Savvy Coffee Shops Offer Printing as an Amenity

By Jonathan Treble and Rhea Patel

Due to rapid advancements in mobile computing capabilities, the last two decades have witnessed a significant growth in telecommuting practices. Telecommuting most often refers to working at home, but a growing share of telecommuters are conducting work in “third place” environments such as cafés and coffee shops. The “third place” is a term made famous by Starbuck’s CEO Howard Shultz, who is describing his ubiquitous coffee chain’s ambiance. The term connotes a comfortable environment separate from the office and home, enjoyed by a range of guests for purposes as diverse as catching up with a friend, meeting in a large group, studying independently, or working remotely. The latter two use-cases have only recently been made possible by abundant high-speed wifi in coffee houses. Starbucks, for one, invested heavily in upgrading its wifi infrastructure two years ago, when it partnered with Google to bring a faster, more reliable version of its free wifi to its stores. But wifi isn’t the only amenity that arduous guests desire — in a survey conducted by Samsung in 2013, 24% of mobile workers said that they would like to see their café offer printing. Yes, the strong support for printing makes it the second-most desired amenity right behind wifi. It even topped the old-school newspaper stand tucked in the corner. This shift coincides with a shift in decreased printer ownership, as Millennials increasingly scrutinize the value proposition of owning a clunky piece of hardware that’s expensive to purchase and restock.

So should coffee houses really offer this amenity? Does it not make their store feel too much like a “coffice”?  At PrintWithMe, we have engaged with scores of independent café owners, conducted our own user surveys, and heard a wide range of perspectives. Our conclusion is that paid-printing is almost always a worthwhile amenity to offer, especially if the shop can efficiently outsource the operation to a third-party provider like PrintWithMe. The simple condition that needs to be met is that of space availability — so long as two square-feet in an accessible part of the store can be allocated to the printer, then offering the amenity handsomely pays for its space through cross-sales. Indeed, the savviest café owners who analyze their traffic trends attribute a significant share of their sales to mobile workers who desire wifi and printing. One veteran coffee-house owner in Chicago recently learned the value of wifi the hard way; after years of offering it, he experimented by disabling his public wifi for 6 months. He quickly did an about-face after he crunched the numbers and saw the significant dip in sales.

PrintWithMe’s turnkey print station directly meets the growing desire for the printing amenity in cafés.

Savvy Coffee Shops Offer Printing as an Amenity