Little Less Conversation and a Little More Wifi Please

Customers using laptops at Stumptown Coffee Roasters on 8th street.

Interest in coffee shops is suffering where wifi is buffering.

Now more than ever, coffee shops are filled with headphones and faces glued to laptop screens. To escape the monotony of working from home, individuals pay five dollars for a cup of coffee and proceed to sit down, do work and use the wifi for a couple of hours. Large coffee chains, like Starbucks, haven’t taken a hit from these wifi-sucking consumers, but smaller local coffee shops have been facing more hardship, including profit losses.

The former Caffe Bene morphed into the new, hip coffee shop, Outro, which has had to reevaluate its wifi offerings. On weekdays, Outro has unlimited free wifi available for customers and none throughout the weekend — a recent change that was implemented because of a hefty wifi connection bill. Quickly, the coffee shop looked into its customer demographics on weekdays and weekends. From behind the counter, Outro barista Jaime Gonzalez sees two distinct groups of people frequenting the shop.

“There are the people who want to sit down and work,” Gonzalez said. “And there are the people that want to stop by just for brunch.”


As Gonzalez explains, weekday customers are glued to their screens with headphones whereas conversations and face-to-face interactions fill Outro on weekends. Local coffee shops seek and thrive off of atmospheres similar to Outro’s weekend crowd — one that emphasizes both coffee and conversation.

Conversations and a lack of free wifi might bring in funds for coffee shops, but these qualities deter those seeking a work environment away. Students head to coffee shops to crank out that procrastinated essay, but a lack of free wifi is a big deal breaker for many. CAS first-year Matthew Spaargaren doesn’t see the point in going to wifi-less coffee shops.

“It makes no sense for me to go to a coffee shop if they don’t have free wifi,” Spaargaren said. “I go to get work done. The coffee comes second.”

Some students have similar concerns and leave their dorms in search of a working environment, food and free wifi — all of which a coffee shop tends to provide. However, some students, like CAS first-year Christine Li, enjoy not having wifi.

“I go to coffee shops often to just sit and chat with a friend because I love the comfy ambiance,” Li said. “I don’t need wifi to make me content.”

LS Professor Irina Langer agreed with Li’s comments, saying the absence of wifi helps her be more productive.

“I actually like going to this one chain coffee shop that doesn’t have any wifi because I know I won’t get distracted while reading my students’ essays,” Langer said.

Offering free wifi might be hurting local coffee shops, but it lures customers to stay and enjoy a cup or two of coffee.

Email Jennifer Sanchez at [email protected].



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