Coffee Shop Etiquette: Vespr Coffeebar’s “Sit & Sip” Policy

Coffee shops have worked hard to become that “third place” — that place where you go when you’re not at work and not at home. And there’s nothing better than walking into your favorite indie coffee shop and finding an empty seat. Better yet, a seat at your favorite table. Right under the vent, near an electrical outlet, the perfect distance from the speakers.

And so you plan on staying for several hours, enjoying your favorite spot, getting some work or studying done, visiting friends, and basking in the glory of having the best seat all to yourself.

Except Emily Post and coffee shop etiquette tell us that this is simply not done. There are rules — well, unwritten rough guidelines — that tell us how long you can stay at that table.

Meaning you can’t just buy a $2 cup of coffee and camp there for the next eight hours. That loses a lot of money for the coffee shop owner.

That is, if the owner could get two people sitting at that table every hour, and each of them spent $5, that’s worth $120 in a 12-hour day. Even if one person sat there and spent $5 per hour, that’s still $60. But if you sit there for 8 hours at $2, they only made $.25 per hour on that same table.

Do you see the problem?

It’s not that the owner doesn’t want you there. It’s that they have a business to run, which they can’t do on $.25 per hour. And it’s unfair if you’re taking up a seat or even a whole table, and someone else who’s going to come in and spend $5 – $10 can’t because they can’t find a place to sit.

Vespr 02 - Edd SiuEdd Siu, owner of Vespr Coffeebar in Orlando, Florida, has created a “sit and sip” policy where people who hang out at the shop should buy something. Even if it is a $2 coffee, or a $5 latte, or an avocado toast. If you want to take up space, you need to buy something.

Additionally, coffee shop etiquette says we should buy something every so often as a way to “renew” our table.

But how often should you make another purchase?

“I’ve heard every 45 minutes, every hour, every two hours,” said Siu. “It depends on the person and it’s up to them to judge for themselves and what they can afford to do.”

Your spending habits are a judgment call about your own circumstances and your finances. Don’t overspend if you can’t afford it, but don’t overstay your welcome either. If you see that the place is slammed, and you’re still nursing a cold cup of tea three hours later, come back again tomorrow.

At the very least, offer to split your table and make room for a stranger. Invite someone new to sit with you. That way the shop is making a little more money on your table, even if it’s not going to be from you at that moment.

But don’t feel bad if you can only spend $2 per visit, even if you come back every day for such a “small” amount.

“That still adds up and helps our bottom line,” said Siu. “Besides, they’re our regulars, and we love the people who come to us again. That’s a humble place for us to be in because it means they see us as a place to make their second home.”

So remember, as we get closer to #IndieCoffeeShopDay on April 19, support your local coffee shops, but remember to either buy something every 45 minutes to 2 hours and try to spend a few bucks each time. That helps ensure that your favorite coffee shop will be there in the years to come.

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