One of The Woods Coffee shops with a room listed on eVenues
Ever since the days of the Ottoman Empire, coffeehouses have had a rich history as meeting places. These coffeehouses made their money by providing a beautiful free space for people to meet and to work--provided that they bought a beverage or some baked goods. Customers enjoyed the luxury of these "free" spaces with the understanding that the cost of using the space was included in the price of each cup.
This business model has been the standard deal for nearly five hundred years. So when Wes Herman, the founder of The Woods Coffee, started charging customers to use a room in one of his shops, it seemed unthinkable.
So far, however, it's proven to be a success.
Story of The Woods Coffee
The Woods Coffee is a chain started by Wes Herman, his wife, and their four teenagers. Over the last ten years they've become a fixture in Bellingham, WA (Pop. 81,000) having built over 12 stores (it'll be 14 by the year's end) within a 20-mile radius from eachother. They have, in Wes' words, "become the local go-to product that allows people to have an alternative to some of the bigger coffee giants."
Of those 12 shops, the Boulevard Park coffee shop, is one that they're most well known for. It's located in a public park 10 feet from the Pacific Ocean and has been considered by some of the leading coffee trade magazines as one of the best coffee shops in the world.
An Extra Revenue Stream
While most coffee shops are considered free meeting places (provided that you get a muffin or mocha, of course), Wes decided to convert the Kiln Room at the Boulevard Park shop into a private conference room, because, says Wes, "it was so close to the water and such a unique site that people would want to come down and utilize this space. So we created it in such a way where it's completely private." Wes set the room up with a large table, 12 leather reclining chairs, as well as a 42-inch screen with hookups for whatever presentations might be needed.
View of the Ocean from the Kiln Room
So far this experiment has proven to be a success. In addition to the extra revenue from rental fees, those utilizing the space usually order drinks and food from the shop. Thus, it becomes a two-way opportunity to generate income.
Benefits to the Community
And it's not just The Woods Coffee that has benefited from having this meeting space, but the local community as a whole. "We get emails from folks that say they love the space because it's so unique," says Wes. "It allows them to kind of unwind--get away from the regular pace. We've actually used the room for small weddings. People have multiple day events there where they'll be there for three straight days staying at a hotel nearby."
Wait a minute...weddings? It was hard to believe a wedding would ever happen in such small space.
Wes explained: "A coffee shop is one of those places where people meet for the first time because it's an easy first date and sometimes it turns into a lifelong relationship and they want to culminate that with a wedding in our space because that's where they first met."
Yes. More than one wedding has been held here.
Managing the Space with eVenues
Despite the benefits, both to the business and to the community. Managing a meeting space is, after all, a distraction from the day to day business of running a successful local coffee chain. This had led Wes to look for an online service that would allow him to easily manage bookings. "We didn't necessarily want to take phone calls during the day. We didn't want to have to deal with the collection of money. So eVenues was a solution that allowed us to completely do it without any effort on our part. It allowed us to run a smooth operation as opposed to breaking up our normal routines," says Wes.
Wes told us that they typically have the store manager overseeing the bookings. They log on to eVenues to see when it's booked and then, says Wes, "it's just a matter of greeting the guests and setting them up with the space."
When I asked Wes about any issues they've had with eVenues, he said that overall his experience has been "great," but there has been the minor issue of educating customers and non-profits about discounting programs they might be offering but that overall, "It's been so easy. We don't have to worry about it...We get a check from eVenues and it's all good."
More Meetings, Not Enough Spaces
Tools like Eventbrite, Meetup.com, Plancast, and Facebook's Event Calendar have shown that technology, instead of limiting face-to-face interactions, has done quite the opposite. The one thing missing, however, are the actual spaces where all these events can take place. While happy hour gatherings might be okay for a single's party or a networking event, the lack of privacy can be a little distracting for those who need to make decisions, engage in discussions, and get things done.
Savvy business people like Wes Herman taken advantage this trend by creating private, rentable conference rooms in a places where people usually meet for free. While it's clear that Wes could have probably taken care of all the details himself, eVenues' scheduling and booking services has allowed him to focus on more important things like managing his business. In fact, when you go to the Woods Coffee website to book the kiln room, the link goes straight to its eVenues profile page.
With the growth in small meetings, there just aren't enough meeting spaces to go around. There's no reason why small business owners can't advantage of this trend.
Related Article: A Brief History of Coffee Houses as Meeting Places