Data from the Office of National Statistics suggest that the number of people who regularly work from home has doubled since pre-pandemic times.
As the novelty of working from home wears off, demand for public spaces that offer a social yet productive working environment will grow.
If you own a coffee shop with plenty of space then you are in a prime position to take advantage of this demand. You already have many pieces in place to set up a good coworking space.
With coffee shop revenues still below pre-pandemic numbers, this could be an excellent opportunity for coffee shop owners to recover and diversify their income.
Here we will go through the necessary steps to accommodate paid coworking customers in your coffee shop.
1. Assess Demand for Coworking Space
Before you plough time and money into setting up your coffee shop for coworking, you should first try to find out how likely it is people in your local area would be willing to pay to work at your premises.
There are a few ways of doing this. They include:
- Look online if there are any coworking spaces in your area. If there are some then it’s very likely that there is demand for these types of spaces in your local area.
- Take note of how regularly people work at your coffee shop. Many of these people would be willing to pay a small fee to work there if you can provide a more productive space.
- Put up a comments and suggestions box in your shop with a sign above it saying – “We are thinking of offering coworking with ergonomic furniture and high-speed internet. Would any of you be interested in this?” Check how many people have expressed interest over a four-week period
- If you have some sort of online access to your customers (active social media account or email list) then simply ask your customers on there.
It’s really important that you get some sort of interest in coworking before you make any moves to implement it in your business.
Do not assume that a lack of competition in your local area means that you have found an underserved market. In ninety-nine per cent of cases, a lack of competition means a lack of demand.
2. Designating a Space for Coworking
Once you have decided that you are going to offer coworking at your premises, the next step is to decide which part of your coffee shop you are going to set up a coworking space. And how much of your premises will be designated for coworkers.
When it comes to deciding where in your shop you want to have your coworkers, you should remember that one of the biggest needs of working people is for their environment to be quiet.
Therefore you should try to select a space that is as far away from any of the noisiest areas of your shop as possible.
If you have the means to have a physical barrier between the coworking space and other areas of your shop (say an upstairs area, for example) then this is ideal.
It may also be worth investing in a sound system that allows you to exclude music from your designated coworking space while still having it piped into other areas of your premises.
You also need a dedicated space big enough to meet your demand from coworkers.
I’ve found that during working hours, about one-fifth of your customers will be coworkers. So try to dedicate around that proportion of your seated area to coworking.
3. Deciding on Pricing and Terms
Coworking is usually either priced as an individual fee per day, or as a monthly fee that covers a certain number of hours per month.
You are also going to have to decide what is included in this fee. Are coworkers entitled to unlimited food and drinks as part of their fee, or will this be sold separately?
In my experience, the best way of pricing out coworking at a coffee shop is to offer a monthly fee for a certain number of hours. Allow one meal, unlimited drinks and a selection of unlimited snacks as part of this.
Offering free food and drinks as part of your terms gives you a real competitive advantage over coworking spaces. While many coworking spaces do offer complimentary snacks and drinks, these won’t be of the same quality as ones freshly prepared by you.
While you may not be able to offer meeting rooms and private phone booths at your coffee shops, your ability to offer superior food and drinks should make you more appealing to freelancers and solo workers.
When it comes to pricing, current rates (2022) for coworking tend to be around £75 – £100 for part-time (2-3 days a week) and £125 – £180 for full-time (5 days a week).
The main variable for this cost is location. So if you are based in London then it’s likely you will be at the top end of this scale.
Of course, you will have to experiment with pricing and find the sweet spot between profitability per head and demand.
4. Getting the Required Infrastructure in Place
To have any chance of being competitive in the coworking market you will need to offer customers:
- Ergonomic padded chairs with armrests
- Tables of a suitable height to work at
- High-speed, reliable guest WiFi that can handle multiple users at the same time
- A quiet environment
- A means of communicating to existing customers
- Opening hours during regular office hours (and ideally longer)
Many coffee shops are unlikely to have the required table and chairs, or the internet.
It is imperative that you invest in these things before you offer coworking.
Offering a bad coworking experience due to insufficient infrastructure can damage your reputation and ruin your chances of being seen as a viable coworking option by local people going forward.
5. Marketing Yourselves as a Coworking Space
In my experience, the best way of marketing yourself as a coworking space is to try and rank for the term: “coworking space in [your location]” on Google.
So long as you narrow this down to your really local area, say “coworking space in Hackney” rather than “coworking space in London”, then you have a decent chance of ranking due to a lack of competing coworking spaces in this area.
To optimise your website for this keyword, just do the following:
- Set up a dedicated page on your website for your coworking where you talk about your offering and terms. Make sure this is titled with your target keyword.
- Add that you offer coworking in your business description and services in your Google My Business account
- Add that you offer coworking on some areas of your website’s homepage
- Look around if there are any online directories dedicated to coworking spaces and sign yourself up for these.
You will not rank for coworking-related keywords immediately. However, if you follow these steps you should be appearing in these searches within a couple of months.
Other ways that you can market yourself as a coworking space include:
- Having a sign outside your premises
- Making social media posts about it and asking your followers to share it
- Emailing existing customers on your email list
- Taking out an advertisement in the local newspaper (this is always cheaper and more effective than you expect it to be)
The rise of remote working after the pandemic has meant that the part-time coworking space market will certainly grow in the next few years.
Coffee shops are in a prime position to take advantage of this as they can set up a coworking space without core changes to their business operations. All they need are a few tweaks to be able to compete with (often overpriced) dedicated coworking spaces.
If you have a large premise, then this could be an excellent opportunity for you to increase and diversify your income.
This article was written by Oli Baise. Oli helps run London-based coffee shop The Coffee Traveller. He writes about all things coffee and the coffee industry in his blog Drinky Coffee.