A new London cafe is offering customers Wifi, tea, coffee and more for just 3p a minute. The so-called "anti-cafe" format has proven successful in Russia — but how will it fare in the UK?
We’ve all been there. You buy a coffee and drink it as slowly as you can just so you can linger in a cafe for as long as possible. Well, no more. Ivan Mitin, an author-turned-entrepreneur from Moscow, has chosen the British capital as the location for the newest branch of Ziferblat, a chain of Russian “anti-cafes”. The concept behind Ziferblat, which means clock face in Russian, is that customers pay for their time rather than their tea. In exchange everything else, from unlimited coffee and biscuits to Wifi, is included in the price.
The innovative pricing model means that customers pay just 3p a minute to hang out at the cafe, with a maximum payment of £9, to stay as long as they like — a bargain compared to most other co-working spaces in the capital. On the lower end of the scale there’s Google Campus in Old Street, offering free Wifi and a paid-for cafe, while the cheapest membership at Impact Hub, which has branches across London, is £90 for 30 hours a month with coffee and tea paid for separately.
Ziferblat’s pay-as-you-go attitude is just one element of Mitin’s overall vision to create “free spaces” (he prefers this term to anti that foster conversation and creativity among strangers — no small feat in London. The idea, says Mitin, was born out of a somewhat utopian dream. “I wanted to create a place where people could, above all, be open with each other. Without alcohol and without the commotion of a nightclub.”