Jim Duffy: Having coffee could become a serious business

There is no doubt that coffee is booming. Coffee shops, whether they be big brand chains or smaller outfits, are everywhere.

'Let's re-design a more business-focused coffee shop,' says Jim Duffy. Picture: Contributed
'Let's re-design a more business-focused coffee shop,' says Jim Duffy. Picture: Contributed

The steam from your cappuccino is still frothing up profits leading to more investment in more establishments selling coffee. But the coffee shops have to adapt to the new breed of entrepreneurs that regularly frequents them.

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It is well documented that many creatives, digital nomads and new entrepreneurial types use coffee shops as virtual offices. If you have a look around in any busy coffee shop you will see them with their faces pushed into MacBooks and laptops. Or if they are really cool, they have switched to an iPad Pro (like me). They may be using the coffee shop wifi, but invariably nowadays the 4G via their mobile phone does the job.

Then there is the group of creatives or new team that has formed who are nursing coffee cups, muffin wrappers and who are all busily chatting through a spreadsheet or investment deck. They may have pushed a couple of tables together and there is no doubt they are based there for a few hours. It’s a home from home and as long as they buy some caffeine they are free to stay.

They can put up with mums and screaming babies and the loud whooshing sounds from the coffee machines. They are happy to accept that there is a level of noise around them that is just about tolerable in their thinking patterns as they use the coffee shop as their pro bono office.

These scenarios are being played out in big cities throughout the UK. New-start businesses and one-man-band consultants are increasingly using coffee shops to start, run and build new ventures.

But, maybe now is the time to re-think how better we can support them and grow this business building within these shops. Maybe we can create a win-win for the outlets, for entrepreneurs and for the economy. Let’s re-design a more business-focused coffee shop.

Imagine if you would, a new age coffee shop where mums and coffee addicts and shoppers can all still go and enjoy the soft seats, stools at windows on the world and outside seating areas. A coffee shop that still ebbs and flows and has that ambiance that people look for. But a coffee shop that has a business area all glassed off where start-ups, entrepreneurs and business types can hold meetings with each other, clients and a whole lot more.

The problem is that many new-start businesses simply cannot afford office space and many of the co-working spaces are a bit dull. The problem gets amplified when they need to book a meeting room. They cost a small fortune to hire for the hour. So, why not create them in coffee shops?

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There’s a definite pain point out there as people really do enjoy conducting business in coffee shops. So, why not create business-oriented spaces that anyone can use?

I personally would love to have a small glassed-off meeting room where I could hold meetings for an hour with people. Of course, I’d buy them coffee and a snack, so the coffee shop gets income and maybe even a small premium for us using the space. It gives me some privacy to chat with clients, a feeling of being in a relaxed business context and they get to focus on me, while enjoying the coffee.

There maybe an opportunity for an entrepreneur out there to create a shop that does what it says on the tin, but also has a business slant. I have no doubt that in central Edinburgh or indeed places like London, the take‑up would be really high, as I know so many people who would use this. In fact, I’m pretty certain that many new businesses could be born this way and Gen Y and Gen Zers co-create new ways of working.

In the meantime, I’ll write my Scotsman column in my usual coffee shop and dream about the day when I can then meet my co-founders and have a strategy meeting in a meeting room in that same coffee shop.

• Jim Duffy is co-founder of The Moonshot Academy and author of Create Special