fuss
company: Marshall R. Fuss, Attorney at Law
: http://www.linkedin.com/in/fusslaw

Postby Mark Prince on Sat Mar 17, 2007 3:09 pm

Marshall wrote:
Brett Hanson wrote:I like the bit about Lloyd's of London in the article. Were cafes back then really all about socializing as Marshall suggests or were they 2/3 business with socializing filling in the gaps?


Whatever they were, they weren't executive suites with coffee. They didn't look like a college library the night before finals.

Marshall


Cafes at the time of Lloyds' start (and many others - I guess London is more famous than any other metropolis for cafes becoming the centres for *other* things as time wore on (eg Lloyds of London, or Jonathan's Coffee House which eventually became the London Stock Exchange!! also Sothoby's and Christies, both auction houses, started as coffee houses).... these cafes and their times have to be put into perspective:

Only a few scant generations before these places became popular, the typical lifestyle of most people was to literally be drunk or at the very least buzzed throughout the day. It wasn't very conducive to a lot of sober, rational discussion and thought.

Also, the class structure system was such that, other than guilds (of which there were plenty), there were not many social-meeting places for the common folk except for the pub, and again, it was not quite the place for sober, rational discussion and thought.

Paris had Voltaire drinking 40 cups a day, and the seeds of the French Revolution thanks to its cafes. London enjoyed increasing independence from the crown (Charles II tried to shut them down because of the dissent they were causing his royal "rights", but eventually failed), and London also enjoyed the development of what eventually became modern day business and capitalism models and "places of business" because of cafes.

Mark
Mark Prince
Just in it for the espresso and coffee, Vancouver BC
Mark Prince
 
Posts: 1064
Joined: Mon Jun 27, 2005 10:13 am
Location: vancouver bc
full name: Mark Prince
company: CoffeeGeek.com
: www.CoffeeGeek.com

Postby Brett Hanson on Sat Mar 17, 2007 5:47 pm

Marshall wrote:
Brett Hanson wrote:I like the bit about Lloyd's of London in the article. Were cafes back then really all about socializing as Marshall suggests or were they 2/3 business with socializing filling in the gaps?


Whatever they were, they weren't executive suites with coffee. They didn't look like a college library the night before finals.

Marshall


Indeed. I remember working a summer job for Kinko's in the early 90's before the web caught on and their emerging concept was just that- people renting computer/cubbies to work on their documents and printing/copying them (for a small fee of course). Their vision of the future involved people renting small conference rooms to do video teleconferencing.

Let's pretend that we could all turn the wifi off in the hopes of creating conversation. What tools do we really have for promoting conversation between groups that come in the door? Is allowing table space for groups who walk through the door and only talk to each other enough?

I've seen a few high-ish end restaurants around here provide a large multi-group table in the middle of their smaller tables. I'm thinking of Sitka & Spruce and La Carta De Oaxaca specifically. While I'm a shy person and not likely to strike up a conversation with the couple next to me at the big table, I feel like if they started talking coffee I might be moved to blurt something out and end up with a chat on my hands.

What does your ideal customer look like (leaving the barn door open here Jay)? What do they do in your cafe?
Brett Hanson
 
Posts: 241
Joined: Sun Sep 17, 2006 11:45 pm
Location: Seattle, WA
full name: Brett Hanson
company: nerdist
: http://www.nerdist.com
: http://twitter.com/smoovebcoffee

Postby Marshall on Sat Mar 17, 2007 7:58 pm

phaelon56 wrote:I was in that same SF cafe back in january and must agree with Marshall on this count (Marshall - I missed you by just a few days - we were there with Richard R. in mid January). We had to scramble to find a place to sit (and ended up on a couch in the corner way in the back) yet there were loads of empty chairs - all at four tops or two tops each of which had one solitary PC/Mac user parked.


Yes, Richard took me there, too. It must be part of his San Francisco Grand Tour.

Marshall
Marshall
 
Posts: 505
Joined: Thu Oct 06, 2005 10:21 pm
Location: Pasadena, CA
full name: Marshall Fuss
company: Marshall R. Fuss, Attorney at Law
: http://www.linkedin.com/in/fusslaw

Postby MeanJoeBean on Mon Mar 19, 2007 7:03 am

hey Phaelon... I'm on the FL gulf coast and have free Wi-fi... What are you trying to say 'bout Florida?

just joking, but seriously, if your ever in Clearwater you should stop by.

-Joe
MeanJoeBean
 
Posts: 25
Joined: Wed May 03, 2006 11:09 am
Location: TallaClassy, FL
full name: Joe Davis
company: Lucky Goat Coffee Company
: www.luckygoatcoffee.com

Postby Matthew P. Williams on Mon Mar 19, 2007 10:15 am

Table for dining only found via boingboing.net

How effective would sectioning be? Smoking or non/wifi or non? Laptop and wifi users are obviously not in house for the cafe experience. With reasonable floorspace, a cafe can set aside a section (in the back) for wifi squatters.

I had the same experience at that SF cafe. I went with a handful of friends and luckily some people had just left the tables next to the roaster, otherwise it would have been impossible to find a seat. It wasn't long until we were trapped against the wall by more wifi squatters.
Mmm, juicy. Tastes like juice. Bean juice.
Matthew P. Williams
 
Posts: 94
Joined: Mon Nov 21, 2005 11:57 pm
Location: San Francisco, CA
full name: Matthew P. Williams
company: Four Barrel Coffee

Postby Rich Westerfield on Mon Mar 19, 2007 12:42 pm

cpl593h wrote:Table for dining only found via boingboing.net


We've got 4 fourtops, nine twotops and a big round sixtop.

On the sixtop is a sign asking people to please observe good laptop etiquette and that the big table is reserved for business meetings of three or more people.

Yet just about every day at some point there's one person sitting there with crap spread out all over.

There's no way they can miss the sign. Gotta think they just feel entitled or something. I cannot explain it.

Generally speaking, if people see we need the room, they're gracious about it. But yesterday we had a guy at one of the twotops sitting there while a band was setting up on BOTH sides of him. Yet he wouldn't get up and move to the other side of the room despite every other table being shifted around. Kinda like that China eminent domain photo that was going around last week.
Rich Westerfield, Co-owner
aldocoffee.com
I'm just here to regulate funkiness.
Rich Westerfield
 
Posts: 565
Joined: Sat May 13, 2006 8:23 pm
Location: Pittsburgh

Postby barry on Mon Mar 19, 2007 2:16 pm

PaniniGuy wrote:There's no way they can miss the sign. Gotta think they just feel entitled or something. I cannot explain it.


People are really good at ignoring signs they don't want to obey. When we were at the mall, we'd have various signs on the tables, from time to time, to address problems and we were always amazed at what folks would do to ignore the signs. It started with "No Smoking" signs... then we had "For our customer's only" sort of signs... I almost wish I'd set up a camera to watch the shenanigans. Women would walk up to the table with whatever they got from the food court, look at the sign, then put their purse in front of the sign and sit down. Some folks actually threw the signs over the railing (we were on the 2nd level). Some folks would read the sign, and then set it on the floor under the table and act like they never saw it. A bunch of spoiled 3-yr-olds... sheesh. "I'm sorry m'am, but smoking isn't allowed." "What? I didn't see a sign. You should put up a sign." "M'am, you just moved the sign onto the floor." "No I didn't." "M'am, I watched you do it." "I did not." "Fine. Smoking still isn't allowed any where in the mall, by state law." "When did that law go into effect?" "About six years ago."


:roll:
barry
 
Posts: 1137
Joined: Sat Jul 16, 2005 6:33 pm
Location: St. Louis, Missouri
full name: T. Barry Jarrett
company: Coffee Projects Inc.

Postby barrett on Sat Mar 24, 2007 2:20 pm

I almost always have the computer with me, and especially when Artigiano had access, I'd sit there, make changes to their site and such, while drinking coffee, and listening to some tunes. The thing that I always find frustrating, is it's so hard to get a second coffee, without packing everything up/losing your table, etc. In an hour or so, I'll typically have a sandwich and a couple of coffees - especially if there's a good press or clover selection.

Instead of complaining, walk up and as you clear the dirty dishes off their table, ask, "could i get you a fresh cup of the Guatemala?" Return with a cup and the bill, and you'll probably get tossed a decent tip for your efforts. If there was a restaurant that I could find decent coffee in, I'd just as well sit there - it's the convenience I'm after. I *could* work at home, but I'd have to make all my own coffee. I *could* line up again, but I'm in the middle of something.

Don't be afraid to overserve your guests.
Barrett Jones
blog@ http://www.dwelltime.net
barrett
 
Posts: 89
Joined: Mon Jul 17, 2006 12:11 am
Location: Vancouver, BC


Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest