Dine In A 'Free' Cafe... For Five Cents Per Minute

Ziferblat is a new cafe concept that provides free coffee, WiFi and snacks in London's swanky Shoreditch district. The catch is that you need to pay five cents per minute just to be there. A leisurely hour-long coffee break would therefore set you back $3.00 — including the coffee. It sounds like a pretty good deal to us. What do you guys think?

Photo: Ziferblat London

Billed as the "anti-cafe", Ziferblat appears to share much in common with the multi-purpose facilities you often find in large conference centres. There are plenty of plush couches to vege out on, desks and tables for laptop use and a self-service food area. (There's also a piano, which ruins the comparison somewhat.) In any event, the facility is ideal for catching up on work emails while enjoying a quick snack or coffee.

With a set rate of five cents per minute, we think the Ziferblat concept is pretty good value for money, especially when you factor in the free internet. (While it's true you can access free WiFi from McDonald's and other food outlets, there are usually time restrictions in place and you also miss out on the cushy surroundings.)

We suppose the success of the operation would come down to how smoothly it's run — if customers have to waste time queuing up for coffee or trying to connect to the internet they are likely to complain. When time is money, there's really no excuse for holdups.

The addition of the aforementioned piano is also a bit odd. It's as if they're simultaneously trying to cater to business clients and partying hipsters, which isn't the best mix. Apparently, the onus is on the customer to know how to behave, based on what others are doing.

"They don’t bother each other with loud laughs when it’s quiet in Ziferblat," the concept's creator Ivan Mitin explains. "[Customers] understand that they should help themselves with coffee and tea and they wash dishes afterwards."

That's right: clients are expected to wash up any dishes they use — while still being charged by the minute. This hasn't stopped Ziferblat from becoming a success though: Mitin has also opened nine "anti-cafes" in his native Russia and plans to expand into other territories, including New York.

“We touch upon archetypal things that are common between anyone on Earth — it doesn’t matter if you are Russian, African, European, North Korean, or whatever," Mitin says.

"Ziferblat reminds me of the idea of a treehouse — kids split together to build a small world of their own where the ‘stupid and artificial’ rules of society wouldn’t work.”

How much would you be willing to pay per minute for a Ziferblat-style cafe in Australia? Are there any existing solutions that provide unlimited free internet at an affordable price? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

The London 'Anti-Cafe' Where Everything Is Free But You Pay 5 Cents A Minute Just To Be There [Business Insider]


    So you could dash in gulp down a coffee and scoff a muffin in say five minutes and only pay 25cents?
    Yeah that business model will work.

      And if you stayed for 8 hours, it would cost you $24 but if you ate whatever they had, I suppose you could easily make that back.

        Instant coffee and no muffins? Still, hard to imagine anything other than a loss. Perhaps it's a limited time thing.

    Yeah, would recommend not introducing this into China or Taiwan.

    also the concept of everyone washing their own dishes doesn't really appeal to me. I'm happy to clean up after myself but everyone has different standards of washing up - it would be difficult for me to not pre-wash something before I use it, just because if I'm gonna put my mouth on a cup I don't want to have to trust a stranger to wash up - someone who is not in the service industry and therefore not accountable for their washing up skills.

    I'd charge a $5 entry fee, then 20 cents a minute. That's still only $11 for half an hour, or $17 for an hour. I'd include unlimited tea, coffee, milo, etc. but limit them to one piece of cake.

    And, I would have this as a VIP member area. The front of the shop would be like any regular coffee shop. The VIP members area would be off to one side. This way staff from the regular shop could keep an eye on the VIP area.

    Hmmm, I might have to talk to my bank manager tomorrow.

    I think it's important to remember exchange rates and PPP etc. One of these cafes opening in Australia may charge more.

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