People Gotta Eat: Laptop Loitering in NYC Coffeehouses

A sign of the times in New York City: the Wall Street Journal reports that coffeehouses are limiting laptop usage to discourage loitering over a latte for hours, taking up space.

As one coffee shop in Brooklyn puts it, “Dear customers, we are absolutely thrilled that you like us so much that you want to spend the day… [but] people gotta eat, and to eat they gotta sit.”

For now the trend seems limited to NYC’s independent coffeehouses. Bookstore chains like Barnes and Noble don’t plan to follow suit. It makes sense. Just like restaurants, coffeehouses make money with customer turnover. NYC real estate is expensive.  The rent isn’t cheap and neither are the chairs occupied by leisurely sippers and surfers. It’s not much different than a diner asking you to shove off to the New York Public Library if you’re gonna read the paper and not buy anything.

Big bookstores, like Borders and Barnes and Noble, are a different ballgame.

Borders charges customers for WiFi; Barnes and Noble doesn’t. But more importantly, given the change in how people buy books — and read them — these store may have a niche market: bibliophiles and freelancers without offices.

Can Kindle cubicles with coffee be far behind?

4 thoughts on “People Gotta Eat: Laptop Loitering in NYC Coffeehouses

  1. Jerry Brito

    Here's Libby Jacobson's take, which I found spot-on:

    If I owned a coffee shop in a neighborhood where my competitors were kicking people out, I’d add more outlets, more seating, and more drink options at various price points to encourage all-day websurfers to approach the counter again. $6.50 for a coffee, with free refills all day? The customers spend their money upfront and stick around for as long as they like. $1 sodas or iced teas? That’s a ridiculously good deal when making a decision at the margin. Food-and-drink specials? Whatever gets a customer to spend their money and have a good experience at my coffeeshop. There’s no need for some snooty barista to shoo them away once their drink is gone.

    There’s an obvious market demand for “free” wi-fi (by “free” I of course mean at the point of use – obviously the costs are hidden in the price of drinks and food). Any enterprising business owner would seek to meet that demand, especially when his or her competitors turn a blind eye to it.

    1. enora

      Good comment. There's definitely room for someone with a new business model here to attract the displaced customers. I think it will be hard to separate coffee and Wi-fi. As the WSJ notes – they've been a natural pair for sometime.

      Eileen

  2. enora

    Good comment. There's definitely room for someone with a new business model here to attract the displaced customers. I think it will be hard to separate coffee and Wi-fi. As the WSJ notes – they've been a natural pair for sometime.

    Eileen

  3. enora

    Good comment. There's definitely room for someone with a new business model here to attract the displaced customers. I think it will be hard to separate coffee and Wi-fi. As the WSJ notes – they've been a natural pair for sometime.

    Eileen

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