Organic Cafe

We’ve recently moved into a new neighbourhood, and I’ve been checking out the local spots. I love the record store here (apparently there’s a better website on the way) – and our local pub is a fantastic venue for all sorts of great live gigs – the sort of international calibre stuff you wouldn’t expect at a local pub.

One great thing about Kings Heath is that there are also some cool cafés around, and I thought I’d check one or two of them out. The one above looked really promising – nice coffee, and the menu’s pretty good… but unfortunately – no wireless internet.

I spoke to the woman behind the counter, and she said that the boss wasn’t keen to install it, as it would only encourage people to just hang out with a single cup of coffee for ages – instead of eating and then leaving.

I do get the thinking behind that, but I just don’t think it makes good business sense anymore. I told her that their competitor just a couple of blocks away does have wifi, and on that basis alone, that’s where I would always choose to go.

She suggested I tell that to the boss.

So… I was going to write them a note to make the case for installing free, open wireless internet – but then it occurred to me that this is a broader issue. There are lots of good cafés not providing wifi, and potentially losing out because of it. So I wrote a more generic, general purpose letter that anyone can use.

Feel free to copy and paste the letter below, amend as required – and give it to the people at your local café. Not having wifi in a café should be as unusual as not having sugar.

Dear café owner,

This note is to encourage you to please install free, open wi-fi internet in your premises.

We do understand why you’re reluctant to do so. You don’t want time-wasters taking up table space for hours, sitting on one cup of coffee. And that does sort of make sense (though only if you’re actually turning away diners at the door because we’re here).

But we’d like you to consider it.

We are mobile workers, self-employed people, consultants, academics, authors, web developers, events planners, film-makers, composers, software engineers, knowledge workers and bloggers – and we rely on spaces like these to meet, write and make things on the internet.

Yes, we take up space, but we are also, importantly, repeat business.

We may only have a cup of coffee this time, but we will come back, and we’ll bring our friends. We are potentially enthusiastic and vocal advocates of your business, and we are very good at spreading the word. We are, we like to think, your target audience.

And we’ll eat. You’ll see us for breakfast, and we may still be there for lunch. In between, we’ll probably have a coffee or a juice or two. Not every time – but we’re the sort who become regulars. You’ll get to know us by name, we’ll be part of your community – and you’ll become part of our routine.

Most of us live nearby – and those of us who don’t come through this way pretty often. We’re nice people. We think you’d like having us around. What’s more, we feel sure you’d enjoy having a regular buzz of activity in your cafe – creative people having ideas, inventing things, writing the next Harry Potter or designing the next Facebook… even if that means there’s only a trickle of revenue at times.

And of course, if you do get to the point where there’s no room for diners, then feel free to review your policy – or ask us to leave.

For the sake of around £40 a month you’ll get fast, reliable broadband wifi – and you’ll also get us, the people we do business with, an ever-widening circle of clientele – and a steady stream of free, online, word-of-mouth marketing.

And of course, if there’s no wifi at your cafe, but there is at a nearby competitor – that’s where we’ll be every time. We know their coffee’s not as good, the staff not as friendly and the food not as hearty. But we can get things done there, and it’ll do.

Simply put – we genuinely believe that installing wifi in your cafe will contribute positively to your bottom line. We’d like to help with that – but at the moment, we’re being turned away. In fact, not having wifi feels like a big sign over the counter saying “we don’t want your sort in here”.

We really like your place. We like the atmosphere you’ve created, the friendly staff, the menu and the coffee. We love finding places like this, and we’d really like to make this our default go-to coffee and food spot.

But the wifi thing’s a deal-breaker.

Thanks for giving it some thought.

There’s another, similar letter to be written for hotels.

Charging for wifi in a hotel is like charging to use the electricity. In fact, one place I stayed in gave me a voucher for 10% off my next stay when I checked out, but charged me £20 for using the internet.

I explained that the voucher wasn’t enough encourage me to stay there again – but that the charge for the wireless internet (which was actually a smaller amount of money) would guarantee that I wouldn’t.

It seems like such a simple and obvious thing – but there’s a shortsightedness and pettiness that seems to go hand in hand with businesses that are public spaces, and charging for the internet (or not providing it at all).

I hope this helps a little, and that you find it useful. Do let me know if you use it…