A revolution is brewing at the 'coffice'
With a prime inner-city location, a personal barista, in-house chef, plush surroundings and plenty of space for meeting clients, Australian public relations consultant Natalie Frid has one of the best offices in town.
And it costs just $15 a day. That's how much she pays for a cafe latte and a bowl of fruit salad at The Pound, the Melbourne cafe she uses as an office each weekday morning.
She stays for two hours, sometimes three, meeting clients and working on her iPad or laptop before returning to her home office in St Kilda Road or moving on to another cafe for more meetings.
''I would spend at least 50 per cent of my week working out of cafes,'' she says. ''I find it a much more inspiring environment than my little office at home. And the rent is very reasonable.''
Ms Frid is among a growing number of Melburnians who use cafes as temporary office spaces, or ''coffices'' as they are dubbed.
With many cafes offering free Wi-Fi access and a growing number of people having laptops, iPads and iPhones, working from a cafe has become an attractive alternative to offices.
Ms Frid says one of the benefits is the opportunity to generate new business.
''Working in an office, nine floors up in the sky behind closed doors, doesn't lend itself to someone walking by, joining you for a coffee and offering an opportunity for new business. Cafe offices do,'' she says.
A cafe is also the perfect meeting place for those who don't have space in their own office, or for people looking for an environment that is more relaxed than a boardroom.
Ben Kingsley, the director of Empower Wealth, a wealth advisory business specialising in residential property, is a regular at new North Melbourne eatery Maison Ama Lurra.
The cafe, run by Giles Legg and Philip Million, has free Wi-Fi access and two meeting rooms and will soon have an iPad 2 for customers. The meeting rooms, which seat eight to 10, can be booked and are free, though people using them are expected to order catering.
Maison Ama Lurra is believed to be the only cafe in Melbourne offering fully sectioned-off meeting rooms. Manchester Press in Rankins Lane in the city has a ''meeting nook''.
Mr Kingsley says: ''We do have access to a boardroom in our office but the meeting rooms there [at Maison Ama Lurra] are great because there are certain situations where you want a bit more of a relaxed environment. Our business is very much about people and relationship building. For example, we recently had a meeting with a prospective employee at the cafe because we wanted to see how they handled themselves in a social environment rather than in a stale boardroom.''
Mr Legg says his cafe sees ''a lot of people who like to work in a cafe and we have tried to cater to this as much as we can. Our French-style menu, with things like tartines or open sandwiches, and platters are conducive to being eaten while you're in a meeting or on a laptop.''
While Mr Legg and Mr Million are happy to accommodate workers, most cafe owners say there are some unspoken rules when using a ''coffice''.
Arthur Houndalas from the Market Cafe at the Prahran Market says anyone working in a cafe should order food or drink and those holding meetings should not take up too much space.
''We've had people come in here and rearrange the furniture and set the place up like it's their own office. We've got a small cafe and people just have to be a bit more considerate,'' he says.
''We've also had people come in and work but won't order anything ... it's common decency that if you are using someone else's space that you should order. We've got a business to run.''
Sydney Morning Herald