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6 min read

How to Work at a Coffee Shop Like a Pro

By Jamie Irish · May 10, 2017
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One of the best parts of remote work is the freedom to work from anywhere. For most of us, "anywhere" includes a lot of time spent at the local coffee shop.

If you love working in a cozy cafe with a fresh cup of delicious caffeine in your hands, you’re not alone. But if you’re ready to step up your remote-work game, here are six tips for working in a coffee shop that’ll put you with the pros.

#1 - Know Your Cafe

Not all cafes are created equally when it comes to remote work. Many cafes are focused on creating local community, and aren't well-suited to those who want to work.

"Do your research when checking out a new place to make sure the cafe is work-friendly," suggests Juan Vazquez, a Customer Champion at Zapier. He uses the iOS app Work Hard Anywhere to find cafes that are work-friendly anywhere in the world.

Christina Buiza, another one of our awesome Customer Champions, agrees. "Do your research ahead of time by visiting sites such as workfrom.co to see if the coffee shop is remote-friendly," she says.

If none of these sources have the information you’re looking for, try sleuthing through Yelp photos—are others using their laptops? Do you see outlets?

Can’t find the information you need online? Do things the old fashioned way: Call ahead and ask if they have free Wi-Fi. If they say no, it's most likely not a great place to work, and you’ll be saved the hassle of finding out the hard way.

#2 - Befriend Your Baristas

One of the best ways you can support your favorite cafe is by treating their baristas well. Food service is never an easy job, and if a barista feels underpaid or mistreated, they can find another place to work, leaving your favorite cafe in a lurch.

Tip your baristas well, especially if you’re going to be taking up space in their shop for several hours. An extra buck or two won’t hurt you, but it will mean a lot to your barista. They’ll remember you—if you tipped, how much, and whether you treated them with respect.

When you order, offer your barista a smile and ask about their day. If you’re a regular, don’t be afraid to greet your barista by name. A little kindness will go a long way, and again—it’s a small effort that could make someone’s day.

This kindness is not without its benefits for you—remembering your favorite drink, for example, or putting a little extra care when making your order. Asad Zulfahri, world traveler and Zapier’s SEO & Growth Manager, discovered an extra benefit for remote workers. "Make sure the barista knows you so they’ll give you free internet," he says. "Some places offer free internet for only 2 hours, so I make an effort to get to know all the staff so when I walk in, they’ll just give me free wifi codes for the entire day!"

#3 - Buy Something Every Few Hours

We remote workers love our caffeine, and let’s be honest—it’s nice to have a reason to put your pants on and go outside for an afternoon. Show your appreciation by supporting your local cafe.

"You've got less freedom in a coffee shop than a coworking spot," says Matt Guay, senior editor & writer at Zapier. "Don't hog too much space, do buy more stuff if you stay longer."

Jordan Sherer, Zapier’s Product Engineering Lead, has gotten this down to a science. His recommendation? "Talk with the barista and order a couple of drinks ahead of time that way there's no waiting in line to refresh your caffeine levels."

Interesting to note that Starbucks offers an extra carrot to encourage their patrons to stay longer. Starbucks offers free refills to Starbucks Rewards patrons. Regardless of your initial drink, you can get a hot or iced brewed coffee or tea for free as your refill (during the same store visit).

Take advantage of this offer by all means, but be sure you pay it forward to your baristas by leaving them a nice tip for your free drink.

#4 - Be a Hero: Don’t Hog the Outlets

Outlet space is at a premium in most coffee shops. Most of us would rather work plugged-in and save our battery power "just in case"—but there are rarely enough outlets for everyone, and power adapters (especially for Macs) can get bulky.

Melanie Pinola, our Editorial Manager here at Zapier, advises you change the outlet game by bringing your own surge protector, like this one from Belkin. It’s travel-sized, and will not only provide your laptop with protection, but gives you a chance to be the hero of the hour by providing more outlet space.

#5 - Use the Community Table

A lot of coffee shops provide a long table with good outlet access. This table is intended to accommodate several individual workers. I know it can be difficult for the more introverted remote workers (myself included), but there are a lot of good reasons for you to sit at this "community table."

  • It frees up tables for patrons who are there to meet a friend or colleague. You only need one chair, after all.

  • People are there to work. In this space, you’re less likely to be interrupted by someone having a conversation or talking on the phone.

  • It’s a great place for serendipitous networking to happen, especially if you’re a regular.

Just remember—these long tables are always intended for multiple people, so keep your backpack on the floor to leave room for others.

#6 - Be Aware of Others

The golden rule of working at a coffee shop: Don’t Be "That Guy." We all know who that is: the person who leaves their trash all over the table, takes up enough space for two people with their belongings, all while talking loudly on the phone about personal matters…

Don’t be that guy. Respect the cafe and its patrons by keeping noise to a minimum, cleaning up after yourself, and not hogging extra space. If you have to take a call (video or voice) while working at a coffee shop, try to keep your voice low.

Also remember that you’re not at a library, and in fact many people go to coffee shops to hang out with their friends. A good pair of noise-cancelling headphones is a remote worker’s best friend.

Our Favorite Coffee Shops

At Zapier, we live and work all over the world. Need a coffee shop recommendation? Try one of our favorites!

Cup A Joe, Raleigh, NC

Cup A Joe

"It’s the size of three coffee shops, while still managing to feel cozy. Plenty of tables, chairs, outlets, and natural light. The bright, quirky decor really excites my creativity. It’s also close to a couple colleges, so it’s very quiet with a work/study vibe."- Emily Irish, Content Marketer.

Dunn Bros. Freight House, Minneapolis, MN

"I can walk to this shop, and it has an awesome upstairs workspace." - Joe Stych, Product Marketer.

Red Dot Coffee Company, Northville, MI

Red Dot Coffee Company

"It’s an old house that they turned into a coffee shop so it’s really cozy. They also have the world’s best cappucino." - Meghan Gezo, People Ops Specialist.

Blue State Coffee, New Haven, CT

"Lots of plugs and space." - Thomas Hils, Support Training Lead.

Quack’s Bakery, Austin, TX

Quack’s Bakery

"Plenty of outdoor seating, restaurants and snacks immediately next door, great coffee and friendly servers that make it feel like a little neighborhood. Consistent wifi and usually there’s seating." - Zen Ren, Customer Champion.

Paradocs Coffee & Tea, Los Angeles, CA

"It’s very tiny and hard to find! But more importantly, they have a huge selection of loose leaf tea, nice soothing music, and power strips everywhere. They also have very strong wifi. The owner is very friendly and most people who go there are regulars, so it has a lovely neighborly feel." - Katie Redderson-Lear, Customer Champion.

Just Bob, Portland, OR

Just Bob

"It’s walkable from my house. And they let me pay my tab at the end. And they have an order called "The Adam" for my regular order." - Adam Duvander, Developer Marketing.

Letstat’s, San Diego, CA

"Plenty of seats and outlets. Most other folks are also there to get work done. It is open 24/7." - Juan Vazquez, Customer Champion.

Octane Coffee, Atlanta, GA


"Great coffee!!!!" - Jordan Sherer, Product Engineering Lead.

Aje Cafe, Chicago, IL

"At Aje Cafe, I love that it isn't a super popular spot. There are always plenty of tables to work at and armchairs, too." - Carlin Sack, Partner Marketing.

Waves Coffee House, Vancouver, BC

Waves Coffee House

"Despite having an appreciation for more 'trendy' coffee shops, I've grown to love Waves Coffee for their reliability. They have fast, stable internet, lots of power outlets, large windows, comfortable seats, and delicious mochas." - Christina Buiza, Customer Champion.

Cup Phu Sino, Bangkok, Thailand

"Really great coffee in my neighborhood with local-sourced beans." - Matthew Guay, Senior Editor & Writer.

Collectivo, Wisconsin


"Plants everywhere. Almond croissants and excellent coffee. Smoothies for my son. Also they serve beer." - Vicky Cassidy, Platform Lead.

Wish you could work from your favorite coffee shop? Zapier is hiring! Come join our growing, fully-remote team.

Coffee house image by Jazmin Quaynor.

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