According to the Urban dictionary the word “Coffice” made its first linguistic appearance circa 2008. Back then the concept of doing your day job in a place of refreshment was pretty novel. By the start of 2020 hours of free Wifi and high speed internet access for the price of a cup of coffee satiated the appetite of the millennial but did little for the profits of the coffee shop.
Then COVID came along and reset the dial. Prêt à Manger and others discovered that the high turnaround “grab and go” market had vanished. The office worker, like the dinosaur, had become extinct and the resultant new “social distancing” rules has seen the retreat of a whole eco-system back into homes, bedsits and bedrooms.
So post lockdown what does the future of “café culture” look like in what only a few months ago was a vibrant cityscape?
My immediate thought is that only the best will survive. The development of the coffee shop has always been a bit Darwinian but lockdown has put Darwin on steroids. Clearly, locations reliant on major office blocks need to do something fast if they are to survive 2020, let alone 2021.
The ability to be able to get people’s attention has to be a major consideration. More so than ever before we need customers to be willing to make the effort to walk some distance to our Finance district café. There has to be a wow factor, something that makes an individual want to be in the space provided. There is a huge opportunity for great designers. Me-too designers who simply replicate every coffee shop you’ve ever seen have been made redundant. That means build out budgets need to be increased significantly. The need to create a sense of place is vital.
Product has always been important as has quality and value for money. The food offer has morphed into a combination of “grab and go” and sit in. A light brunch offer that was once the preserve of a traditional restaurant seems to be in greater demand, maybe reflecting a less intense office arrangement.
I return though to the title of this blog, the “Coffice”, which has now grown into a much more serious concept. It seems out of office meetings are a growing phenomenon as businesses rotate staff under the new rules. There is also an aspect of privacy which comes down to good design and a space in which people want to do business, a 200 year old concept!
The purpose of the coffee shop has never really gone away, people want to do business with people. Zoom, Teams and other forms of electronic meetings have their place however homo sapiens are social animals and thankfully for that reason there will always be business for great coffee shops.