A Cafe Covenant — Or how remote workers and cafe owners can live well together.


A Cafe Covenant — Or how remote workers and cafe owners can live well together.


As a freelance web developer in London, I love working from cafes. I love the hubbub, the change of pace and space, and I love that the hiking from cafe to cafe allows me to explore my city.

If, a few years ago, I felt a rare, nomadic beast, now I certainly don’t. Cafes in our cities teem with “remote workers” — these most peripatetic of the species, “keyboardus warrioris.”

More often than not, I see us remote workers as a positive. We’re reliable trade, not particularly rowdy or problematic (solid wifi and space is enough to keep us contented), and we keep a cafe looking nicely busy at the quieter moments.

But I’ve also seen furious cafe owners practically throw “freeloaders” out of their establishments. There is a peculiar breed of remote worker that sees cafes and similar places as “free.”

The worst type is that that buys the cheapest thing in the morning, takes up a four-person table just for themselves, and doesn’t leave for the whole day. We’ve all seen them.

What happens is that all of us remote workers get tarnished with the same brush, and it’s coming back to hurt. I don’t want to be a persona non grata at the cafes that allow me to do my best work. So I’ve been thinking on a four “commandment” Cafe Covenant — four simple rules that if all us remote workers live by, will keep cafes and similar places happy and welcoming to us.


Now, I should add some initial nuance in this. How strictly we apply these rules to ourselves must be down to two things — the “independence” of the establishment in question, and how busy it is on average.

I’m fully prepared to be a bit fast and loose on these at a Starbucks or a Costa Coffee. We owe no loyalty to vast, soulless corporate chains. But at small independent cafes, we must be extra strict with ourselves — our taking up a whole four- or even two-person table for hours at a time on a single coffee can be a real drag on their fragile finances. Even worse at lunch or dinner times.

On the other hand, those of us who explore our cities know of dozens of small, cute cafes that for a variety of reasons never get too busy. In this case, loosen up, take a large table and enjoy the extra space.

So, without further ado, the 4 Commandments:

i.) Thou shalt take up the smallest possible space for yourself.

If a cafe offers these marvellous high tables, this has to be our first choice every time. Only when this is exhausted, should we consider a two-person table. I would even go so far as to say, previous nuances aside, we should never take up for a four-person table unless we are being joined by friends.

ii.) Thou shalt pay your hourly rent.

Cafes are not free workspaces, and we should pay by the hour(-ish). I feel comfortable ordering a “something” for every 90–120 minutes I’m at a cafe. I tend to leave a cafe after that length of time anyway but if you don’t, just buy something per period you feel comfortable, and consider it your rent — it’s still considerably cheaper than the average co-working space.

iii.) Thou shalt purchase lunch or dinner at lunch or dinner

This is even more important if you are taking up a proper table. Most cafes make most of their money daily at lunch and dinner, so if you are taking up a 2 or 4 person table and dragging out a coffee, you are costing the cafe money for every party that can’t sit down for food. It was this exact issue that set off the most explosive cafe owner blow-up I have ever seen.

iv.) Thou shalt not treat the cafe like your lounge/bedroom

I’ve lost count of the number of times I have seen people watching films, heck, even playing computer games in cafes. It boggles my puny mind. I get that we all need to zone out now and then but a cafe is not your home — grab a book, or even just go for a walk, just don’t watch a whole film/burnish the strength skill of your Paladin in WoW.


So what do you think? Agree? Disagree? Think I’m just an ornery S.O.B. who should have better things to worry about? Let me know in the comments below 🙂

Source: Medium:Remote Working
A Cafe Covenant — Or how remote workers and cafe owners can live well together.

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