How long are you entitled to stay working at a café?

Updated: 20 Feb 2018 | By:

Working at a café can be fun and motivating – the buzzing atmosphere of other fellow visitors type-typing on their laptops definitely help boost the mood. It's great how you can purchase a cup of joe, a slice of cake (maybe) and sit there for hours using their electricity and WiFi. While no one might ask you to leave if you're there for too long, it's still important to be aware of the hours you're clocking in and not overstay your welcome.

You could argue that your presence is giving the café business but with only one purchase, just how long are you entitled to stay?

"I think I'm entitled to two to three hours if I make one purchase," says regular café-goer, Natasha Lee. "I do feel bad for taking up space. If I feel like I'm overstaying, I make another purchase to make up for it." Natasha also adds that if the café is empty, she won't feel as much pressure to leave quickly as when it is full.

But what do the baristas and café owners think? Ojo Coffee Bangsar's head barista Izmir Fariz thinks that one purchase entitles you to about two to two and a half hours of stay. "We've had customers who buy one item and spend all day in our café," he says. Yikes!

"It's not okay if you buy one drink and spend five hours at a table," says Artisan Coffee barista Hazim Hadi.

You could also argue that the layout of some cafés encourages lingering customers. True, some places are more accommodating to the independent worker – cafes like Ojo Coffee Bangsar and Artisan Coffee have a relaxing ambiance, plenty of charging ports and reasonably priced drinks and food. Whereas other places like Yellow Brick Road and Thyme Out are more suitable for small groups, families, and short catch up sessions. Operative word here: short.

"I think it's all right for customers to spend time at a comfortable environment. If the café setup is designed that way, I think the customer has the right to stay long. If it’s not comfortable, the customer won't stay too long anyway," says Yellow Brick Road owner Jason Loo. He and business partner Hai Lin Lee believe that their patrons are considerate enough to take their own leave after a couple of hours.

When visiting a café, it's important to take note of the charging stations (or lack thereof), the ambiance, the size of the space, the menu, and the signs some owners have taken to putting up. If patrons are unsure about whether the café is subliminally asking them to leave, here are a couple of signs to keep an eye and an ear out for:

  1. They'll start to clean your cups or plates away.
  2. They'll ask if you'd like to make another purchase.

"As a business owner, I do appreciate the customers who understand we need the tables they're occupying," Ojo Coffee Bangsar's director James Koh tells us. "But if the customers don't want to leave, it's their prerogative. It's a tricky situation for us, a fine line between trying to run a business and still give good customer service especially to those who don't want to pay for it." 


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