10 Questions – Laneway & Co

Walk into any of the North East’s independent cafés today, and what strikes you is just how many people are using them to do more than drink coffee. Creatives and freelancers use cafés to work on projects and many business people use them as a meeting place. In light of this, Richard Dawson reached out to Nick Birss, owner of Laneway & Co, to see what his thoughts were about this caffeinated trend

Firstly, what does it take to run a successful café here in the North East?

Consistency, time and a dedication to quality. With a cafe, from experience, time invested early on is much more valuable than money.

What are some of the main challenges doing business in the world of coffee?

Independent cafés face very similar challenges to the rest of the high-street brands. Rising costs of doing business, whilst still providing a quality product at a convenience level price point is an ever-testing challenge.

How do you set yourself apart from the global coffee brands who dominate the market?

We set ourselves apart by being transparent about providing a higher quality product, greater product knowledge and a more genuine experience than you can find in the corporate chains. People visit a cafe for the whole experience, the coffee is just one part of that. The setting and the interactions with staff are just as important.

Why do you think such a thriving café culture has emerged in the North East in recent years?

I personally feel that over the last 5-10 years people have travelled more, been more mobile with work and experienced other cultures where speciality coffee is further entrenched into popular culture. As a result of this when returning to the North East, people look to seek out the quality and type of business they had experienced in places like Australia, New Zealand and the west coast of America. This brought demand for this sort of business back to the North East slowly but surely, and businesses rose to meet this demand.

What proportion of your customers would you say come into the café to do work or for business purposes?

We get a fair amount of people coming to the café to do work or hold business meetings. This has increased since we opened our basement space, but I think despite our size, our locality to nearby offices lends us to being a good place to hold a quick mid-morning meeting.

Why do you think people prefer to do work in a café rather than the office?

I think for some people they just like to get away for a bit. The office, even if it is a place of work, can be a distracting environment. A café can provide a place for you to work undistracted for an hour and drink some great coffee too.

Do you think people will be more or less productive working from a café?

I think it depends purely on the person, we have some customers that swear by an hour to themselves with their laptop away from the office. And we have others that grab a quick coffee on their way to the office in the morning and that’s our only interaction with them.

Do you think giving people the opportunity to use the café as an office increases your revenues?

It is definitely a positive for turnover. We upgraded our Wi-Fi to fibre and extended into our basement to provide extra seating for that reason. Generally, when someone is coming to the cafe to get some work done, they need a lot of coffee, and we are more than happy to provide it.

Are there any potential drawbacks to people using cafes as a place of work?

Of course, you get the occasional person who grabs one coffee or a cup of tea and sets up shop in the corner with their laptop for hours. Usually for a café that’s not necessarily a bad thing as they usually fill out the space during quieter points of the day. However for us, as we have a very limited amount of seating it can pose an issue.

If you could say one thing to the people who come into your café for business purposes, what would it be?

Keep coming! We will be delighted to keep fuelling your meetings and brainstorming sessions.

Laneway & Co