From Central Perk on “Friends” to Café Nervosa on “Frasier,” coffee shops have long been a popular setting for TV characters to work and hang out, sometimes for hours on end. And the same goes for nonfictional folks in real life.
“People enjoy the energy associated with a lively, friendly coffee shop and choose the location to conduct business, as well as study and socialise,” said Diane Gottsman, the author of “Modern Etiquette for a Better Life” and founder of The Protocol School of Texas, USA. “But, as like everything else in life, there are a few etiquette rules that make the experience run smoother.”
We should always strive to be mindful of others when we’re in a public setting, and a cafe is no exception. Speaking to HuffPost, Gottsman and other etiquette experts shared common rude behaviours they’ve observed at coffee shops ― and advice for not becoming an offender.
Holding up the queue
“Read the menu and know what you want before you get to the counter,” Gottsman advised. “Don’t stand there and gaze for several minutes while you decide which size latte you prefer. Asking questions is fine, and being congenial is a plus, but chatting for a lengthier period of time is frustrating to the people behind you.”
Try to be ready to order once you reach the front of the queue, and remember that there are ways to be considerate of others even when you aren’t prepared.
“If you need more time to decide, step aside and let the person behind you go ahead,” said Nick Leighton, a co-host of the “Were You Raised by Wolves?” podcast.
Lingering without making purchases
“First and foremost, people must remember that this coffee shop is a business,” said Jodi R.R. Smith, the president of Massachusetts-based Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting. “If the shop does not make enough money, it will close. This means, if you want this coffee shop to remain open, you must support them financially through your purchases.”
She recommended a minimum of one purchase per hour of sitting ― with a tip added, as well.
“You may stay longer when it is not crowded,” Smith added. “As seating becomes scarce, you may remain so long as you are actively consuming your beverage.”
In addition to ordering additional drinks or food items, you’ll want to look up periodically to examine the crowd situation and see if new customers are patiently waiting for a table.
“If parking yourself for an extended period of time with your laptop, make sure the cafe actually welcomes that,” Leighton said. “And then be mindful of how long you’re lingering, especially at peak hours.”
Hogging a large table as one person
“It’s also important to be mindful of your space,” Gottsman said. “If you are sitting at a table for four and there are several people waiting, you might consider grabbing a single chair or bar stool to make room for others.”
Of course, you may have initially sat down with a group of friends or colleagues and needed a larger table. But once they’ve left, consider downsizing. And if it’s just you from the start, do your best to sit down in the most efficient place.
“Pick the smallest table possible and try to keep yourself ― and your cords and your bags and your papers ― as self-contained as possible,” Leighton added.
Conducting loud phone calls
“This is not your office,” Smith said. “Quietly reading or typing is perfectly acceptable. Swearing while reviewing emails, listening to voicemail on speaker or holding extended telephone conversations are not.”
If you’re a remote worker, plan to be at home for scheduled Zoom meetings that require you to talk. If you’re just attending a virtual meeting but don’t need to participate, don’t listen at full blast.
“Headphones are a must, and avoid making or taking phone calls inside,” Leighton said.
Monopolising power outlets
Outlets can be scarce at coffee shops, especially if they’re housed in older buildings. Be mindful that others may need to use them as well.
“If outlets are provided, you may take the opportunity to recharge,” Smith said. But “you should not plug in your laptop and leave it plugged in for the entirety of your stay,” she added.
Bringing in outside food
If you’re planning to be at a coffee shop during mealtimes, then plan to purchase your food there. Some businesses don’t offer much food, but unless they specifically note otherwise, you still can’t order delivery or pack your own snack to eat while you’re there.
“You may not bring in outside food to enjoy while inside the venue,” Smith said. “This is both insulting to the coffee shop and can potentially make them liable in case of choking or an allergic reaction.”
Lounging like you’re at home
A coffee shop can be a cosy, welcoming environment that feels like home. But that doesn’t mean you can put your feet up and stretch out like it’s your house.
“This is not your home,” Smith emphasised. “Your shoes should remain on and your feet should not be co-located where others may sit or eat.”
Ordering something off-menu that is too elaborate or can’t be explained
“Don’t assume every barista knows how to make a ‘frosted snickerdoodle latte,’” Leighton said. “If you’re ordering off-menu, you’ll need to know exactly what’s in it and how it’s made.”
Ordering an elaborate coffee drink has become more common in recent years, but baristas have expressed frustration with these complex concoctions. Try to be respectful with your requests if you’re asking for something that’s not listed on the menu.
Leaving a mess
“When you leave, make sure and clean up your area for the next person who will be taking your seat,” Gottsman said. “Yes, the coffee shop may have someone who is responsible for cleanup. But more than likely there is a tight turn for the next person to sit down, and it’s a courtesy to leave your space clean.”
In addition to busing your table on the way out, do your best not to make a mess at the cream and sugar station.
“If it’s the sort of place that has you put on your own lid, try to take just the top one without touching the whole stack,” Leighton said.