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Do I Put "Starbucks" on My Cards?

The Economist on the evolution of coffee houses as temporary office space:

America is becoming a café culture. But the reason is less Starbucks marketing than the economic downturn. The white-collar army of the unemployed are making cafés their offices and job-search centres. Going there every day provides the same sort of structure and routine as a formal office -- but with much better coffee.

Of course, cafés have long served as the locus of business activity for independent consultants, creative types and teleworkers (as well as brewing-places for novels, coups and revolutions). But the new clientèle is different. In contrast to previous recessions, more professionals are out of work. Technology has changed, too, allowing people to job-hunt or devise new business plans untethered from their clunky desk computers and tangled-cord home phones. Moreover, with the number of cafés growing from under 2,000 in 1991 to over 14,000 today, these people now have plenty of places to go....

For coffee houses themselves, their new status as job centres has helped the industry buck the slumping economy. In 2002, the gourmet-coffee sector earned a record $8.40 billion in revenue, with cafés accounting for more than half the sales. Many coffee houses, belonging both to publicly-traded companies and independent retailers, are reporting sales growth of roughly 7%. And though $4 for a cappuccino may seem steep, it's pretty good for a New York per diem office rent.

It's interesting that the article only alluded to (rather than specifically mention) Wi-Fi as a part of this trend. It's not absolutely necessary to get work done, but it certainly helps.

And the unemployed aren't the only people taking advantage of this sort of thing. Of course, there are the business travelers -- I sent up a colleague of mine with Wi-Fi, and now he automatically seeks out Starbucks whereever he goes, partly for the coffee and partly for the connection. And then there are people who just want to get a little work done away from the office for a change. A wonderful new Irish pub opened up next door to my offices recently. Wisely, not only did the owner put in an access point, he made it free of charge. I've taken my laptop over to sit outside and work a bit while enjoying a late-afternoon pint. I recommend it.


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