Coffee News: from Seed to Cup

Coffee Shop Etiquette: Table Hogging & Other Faux Pas to Avoid

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We’ve all had a coffee shop visit ruined by a rude customer – or seen one ruin a barista’s day. So how do we make sure we’re not that person?

In a café, our behaviour isn’t just about us: it also affects other guests and the baristas. And as a barista, customer, and coffee shop guest myself, I’ve observed plenty of considerate – and rude! – café behaviour. So let me share with you 5 keys to excellent coffee shop etiquette.

SEE ALSO: When “Have a Nice Day!” Is Bad Customer Service

coffee consumerCredit: Birtatli Bireksi

1. Ordering Your Drink

Some days, we know how exactly what we’re in the mood for – a pourover Ethiopian, please! But on other days, we’re a little indecisive. Latte or cortado? Honduran or Nicaraguan? V60 or Chemex?

It’s fine to take a little longer to decide. But if you don’t know what you want by the time you reach the counter, you have three options.

One: you could stay at the front of the queue, staring at the menu a little longer. During quiet periods, this might not be a problem. However, when it’s busy, this will delay everyone behind you. If you just need a few more seconds to decide, it would be better if you let the person behind you jump ahead.

Or, if you know a few more seconds won’t help, try asking the barista for a recommendation. We love helping you to discover new coffee drinks. But help us to help you. We want to give you a coffee experience you’ll love, and we can’t do that without any information.

While in the queue, ask yourself: do I want something hot or cold? Milky or black? Sweet or with more of a bite? What do I normally order and why don’t I want that today? This way, we can guide you into selecting the best drink for you.

The result: you’re happy, other guests are happy, and the barista’s happy.

coffee consumerHelp the barista help you choose the best drink. Credit: Coffee Snob Collective

2. Complaining

There are times when you’ll need to complain – but please also try to be understanding.

Everyone has a bad day sometimes, whether it’s a barista or another customer. That barista who just gave you the wrong drink? Perhaps the coffee shop is short on staff and it’s the end of their 12-hour shift. That customer who took forever to place their order? Perhaps they have a speech impediment. Those energetic teenagers being rowdy? Perhaps they’ve just got out of a three-hour exam.

From difficult personal lives to hectic days, there are plenty of reasons why a person might make a mistake or do something irritating. But on a bad day, a little understanding from someone else can mean so much. So let’s not snap at people (unless they’re really being inappropriate): instead, just politely let a barista know the problem – whether it’s your coffee or another customer’s behaviour.

Let’s work towards peace and harmony. We’re all in a coffee shop to enjoy ourselves, so make your day (and ours) better by showing some patience.

coffee consumerRelax, be patient. Credit: Birtatli Bireksi

3. Choosing Your Table

That six-seater table in front of the windows might be the nicest spot in the café – but if you’re here alone, and it’s a busy period, consider where other customers will sit. If a big group of people comes, is there another table for them? (And even if there is, don’t expect to have that table all to yourself.)

Similarly, we love that people feel comfortable working in our cafés – but if you need a plug socket, try to sit close to it. A laptop cable stretching between tables can cause people to trip. Best case, they manage not to fall over. Worst case, they hurt themselves and their hot coffee hits someone else (or your laptop!)

coffee consumerCoffee and laptop: a great combination. But watch where your lead is trailing. Credit: Methodical Coffee

4. Be Flexible

Perhaps you sat down first, and you really like your table. But if someone with a pushchair can’t find anywhere else with space for the pram, a little flexibility on your part could make their day a lot better. Why not swap places with them?

Similarly, perhaps you’re at a table with a socket but you’re just reading a book. Could you swap tables with someone who needs to plug in their laptop? Or even share your table with them?

This doesn’t just extend to seating, however. It’s also relevant when ordering your drink. A coffee shop can’t stock everything, and there are times when a barista will have to offer you an alternative. Now there may be a reason why you can’t accept it – perhaps you’re lactose intolerant, or react badly to caffeine. Or perhaps you just really don’t like the suggested alternative. In that case, believe me, we feel bad. As baristas, we constantly strive to give good service.

However, complaining that your favourite beans have run out won’t make them available. It’ll just hold up the queue and make the barista’s day worse. So why not trust our knowledge of coffee, and the fact that we constantly experiment with brew ratios, methods, and beans, and try our suggestion? You might even discover a new favourite! (And if you don’t, give us polite, honest feedback and it’ll help us to do better in future.)

It excites us, as baristas, to help you find the perfect drink. And when we can’t offer you what you want, we’ll try our hardest to find something just as delicious.

coffee consumerYour barista wants to offer you great coffee – so trust them. Credit: Uncle Bear Coffee Co.

5. Be Open-Minded

Are you a coffee connoisseur? You probably already know exactly what you want and how you want it made. And there’s nothing worse than getting a bad cup of coffee… I get it!

But, be open-minded: every coffee shop has their own recipes and their way of doing something. Give us the opportunity to share our methods, opinions, and passion for coffee. And please, feel free to share your own wisdom, but do so with respect. We might both learn something.

coffee consumerRemain teachable, even if you’re a pro. Credit: Methodical Coffee

Ordering a coffee is a moment of indulgence in a busy world. It’s an experience that we choose purely because we want something – not to achieve something, but just because we want to savour the tastes and aromas of good coffee.

But let’s also be considerate of other people while we do that. Let’s make sure everyone’s coffee shop experience is as good as ours.

Written by Shaun Aupiais.

All views within this opinion piece belong to the guest writer, and do not reflect Perfect Daily Grind’s stance. Perfect Daily Grind believes in furthering debate over topical issues within the industry, and so seeks to represent the views of all sides.

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