The café is a place to drink coffee and relax, to chat with friends, to plunge into a new book – and lately to finish a university paper or work on that latest freelance project. More and more often cafes and bistros are becoming workplaces of a different kind. Lilith Grull offers these do’s and don’ts for working in public areas.

“Two years ago when me and Henrik Vokos realised my dream to open a coffee shop in Budapest, it was very important to me that we offer our customers not only a place to consume high-quality coffee but a place to relax and work at the same time – somewhere with a living-room atmosphere,” says owner Tibor Minár of Kelet Cafè on Bartók Béla út in District XI.
The new offer brings new customers. Places such as the Kelet and bistros such as Konyha on District VII’s Madách Imre út attract coffee drinkers who are looking for a change of surrounding while they work. The rooms are comfortably appointed with retro furniture, armchairs and shelves full of books.
Sándor Kenyekes from Konyha bistro has also adapted to a working clientele. “We are a mix of café and restaurant with innovative cuisine,” he says. “When I opened Konyha with my partners Gergő Fábián, Levente Trellay, Balázs Glódi and Zoltán Sáfár one and a half years ago, we wanted likewise not only to follow the regular concept but create an atmosphere to linger.
“We have a clientele that comes to work here. These guests often stay at a time when we hardly serve food. The principle is working well so far.”
Especially students … At long tables, small desks or sofas with electric outlets, they sit with laptops or huge tomes and work in a homely atmosphere. Also free wifi is now almost everywhere.
This new trend for lengthy café visits requires a new code of conduct. For one, there is now a division between working customers and those who come to consume drinks and food.
The former may take up more space. “Normally we have no problems with customers who visit to work,” says Kenyekes of his experiences in Konyha. “When it is time for lunch or dinner they transfer automatically to smaller tables or go home.
“One time we had a customer who ordered only a small juice and spent half the day sitting in an armchair reading. Eventually one of my employees came to me and said she was pretty sure that our juice has a different colour. Apparently the customer was refilling his glass with a drink he brought in himself.
“We put a lot of hard work and thought into the restaurant, and so such experiences are very disillusioning.”
The Kelet cafe, which has deliberately placed many tables on two floors so that customers who come to work can take their time, has had similar experiences.”Of course it is normal that someone who stays for several hours becomes hungry, and this is one reason why we also offer some food,” says Minár. “One day a regular customer started to bring her own lunch. She ate it here and left the remains. That should not happen.”
The two unspoken laws for long-term-visitors are therefore, one, make room for new paying customers if the place starts to fills up, and two, don’t bring food and drink from somewhere else. Of course, the last point should be blindingly obvious.
Kelet offers free wifi and has become known among some flexible workers. But Skype can be a problem, with customers sometimes having to be asked to speak a bit quieter.
In conclusion, these kinds of coffee shops and bistros offer a different kind of working place for a new clientele. Without question, such electronic devices are becoming increasingly popular but the system can only work as long as the establishment is not crowded and it can afford to have customers who order just two or three drinks yet stay for hours.
Certain people need to show more understanding and respect, and not abuse the situation.

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