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Save Office Culture with Coffee Shops

The shockwaves of the pandemic are still being felt daily throughout the world. General existence has resumed with a degree of comfort; however, the impacts have continued to disrupt how we operate as a people. Rush hour isn’t really a thing anymore as it seems that traffic no longer ebbs and flows but rather maintains a constant medium to full state at all times of day, seven days a week. Offices continue to be vacant across the country. “Nearly 20% of office spaces are currently empty across the United States. It’s a milestone that exceeds the vacancy rate during the 2008 global financial crisis, and it’s worse in places like San Francisco and downtown Los Angeles, where more than a quarter of offices are sitting empty.” (NPR, 5/16/23). The New York Times states that the Financial District in NYC is over 25% vacant while Midtown sits around 20%. These are two of the most densely populated neighborhoods in the city during the day, and they feel deserted. The lack of population cannot support the rent prices for service-oriented businesses to exist. If the New York lunch crowd can’t support us, where in the world is it safe for retail?

Getting people to return to the office for a full workweek is obviously desirable to business owners and business decision-makers. It is proven that people with “strong social connections at work tend to be more engaged and loyal workers,” according to Forbes Magazine. These relationships help to create a stronger company culture of respect, loyalty and trust. These factors, of course, lead to more productivity and higher retention rates for employers. In short, if you want a more productive staff that is more likely to stay with the company, you want them in the office.

Working in food service focusing on coffee, you might not think office culture affects you; however, if you were an urban business, you know exactly how this affects you. San Francisco still needs to recover, as most of downtown is empty or closed, while Oakland mirrors this desolation. Urban rents demand high footfall and, once produced, reliably high revenues. When the river of people stops flowing through the streets, the drought affects the entire ecosystem.

There is some room for optimism, though. Most people are sighting the commute as being a significant barrier to re-entry for office work. However, friendships and building social ties is the biggest motivator to return to the office. There is a case for office coffee shops fueling the way back to a traditional work week. Coffee shops have always been a place of social gathering, lively debate and collaboration. What if offices attempted to integrate cafe culture into office culture? If you’ve been to a Starbucks recently, you can attest that a fair amount of people working “from home” are actually working “from cafe”. The atmosphere is conducive to productivity and social collaboration. Of course, this has the ancillary benefit of adding integral thriving coffee businesses back into Midtown and Downtown corporate neighborhoods.

Who has a great office coffee concept they want to share?


Written by Jake Leonti, F+B Therapy

Mr. Leonti has worked in coffee for over twenty years with disciplines at every link of the value chain from barista to roasting, green grading and importing. Jake is the current Editor-in-Chief of Coffee Talk Magazine, columnist at Santé Magazine, member of the Roasters Guild and host of the Food and Beverage Therapy podcast

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