digital nomad coffee shop etiquette

in Coffee Shops, Coworking, Digital Nomads

The Digital Nomad’s Guide to Coffee Shop Etiquette

The last 3 months I’ve worked out of 37 coffee shops in 9 different states including Florida, Virginia, West Virginia, New York, Texas, Arizona, Colorado, Utah and California.

Coffee Shop Etiquette Rules

Though most coffee shops are filled with amazing freelance professionals including copywriters, SEO professionals, and web developers, some of the coffee shops I worked at had loud obnoxious people – customers who would sit for hours without buying a single item and take advantage of the free WiFi.

In LA there was one character wearing a crown, and making grunting noises while playing video games. Though he did buy several drinks and was quite amusing to watch he was quite distracting for anyone attempting to get work done.

Not until my 36th coffee shop did I discover actual etiquette rules posted up and thought this was an amazing idea.


8 Rules of etiquette when working at Swork Coffee

Inspired by Swork I created a free coffee rules template in PSD. Download Your Free Coffee Shop Etiquette Rules Template.

Like I said from May – September I saw a lot of strange things and a met some incredible people while working from coffee shops.

Than I watched the movie “Coffee Town” I thought it fitting to write a post about Coffee Shop Etiquette for the modern day entrepreneur, digital nomad or location independent professional.

Rather than making assumptions I interviewed some of my favorite coffee shops to get an insiders perspective. Seeing what I saw these last few months I could only imagine what one might see with years of experience living the barista lifestyle.

Coffee Shop Etiquette Interviews

Trisha Neale

Owner of Swork Coffee in Los Angeles, CA
Trisha Neale swork coffee1. How much coffee/food should I buy?

We like to think that five bucks spent is worth two hours of work… If you stay another two hours than order something new. This is what is expected from a courteous customer and 99% percent of them are happy to comply. It sucks if you buy one coffee, sit all day long and sneak in outside food.

2. How Long Can I Stay?

At Swork, you can stay as long as you like. Just be nice and support the store by buying something every two hours. The exception to this rule is if a customer is off their meds.. This has been a problem in the past; A guy throwing a bagel at my head while cursing the republicans or a girl bringing in a coffee cup from the green giant, being extremely rude to my staff, using our electricity–all while she has unpacked her laptop for an all-nighter… yeah really.  At that point, you are escorted out.

3. Is it cool for If I Take Business Calls?

It’s fine. But it’s not cool if we can hear your conversation and your neighbor starts getting annoyed. It’s rare really. Most people step outside to take a call.

4. How fast is the Wifi? How many patrons can the Wifi Handle? Are there limits on what I can do?

8mbps. And, can accommodate about 50 people. We ask that our customers don’t watch movies or freak-on heavy downloads. But they do anyway…LOL!  We can’t police everything–well, except porn and naked pics. Absolutely no watching or photoshopping porn or naked pics… We’ve had issues on this one in the past…Can you believe some people!

5. What is the story behind your coffee shop and why you love working/owning the business

I’m a coffee junkie/entrepreneur and I love that it has been instrumental in my various business’ and a motivating driving factor.  I opened Swork in 2001 because I moved into Eagle Rock and I needed my caffeine fix. At the time-there were no coffee bars in the area–so I launched Swork. The name means Success + Work = Swork. Originally, it was a typo and I liked it so much that I bought the domain. I love owning a business because it allows me undeniable freedom yet challenges and tortures me all at the same time…

My time spent at Swork definitely entailed a successful work environment. If you have yet to check out Swork Coffee and you are in the LA area be sure to stop by.


Jason Silberschlag

Owner of Cartel Coffee Lab in Scottsdale, AZ

Jason Cartel Coffee

1. How much coffee/food should I buy?

We have no limit on our wifi, but prefer for customers to purchase something of any value  every couple of hours.

2. How Long Can I Stay?

If coffee shop customers only purchase one beverage or a single pastry and freeload on wifi and water, it’s fairly frowned upon, though we would not kick them out on these grounds, nor would we treat them any differently than a customer who tips 100 percent.

3. Is it cool for If I Take Business Calls?

For the sake of our other customers, we prefer for business calls to be taken outside. Sometimes, this is naturally buffered by the noise in our stores from music, other customers, the sound of steaming milk, etc.

4. How fast is the Wifi? How many patrons can the Wifi Handle? Are their limits on what I can do?

This depends from shop to shop. We have no restrictions.

5. What is the most unique customer story you can share?

Our first location is right on the fringes of a mature residential community. One of our longest standing customers is an elderly man named Wayne, who stumbled in one day years ago and continues to patronize our place, which is mostly crowded by hipster-esque ASU students.

6. What is the story behind your coffee shop and why you love working/owning the business?

“I’m a lifelong Arizonan but I was ambivalent about opening a coffee shop in the desert. I hedged my expectations, anticipating neither success or failure while figuring out how to peddle 180-degree beverages in 100-plus-degree weather.

Beyond the obvious, cold brew would take off, Phoenix was chock full of specialty coffee lovers, it was hot outside we learned a lot. Specifically, it occurred to us very early on that there was nothing we could add to a coffee to enhance it. It was what it was, and it was our job to prepare it in ways that would most prominently feature its inherent qualities. No syrup, no proprietary roast profile, no magical blend, no particular philosophy would better the pre-existing attributes of a coffee. Our goal is simply to show off what’s already there, intrinsic to the coffee itself.

But from the get-go, in 2008, we were fortunate enough to gather some exceptional people who have been –– and remain –– instrumental to our efforts. We’ve had the privilege of opening a retail store in downtown Phoenix and partnering with others in the area, like JoBot and Phoenix Public Market, in the meanwhile.

Who knew the coffee community in Phoenix would grow as much as it has in the last six years? We sure didn’t, but we’re so happy to be a small part of it.”

For those who enjoy some cold brew coffee there are locations in the Arizona area where you can enjoy a tasty cup of joe from the Cartel Coffee Lab. I certainly enjoyed my time working there.

cartel coffee lab

Noah Welch

Brand Director at Think Coffee in NYC

Noah Welch Think Coffee

1. How much coffee/food should I buy?

Obviously the more money you spend the better. No limit on WiFi in the stores that have it. Just drinking coffee is lovely, because our coffee is excellent. Always tip a dollar or more, even if you’re spending money throughout the day.

2. How Long Can I Stay?

Stay as long as you want! But make sure to buy something every once in a while, even if it’s just a refill or a bottle of water. Our space is for customers.

3. Is it cool for If I Take Business Calls?

It’s acceptable, as long as you’re mindful of your surroundings. Headphones are nice, and probably better for you if we’re playing music in the shop. Loud video calls can be irritating to other customers.

4. How fast is the Wifi? How many patrons can the Wifi Handle? Are their limits on what I can do?

Don’t do anything too crazy . We don’t have a tremendous bandwidth, but it’s enough a lot of people to do work. Watching or downloading movies is discouraged.

5. What is the most unique customer story you can share?

We have this playwright who has been writing a script set in a hotel, using two of our charming baristas’ personalities as templates for hotel concierges. He’ll frequently thank them for being his inspiration, and keeps us updated on how readings are going. “It was very sexy.” We’re thrilled to see the final product.

6. What is the story behind your coffee shop and why you love working/owning the business?

Think Coffee formed from the philosophy that there can be a large-scale coffee shop and restaurant that moves quickly, has delicious coffee and food, while being tremendously responsible. We have strong personal relationships with all of the people that grow our coffee. We work very, very hard to ensure that our coffee is grown responsibly, that the land it grows in is healthy, that the people that work on coffee farms are happy, that our environmental impact at home is minimal.

7. Anything Else Us Digital Nomads Should Know?

We are very focused on providing an excellent cup of coffee, a space to hang out or work, while still sourcing all of our products responsibly. We want you to think about what you’re drinking. We want you to know what’s in your cup. But we also want you to have a bangin’ time in our cafes.

With several locations in New York and Korea, Think Coffee always delivers a unique experience.

think coffee NYC

If you are a coffee shop owner, or a digital nomad working out of cafe’s share your experiences along with your favorite spots.

If you have yet to implement a written policy like Swork has I would highly recommended implementing one. Crazy logins that make you jump through hoops or wifi that expires is often frustrating but sometimes necessary. I find that a well implemented policy and trusting your customers is often the best bet.

To make your life easier feel free to download this zip file with a PSD, PNG, and JPEG coffee shop etiquette template for you to use and customize with your coffee shop’s colors and branding. If you find it useful share this post.

Coffee Shop Etiquettee Digital Nomads

Download Your Free Coffee Shop Etiquettee Template

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Luiz Centenaro

Customer Success Manager at Experiment Engine
Luiz is a CRO consultant, eCommerce Entrepreneur and Adventurer. You can follow Luiz on Twitter or Google +.



Google+ Comments

  1. Great post man! If everyone follows the etiquette then we’d all be happy digital nomads. 🙂

    I actually frequent a Think Coffee in NYC. Is that the one near the Google building by any chance?

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