London's First Pay-Per-Minute Cafe: Will The Idea Catch On?

londonVicky Baker, The Guardian, January 8, 2014

Ever felt you've overstayed your welcome in a cafe, by reading, working or surfing the web while hugging the latte you bought two hours ago? Pay-per-minute cafes could be the answer. Ziferblat, the first UK branch of a Russian chain, has just opened in London (388 Old Street), where "everything is free inside except the time you spend there". The fee: 3p a minute.

Ziferblat means clock face in Russian and German (Zifferblatt). The idea is guests take an alarm clock from the cupboard on arrival and note the time, then keep it with them, before, quite literally, clocking out at the end. There's no minimum time. Guests can also get stuck into the complimentary snacks (biscuits, fruit, vegetables), or prepare their own food in the kitchen; they can help themselves to coffee from the professional machine, or have it made for them. There's even a piano – an idea that could seem brilliant or terrible, depending on who takes the seat.

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Ziferblat has opened 10 branches in Russia in the past two years and now wants to take the idea worldwide. With hostels, hotels and cafes around the world often filled with people either working remotely or enjoying some downtime online, the market for expansion is certainly there. The "coffice", we're told, is the way of the future.

Owner Ivan Mitin says during the first month of the UK opening, they have already drawn in some regulars. "Londoners are more prepared for such a concept; they understand the idea instantly. It's funny to see people queueing here to wash their dishes. It's not obligatory, but it's appreciated. They even wash each other's dishes. It's very social. We think of our guests as micro tenants, all sharing the same space."

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Eight days into 2014, Time Out has already declared Ziferblat "a contender for best opening of the year". But what do you think? Does the idea appeal? Does £1.80 an hour sound like good value? Would you feel more relaxed, or more under pressure with a clock by your side? Let us know in the comments below.

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