Closer Look: SF Coffee Shop Finds Success By Going Unplugged

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS 5) – Coffee culture is known for camped-out customers leisurely sipping elaborate espresso drinks as they web surf, but a San Francisco shop owner is trying to change that dynamic, and bring the focus back to basics.

Owner Jeremy Tooker has taken the unusual step of unplugging Four Barrel Coffee. Wi-Fi has never been offered. Customers looking to plug-in their gadgets will find only a fake outlet stenciled on the wall.

Table turnover is brisk and the menu is as old school as the vinyl albums that crank through the house. Patrons will not find any double half café mocha lattes. Tooker is a coffee purist, so the coffee is simple but delicious. He also wanted a café with an active atmosphere that encouraged lots of conversation.

“It was designed with that in mind. If you look at the tables, they are narrow. If a couple sits at a table for two they have to talk,” said Tooker. “The chairs aren’t terribly comfortable. That was a conscious decision for turnover. That keeps things interesting.”

In is not secret that people gather daily in cafes everywhere to worship their chosen caffeinated concoction, and to surf, text, read, and write emails. But some café owners feel these customers are not just hogging cyberspace, they are taking up valuable seating space too.

They come, they order and they stay, turning their table into a mini office.

This is a cup of conundrum for owners like Tooker who operate independent cafes in high rent cities like San Francisco and New York. One table and one coffee for hours can equal lost revenue, lots of the lost revenue.

“It’s a very lively product. It’s caffeine. It is supposed to make you social. It is not supposed to make you hide behind a computer and tap away,” he said.

Tooker doesn’t turn away customers who do bring computers and cell phones inside the café. He recognizes that his business model is not for everyone. Other coffee shops in other cities are following his lead.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved.)

  • Fidel Lecer

    Thank God!
    I was always sick of those people sitting there forever expecting utmost silence, for their “office” in the middle of the coffee shop.
    Did you ever get a look from those people just because you were talking in a coffee shop?????

  • greg

    This has been the case since 2008 when it opened. I’m not sure why this is news three years later.

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