• Chelsea Rustrum

Rise of the Collaborative Coffee Shop

Updated: Feb 21

I’m noticing a trend. Let me first say….Coworking rocks! In fact, I wear my “Cowork” (see below) shirt from the 2011 Coworking Unconference put on by Loosecubes at least once a week.

Yet, I feel like there’s a swell moving toward the same goal in another direction. Hot desks typically sold by coworking spaces (where you pay a subscription to use any free desk without ever having permanent space) seem to cost between $200-350 per month no matter where they are located in the world. That’s $10-16 a day if you used the facility on every workday of the month.

As an entrepreneur, I like the freedom of working from where I want, experiencing different environments dependent on my mood and daily goals. I am not alone in wanting this.

We’re truly becoming a mobile world – devices, location, work styles, remote employees, freelancers…

This brings me to what I call a collaborative coffee shop. I don’t even think the owners of these coffee shops know what business they are getting into; they just know it works. People love being there and they make money.

I’ve found several examples of collaborative coffee shops recently. Last week, however, I found the ultimate spot – Kreutzberg California.

On my way to a friends wedding, I had to find a pair of bronze shoes. While I was running around all of downtown San Luis Obispo, I stumbled upon Kreutzberg CA. Since I’ve been to Kreutzberg, Berlin and feel a special connection there anyway, the sign caught my attention. I walked in and was astounded. Right then and there I decided to delay my trip back to San Francisco for 4 days to work out of this space while crashing at a hostel I  lived and worked at when I was 20.

Kreutzberg is part coffee shop, part cafe, part used bookstore ($4 for any book) and even part event hall. The decor is grungy, yet hip. The furniture is chic, yet functional. The space has a ton of light, an open feel and a creative tone that’s inspiring. There is a bar, table service, coffee, boutique teas, microbrews, local wines and the soft hum of relaxing, moody, energetic music.

Apparently, the owners bought all the decor at garage sales. You’d think they spent a fortune furnishing the place. Nothing goes together, but the flow works perfectly all the same.

There are two stories, intimate spaces, movable tables, outlets everywhere… the wifi is flowing. And you know what they have? A conference room with seating for 15 people. Yep. That’s right. And the hours? 7am to 12 midnight. I’ve been here for 3 days now and this place is especially busy at night. Although, the during the daytime all you hear is typing and the idle chatter of meetings. Whereas, the even brings college students on first dates, awkwardly playing checkers and drinking coffee.

I digress…

If coworking works on the model of spinning real estate costs in another direction by building a community, then a collaborative coffee shop adds the profitability of fancy lattes, happy hour and full service food. The vibe is set and the people flow in and out at their own pace. The owner said they did 800 transactions the other day (I’ll omit the average transaction price to protect their privacy). Wow. Do the numbers.

So that’s the business side. What about the other side? As a consumer, I want to go somewhere I can spend $15-20 a day to feed myself and get awesome space to use. I want to be around other people who are working. And, I don’t always want to be in the same physical or geographic location. And I’m only one use case. There are plenty of students, tourists and artists that frequent Kreutzberg as well.

Starbucks noticed this trend years ago. A lot of Starbucks even have full on desk with outlets built in. And, Starbucks works with AT&T to make sure the internet is a constant. If Starbucks is moving to this model, will we start a movement into other types of hybrids?

How will these collaborative coffee shops police spending vs. time and resources used up just by being there? There’s a new model emerging. I see it. And I think it has the opportunity to be highly lucrative and scalable.

This is where coworking meets coffee shop, not coffee shop meets cubicle. Rad. Stoked to see this model work and have new spaces to call home in different parts of the world.

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