Since Adam first chatted up Eve, humans have had an unquenchable thirst for interaction. We are social animals, dependent for our very existence on relationships and communication. And the need for a public gathering place—a warm and friendly environment in which to visit and talk, is as vital as ever. While many social conventions have fallen by the wayside in today’s tech-driven society, we still need a meeting place. Enter the modern café.
It wasn’t too long ago that the public house reigned as the social headquarters of choice—at the end of a hard day, workers could stop in for a pint and an hour of engrossing conversation—but the balance of power has shifted in recent years, and coffee shops are the new pubs. How did this happen?
The London Telegraph, in a recent article, lists a number of reasons why the British have been forsaking pubs—one source claims thirty more shut their doors every week—and embracing cafés. A 2007 smoking ban dealt a devastating blow to pub attendance; the rise in technology has kept more people at home in the evening; recent health reports on the consumption of alcoholic beverages have made an impact on the drinking populace. But the biggest factor may be the nature of the socializing demographic itself—simply put, it’s not just made up of men anymore.
Influence of Women on The Makeup of The Social Scene
Interestingly, the Telegraph also noted that the number of coffee shops in England was expanding in record numbers despite the nation’s coffee consumption (which has never been notable, given its famous preference for tea) remaining steady.
The Brits aren’t drinking more coffee, they’re just visiting more coffee shops. And what was once a crowd of blokes toasting each other with pints of bitter at the end of a working day has become something radically more gender-balanced.
Women are working more, earning more and spending more than ever before in history, and today’s working woman (particularly those with a family in tow) tends to prefer the coffee shop to the bar. A recent study found that half of women choose the coffee shop as the ideal spot for a first date; half of men, on the other hand, prefer restaurants.
The Ultimate Third Place
By now most of us are familiar with the concept of using a local coffee shop as a makeshift office. Most of them offer Wi-Fi, spaces are sunny and comfortingly alive with activity, and a caffeine refill is close by. And the café’s universal appeal as a natural workspace is just one more factor that may be tipping the scales for patrons who would otherwise head elsewhere. Consider how any member of the rapidly-growing self-employed demographic armed with a laptop finds herself with everything she needs to spend an entire day at the coffee shop: delicious food and beverage, an internet connection, heat, bathroom, social stimuli, and a central location for casual meetings with clients or for connecting with friends.