When you come into Masashi Nakagome’s King Street East coffee shop, he wants to make sure you have an experience.
“I want people to enjoy, sit and have a nice cup of coffee with [a] pastry,” he says, while proudly plating a small cake.
But with only 40 seats, this popular café is bursting at the seams.
While that is not typically a negative thing for a small business, Nakagome says the computer crowd was taking up prime real estate, leaving food-purchasing patrons without a place to sit and eat.
“We tried to ask people to be polite and share the tables but unfortunately if you use a laptop … it’s hard to share the space.”
With complaints rolling in, the co-owners of Neo Coffee knew they needed a plan.
“Weekends are our busiest time,” says Nakagome. “Noon to four it is packed.”
So for those four hours, two days a week, the café is laptop and tablet free.
A month into the new rule and Nakagome says customers are liking it. “So far everyone who comes in and sees the sign says ‘great!’ ”
And he’s not wrong. The lattes and laptops crowd we spoke with didn’t seem to mind the idea.
“That makes sense … it would kind of support more community and social networking,” Kevin Black says, as he types on his laptop at Reunion Island Coffee Shop in Roncesvalles.
“I guess if other shops followed I would just work from home and come here to enjoy the coffee and company.” Black says.
Freelance TV producer, Marco Avolio, works at coffee shops once in a while and says he understands a ban, as well.
“I guess some people just sort of park and have a coffee and sit here for three hours at time … It’s good etiquette to order something when you arrive and be aware of how long you sit and stay.”
While fairly uncommon in Toronto, over the last few years laptop bans have become more and more popular across the U.S. and U.K.
Productivity expert Mark Ellwood understands why.
“The café has to earn a profit on their space. They are renting out space in a way,” he said.
“If someone is still there for hours and just nursing a three dollar cup of coffee, the café is not earning much on that space.”
Back at Neo’s, Nakagome’s says his decision didn’t come down to dollars. In fact, he says he didn’t really want to implement a ban at all. “I don’t want to limit (people),” he said.
But he knew he needed to step in and do something that would solve his customer complaints. “Coffee shops can be a place for work, conversation or even meditation. Coffee shops have so much potential.”
He’s hoping his tech time-out is the perfect compromise between coffee, conversation and career.
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