Each commercial space has its own purpose. At a restaurant, we eat food. At a bar, we drink beer. At a cafe, we take a coffee. We rarely drink beer at cafes and we do not ask for coffee at bars. As Google Map shows, cafes are not listed when we search for bars. Similarly, bars do not appear when cafes are searched for.
However, some commercial spaces in Buenos Aires, Argentina serve more than one purpose. For instance, Hobbs Palermo looks like a restaurant. However I ordered a bottle of alcoholic beverage late night and, at a day time, I noticed a person who drank only a bottle of Coca Cola. It is a restaurant, bar, and cafe.
Bar El Federal (or the Federal Bar) is even called as cafe bar. Located in the old downtown of Buenos Aires, it is an authentic pub with wooden interiors and antique bottles. However, some people eat sandwich, others drink beers and even the others read books under the dim light.
We can eat pizza at Starbucks. We can drink coffee at Michelin restaurants. If we overcome the thought that one space should be used only for a single purpose, we will be able to use space creatively.
Henckell is my favorite cafe in Frederiksberg, Copenhagen. It is a local place with great coffee and sandwich. I feel cozy inside. It has only four small tables.
There is a tip jar next to the credit card machine on the counter table. Interestingly, it has a smiley face, two arms, and two legs. One day out of curiosity, I kept watching how many guests tipped in this human-looking tip jar. Afterwards, I also asked a server whether guests liked it. Surprisingly, I noticed that a few guests hesitated putting coins into this jar for an unknown reason. The server even told me that not few guests complained about the tip jar because its mouth is too small to insert coins.
When human flavor is added to an object, people like the object. It is supported by academic studies about anthropomorphism. For instance, when a car is anthropomorphized and its characteristics are congruent with the proposed human schema, people evaluate it positively (Aggarwal and McGill 2007). When a garbage bin is anthropomorphized (e.g., “feed me”), people follow the message and show prosocial behaviors (Ahn, Kim, Aggarwal 2013). When an innovative, uncertain product is anthropomorphized (e.g., “this little guy”), people tend to adopt this product (Jiang, Hoegg, and Dahl 2011).
However, anthropomorphism might backfire if the usefulness of the product is sacrificed. When I come back to this cafe, I want to draw a different character with a bigger mouth and see what happens.
People often go to cafe not for coffee but for work. According to Mehta, Zhu, and Cheema (2012), an appropriate ambient noise (e.g., cafe noise) enhances work performance. Their five studies showed that people performed creative tasks better when surrounded by the moderate ambient noise (70db) than the low one (50db) or the high one (85db). They argue that when people are surrounded by the moderate ambient noise, people cannot process information easily and thus they focus on their work harder and think more abstractly and creatively.
One website picked up their findings and enables its visitors to play a pre-recorded coffee shop noise at your computer (Coffitivity).
Many other space attributes beyond sound are discussed on how to create the ideal workspace. According to the Psyblog run by Jeremy Dean, for instance, there are six tips to do so: (1) avoid open-plan, (2) the great tidy-messy debate, (3) curvy is beautiful, (4) room with a (picture of a) view, (5) plants, and (6) decorates. When it comes to coffee shop chains, Starbucks seem to meet many tips while other competing Canadian coffee shop chains such as Second Cup or Tim Hortons seem to meet only few.
However, more space attributes (in a coffee place) will affect work performance. Two example attributes are whether a coffee place is indoor or outdoor and whether it is brand-new or run-down. Interestingly, most local coffee shops in Seoul are indoors and brand-new while many local coffee shops in North American cities are outdoors and relatively run-down. Since I generally worked more productively when I was at the local coffee shops in North America than when I was at those in Seoul, I expect [outdoor] and [run-down] might be extra critical attributes for a coffee shop to be an ideal workplace.
Jaewoo Joo | design thinking, behavioral economics, new product development, new product adoption