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Davis, California

Saturday, July 31, 2021

Davis cafés balance customer desires for atmosphere, internet

The typical visit to a Davis café no longer resembles a scene from the television show Friends.

Instead of a couch full of friends who will be there for you, you will often find a room full of customers alone on their laptops. One might wonder, has café protocol changed from purchasing coffee and chatting to purchasing coffee and chatting online?

To answer this question, The California Aggie surveyed several local Davis cafés were to see how they believe technology has changed and shaped their business practices.

Common Grounds Coffee has been brewing for the Davis community for 11 years. Owner Son Chong says the business has recently posted signs limiting customer Internet use to two hours.

“Some people buy a $1.50 cup of coffee and stay five hours,” Chong said. “They have to consider the business side of this.”

Chong said he doesn’t strictly enforce the two-hour limit and runs the policy on the honor system, but the signs serve as a friendly reminder to café patrons.

Chong said some customers open large files and do not realize the effect this has on the café’s Internet.

“I have to increase my download and upload speeds and I have three different Internet connections here,” Chong said. “People usually never think about that.”

Nonetheless, Chong recognizes the importance of the service for customers.

“It’s a different market in [South Davis] now,” Chong said. “Internet has a lot to do with it; you have to have it nowadays. If you don’t, it’s kind of a deterrent.”

The new Starbucks at the ARC offered a different view since it mainly serves the campus population. Retail General Manager Gina Rios said she wants the café to be a study haven for students.

“We are here if students want to study, visit or even nap,” Rios said. “We really don’t mind how long people stay. We just like the seating being used.”

The campus Starbucks Internet policy differs from other Starbucks locations. It runs on the campus internet wifi, Moobilenet. Students do not have to pay an additional fee to log on.

Rios said that the coffee shop does not lose money on customers who use the Internet service for many hours.

“I’ve never seen anyone come in and not buy anything, and we appreciate that,” Rios said.

Joshua Howell, F Street Starbucks barista and junior community and regional development major, says there are two different ways to go online at Starbucks.

Customers can purchase a Starbucks card and register it at any Starbucks store. After registering, they will receive two consecutive hours a day of wifi access. Any customer who is already an AT&T DSL subscriber does not need to purchase a Starbucks card as they qualify for free wifi.

Howell said he does not think offering this wireless service causes any additional costs to the business.

“Often times people will get a second cup of coffee so I don’t think it takes away from the business at all,” Howell said. “And I feel like if there wasn’t Internet access, people would still come in anyway.”

One of the newest cafés in Davis, Cloud Forest Café, is considering the social impact Internet access has had on their business. Store manager Alexa Tijerino said the café wants to adjust its Internet policy to create a more social atmosphere.

“It seems our café has more of a library atmosphere sometimes, which is not what we’re shooting for,” Tijerino said.

Tijerino said to combat this tendency the store has started reserving tables for dining only. She said they have also considered a system where customers have to purchase a special access code to log online. While Cloud Forest Café may adjust its policy, its management does not want to discourage customers who want come in to use their wireless services.

“Cloud Forest Café is open to anyone who wants to enjoy it,” Tijerino said. “But we are also going to make sure the café has an enjoyable atmosphere for everyone.”

Mishka’s is another local coffee shop that has made efforts to encourage a more social environment. The café reserves six tables for visiting purposes only. Signs posted on these tables warn customers that they will be banned and “forever subjected to a life of Starbucks coffee” if they violate the rule.

All of the cafés surveyed seemed to agree on one thing regardless of their personal opinions: Internet access is now a necessary component of a well-functioning café.

“[A café] has to have coffee, service, environment and Internet. And just the right mix of it all,” Chong said.

AMANDA HARDWICK can be reached at features@theaggie.org. 

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