I’m running a business here

running a business
A French café, where customers are typically allowed to linger

“I don’t mean to be rude, but I’m running a business here and you’ve been sitting here for two hours. I’m the owner and these staff are expensive, you see”

Owner of a coffee shop/cafe near London this week

The above speech was delivered to me at a café this week. Hmm.

So, this week I went to a suburb of London and met someone for a business conversation at 10:30 on a weekday at a large and spacious independent coffee shop/cafe close to a large railway station. We both simply had a coffee as, well, mid-morning neither of us needed to eat. The cafe had a good atmosphere but was by no means crowded.

Our small table for two was close to the counter and after about an hour someone with definite “I am the owner” energy started to stand at the side of the counter looking out over his domain. After about half an hour, he approached our table and asked “will you be having anything else?”, clearly asking would we be spending any more money. My companion ordered a pot of tea, but I didn’t want anything else. A few minutes later, he returned with the tea and gave us his small speech in quotes above.

Now, one thing I have noted in recent years is cafes full of people working for hours on end at laptops, so can understand a concern that people are “taking up space”. However, in a cafe that is nowhere near full and mid-morning on a weekday, it felt a bit jarring.

Up until that point I had loved the convenient location, ambience and really great coffee, had thought “what a find! I’ll be back”. In other words, I was ready to start forming a relationship with that cafe and for sure would have come at breakfast and lunchtimes for future meetings so spent more money as well as refer it to others.

However, I’m glad that the owner was clear in his communication. He is not interested in a relationship with his customers, he is transactional. His staff are a cost, his customers equate to sales or taking up space.

Good to know. Appreciate his clarity. Oh, and I won’t be back.

Also published on Medium.