My apartment feels like a bohemian cottage. The living room resembles a little media and reading room with shelves of books, a couch and chair covered in colorful throws and pillows, and a TV with everything from a VCR to a Roku around it. A rustic little table surrounded by music and movies gives the kitchen a cafe feel. I even have my bedroom turned into a bohemian themed reading nook, with a study lamp for a nightlight and books lining the wall as decorations. But as cozy and inviting as it is, sometimes a change of scene is needed, and like many artists, I head to a local cafe or casual restaurant.
Whenever we work from a public space, it may look like we’ve simply camped out there for the afternoon. But there are ways to do so respectfully.
Budget for the most expensive purchase you can reasonably afford, not the absolute cheapest.
Anytime you go into a restaurant, coffeehouse, or cafe, you need to buy something. If you are going to take up their table for any amount of time, make that purchase signifigant. Order a full meal from a cafe or restaurant. If you honestly cannot time your visit during a meal time, order the most expensive coffee drink or smoothie you like, and get regular paid refills. Sitting there for an hour sipping slowly on a one dollar bottle of water or can of soda technically fulfills the “you have to buy something” requirement, but it also constitutes taking unfair advantage of the business owner or manager’s time and space.
Calculate a twenty per cent tip for anyone who brings you anything, and add that same amount on for every hour you spend there past the first one.
People who seat you, wait tables, and bus tables depend on tip money for their income. When they have customers who aren’t sitting there writing or sketching or listening to music on headphones, new people might sit down in each seat about once every half an hour to an hour. That’s an additional tip they’re going to get. You sitting there for an additonal hour costs that staff that additional tip money. Pay them back for it. If you had a ten dollar appetizer and drink order, your tip would be $2.00. If you sat there for two hours, tip $4.00. If you sat there for three hours, tip $6.00.
Choose the smallest table you can if a host does not seat you.
My spot at the Tram has been the wingback chair nearest the hallway. The table has room for five people to sit. My fiance always sat next to me in the other wingback chair, leaving three empty. I used to always try to encourage people to sit with us, so I wouldn’t cost them three spaces on the floor. It rarely worked. People were afraid of intruding. When the Tram reopens, I think they’re going to have a smaller table in my spot. If the big one is still there, I might have to migrate to a side table.
Cafes make more money if more people come in and buy food. Groups of four and five will go someplace else if they walk in and see somebody sitting at the only large table in the place. Don’t accidentally chase other people away by taking up an unnecessarily large amount of space.
Be respectful of other customers.
Your favorite cafe, diner, or coffeehouse may be your home away from home. But it’s a home away from home, hangout, or place to relax and have lunch or coffee for other people too, and they have just as much right to enjoy it as you do.
If you need to listen to sound files or watch videos, take ear buds or headphones. Sit agains the wall with your screen visible only to you if your work contains any violent imagery, adult themes, or other material someone might not want their children or grandchildren to see on their way to the bathroom or front counter. If you have small children, don’t allow them to run around and/or scream. A cafe or coffeehouse is not the place for you to have a loud business meeting over your phone or Skype, or read your script out loud in your theater voice either. You don’t have to sit there in total silence, but avoid being a disruption to other customers or staff.
Give the business a boost on social media or in person.
Thank the place you go to work when you need a change of scene by writing up a five-star review on Yelp, liking and following their Facebook and Instagram pages, complimenting them on your own social media, and encouraging friends and family to spend time there and purchase food and drinks.
My favorite/home away from home is the Tram. I look forward to the day it reopens. (And no, I have no idea when that will be.) While it’s closed, I tend to bounce around from place to place, including Utica Coffee Roasting Company, Green n Wave, and Denny’s.