10 Coffee Shop Etiquette to Follow in the Mobile Age

Ever since coffee culture has gone mainstream, more people are flocking to café not just to hang out with their friends but also to find a place with good ambience to work or study. As mobile workers who prefer to work in café rather than office, we’ve done our fair share of café hopping. So, we came across a few “funny” characters and behaviours that we wish to highlight here.


Nope, we’re not here to judge. We broke a few “rules” here ourselves when you get too comfortable in the places you frequent. It serves as a reminder to ourselves as well to observe the coffee shop etiquette so that we don’t begin annoying others.


1. Pay attention to the barista while waiting for your drink.

Your drinks are usually served to you at premium coffee outlets but with chains like Starbucks, Coffee Beans or Pacific Coffee, you’ll need to collect your drinks from the counter. If that’s the case, don’t wander too far away or disappear somewhere to make calls. First of all, the baristas will be calling out your name in vain. Second of all, your hot drinks might get cold or other patrons might just accidentally grab yours. When that happens, you blame the baristas, ruining their day…and yours too.

2. Good coffee takes time. 

Depending on where or what you order, craft coffees do take a little bit of time to prepare especially cod-brew or French pressed. Unless you’re ordering over the counter where your coffee is already ready to be poured into your cup, you need to be patient and just enjoy watching the barista pour the milk into your cappuccino or flat white to make nice Rosettas.


3. Don’t hog the seats.

It’s particularly inconsiderate for people to be putting their laptop cases/ bags on the empty chair in busy places with minimum seatings available, usually in most Starbucks or other coffee chains. Put it behind the chair you’re sitting or on the floor instead.


When working from a café, mobile workers sometimes hog the entire table and making it their personal desk with papers, documents, plates and empty cups. It’s best to go for smaller table if you’re alone or keep the clutter to a minimum so others can sit there too.


4. Don’t trip people with your wires.

It’s wise to sit nearer to the plug if you need to charge your laptops or tablets or phones. Just because your charger has a long extended wire doesn’t mean you can trip people who passes by. Besides, you also risk having your gadgets damaged if it fall to the ground when someone trip on the wires while you’re charging them.


5. Keep the noise to yourself.

If you’re going to be listening to music or watching some YouTube videos, you might want to bring along your earphones or headphones. Imagine how much noise pollution you’ll cause when the cafés are already filled with people chatting and music playing in the background.


6. Don’t use up the bandwidth and slow down the Internet for everyone else.

Some people choose to work in cafés because the Internet at home is either down or they urgently need to get some work done quickly in the midst of being mobile. When you download huge files or stream movies, you’ll slow it down for others. Be considerate. Observe the crowd in the cafés and if you notice quite a number of them are using their laptops, you might want to stop any kind of streaming or downloading.


7. Clean up your table a little. 

Not all the waiters and waitresses are paid to clean up your tables. If it’s clearly stated self-service or if you’re served along with the tray, you could just clear the table up and place it back to the counter or designated spots for dirty dishes. If orders are served to you, the least you could do is to not leave any food crumbs, used tissues or spill on the table. Keep it dry and clutter free so it’s easier for the waiters or waitresses to clean it up. 


8. Don’t make people watch your stuff for too long.

I know it can be frustrating when you’re at the café alone and have already set up your laptop ready to work when nature calls. You can always ask for the baristas or the friendly patrons sitting near you to watch your stuff. But if you’re unsure as to how long you’re going to take especially if the washroom is located at the other end (usually happens in a mall), then it’s best that you just pack up and leave. Alternatively, exchange numbers with the person watching your belongings so they could at least contact you if they have other matters to attend to rather than spending time staring at your stuff.


We had an experience once in Starbucks when we were asked by a lady to watch over her laptop. We had another appointment and we had no idea she took so long. She was gone for almost 30 minutes. We were getting anxious as we weren’t sure if we should hand this responsibility to another person. She came back shortly after 30 minutes mark. We weren’t happy but we didn’t have the time to give her a lecture, so we just packed up and left for our appointment.


9. Keep your furkids away from food and drinks.

I know some cafés are pet-friendly and you’re allowed to bring along your pets. Being an animal lover myself, I’m very supportive of the idea that you could bring along your furkids when you eat out. However, we need to know our pets well as to whether or not it’s suitable for us to bring them out. If you do have your dogs with you, make sure they’re nowhere near to counter or the tables when food is served. Once we were at this café and there were three huskies lying at the bottom of the table where their owners were sitting. When they were making a move to leave, the huskies got up and one of them shook. We could see the tiny fur floating towards our table. We quickly covered our dishes before we have additional “ingredients” landing on our meals.


10. Don’t be a cheapskate! Buy something or more!

When cafés begin to limit Wifi usage and power outlets, we can pretty much tell the reason behind this. Once, I was at Starbucks to meet with a group of people for discussion. There were five of us but only my partner and I ordered Frappes. The discussion went on for over two hours. I started to get embarrassed and placed another order. Thank to those cheapskates I was overdosed with caffeine that day having already drank two cups earlier.


There’s no fast rule here but it’s a courtesy to purchase something additional like another cup of coffee or some light snacks or desserts if you’re going to stay for over two hours. Typically I prefer to go for brunch around 10.30 a.m., then continue to work ordering additional cup of coffee or a cake until around 12.30 p.m. and leave before the lunch crowd pour in. If I have the intention the stay longer, I would just have my lunch there as well.