What If Stores Charged Admission?”

From What If Stores Charged Admission? in The Business of Fashion:

Ah, but there is at least one café that recognises that customers truly value the time spend in their establishment. Its a small chain in the United Kingdom called Ziferblat Café (ziferblat being the Russian word for “wall clock”). Here, you sign in when you enter and pay six pence per minute for the time you spend there — and the coffee is free! Sure, you’re not going to get a tall, half-sweet caramel macchiato (or whatever your favorite drink is), but you are going to get a place to call your own for however long you want to stay, with books, magazines and newspapers, free internet and some rather sociable people to chat with, if you so choose.

This is an intriguing mashup of the private club, the co-working space, pay-as-you-go mobile plans and the local coffee shop. From the café’s website:

Ziferblat has a relaxing sitting room, shared office space, private meeting rooms and a full programme of events — it is place where you can do as you please, like an extension of your own home.

Work, Study, Relax, Play, Attend and Put on Events, eat cake, have a brew or breakfast or afternoon tea or…..

You will be welcomed by a Ziferblat host and can help to create and develop the concept by putting on events, volunteering or joining our team!

We have amazing wi-fi, newspapers, board games, a piano and record player, 43 kinds of tea, our own special Ziferblend coffee, we are very children friendly and dog friendly, too!

Part of what makes us unique is that everything you receive is free, the coffee, the cake, the wi-fi, everything, you pay only for the time you spend at just 8p a minute. If you want to spend the day with us, your spend will be capped at 4 hours and the rest of your time is free! That includes Vat and we don’t charge for service or, in fact, anything else at all.

My local coffee shop, Receiver Coffee, has a capacity issue that renders it delightful at 7:30 a.m. and less hospitable, because of tourists and “cheap place to work all day” laptop-bearers, for much of the balance of the morning and afternoon; is a by-the-minute charge the solution to this?

8p is 13 cents Canadian a minute, or about $8 an hour; that seems like a reasonable price to pay for a chair, table, coffee and cake. And yet it also offends my egalitarian sensibilities in the same way that having a private park would (I’d love a private park; I’m also offended by the very notion of a private park).

The Small Print Board Game Café has a scheme that’s similar in some ways to Ziferblat:

Here’s the scoop: You pay $5 and you can play as many board games as you want and stay as long as you want. With over 300 games to choose from; these range from classics like Monopoly, Pictionary and Scrabble to more modern games such as, Ticket to Ride, Settlers of Catan and Carcasonne. There will be staff that have intimate knowledge on board games, who can help you select a game and set it up providing you with a walk through of the game and its rules; let us take care of the small print!

I’ve never been to Small Print because the conditions of its liquor license don’t allow Oliver, being under 19, to be there after 8:00 p.m., and if I was going to go somewhere and play board games with someone, it would be with Oliver, after 8:00 p.m. But I’m not offended by the cover charge, and that it’s still in place, a year after opening, suggests that it’s working for them.

The other Prince Edward Island experiment in this regard has been Avonlea Village in Cavendish, for which, in a quirk of history, I wrote the original business plan. When Avonlea opened there was a modest admission charge that some, especially Islanders, resisted as, in essence, “paying for the right to shop.” As Avonlea evolved, the commercial aspects of the attraction gave way to Anne of Green Gables-related activities and theatre and, with this change, the admission fee rose; more recently the model changed again, with the admission fee removed entirely and Avonlea refocusing on the commercial, especially its cluster of restaurants.

Would you pay $8 an hour for a clean well-lighted place to drink coffee and read the newspaper?


Clark's picture
Clark on August 18, 2017 - 00:12 Permalink

Wasn't that Starbucks business model? It's not the coffee but the experience of being there.

Ton's picture
Ton on August 19, 2017 - 07:32 Permalink

didn't know that Russian uses a German word for clock face (циферблат). Would it be directly adopted from the German (Ziffernblatt) or by way of Jiddisch?