Cafes are looking at ways to break up the entrenched mode of customer usage.
American cafe culture is oddly solitary. Core77 notes that American cafes are loosely based on French Coffeehouses. But one crucial difference between French and American cafes is the arraignment of the chairs. In France they face the street and encourage people watching. In America, cafes are designed around power outlets and our wireless connections. Core 77 explains why this might be the case:
In a traditional coffeehouse you sit and plot revolutions or listen to weird, challenging poetry. But Americans are not interested in the complexity of actual politics nor do they have an ear for poetry. So hitting the “Like” button on a Facebook snippet about the latest political pundit’s bumper sticker wisdom or forwarding an e-mail about a cat that wants a cheeseburger are the preferred activities.
More and more cafe owners are finding the sit and surf model financially unsustainable. It’s very expensive to pay for rent and wifi and only have patrons buy a coffee and a bagel over the course of an entire afternoon. Some Café owners are ditching the WiFi and going with the of the Italian “stand and serve model,” which encourages social interaction and fast turnaround.
The Times reports:
Instead of idling at a chair, customers at these establishments stand or perch on a stool to down a cappuccino or an iced coffee at the counter. By doing away with the comfy seats, roomy tables and working outlets that many customers now seem to believe are included in the price of a macchiato, the new coffee bars challenge the archetypal American cafe.
Coffee-bar owners say that while space and rent can be considerations, they’re installing counters because they create a lively environment where it’s easy to have a quick, convivial exchange. “There’s clearly a philosophy behind the coffee bar,” said Christian Geckeler, who describes his ongoing odyssey to taste the country’s best coffee on Manseekingcoffee.com. “It puts the emphasis on the coffee and the barista.”