Customers Pay by the Minute at This International Coffee Chain

pay by the minute coffee shop

When you walk into the Ziferblat Café in Shoreditch, a trendy suburb of London, you’ll notice an abundance of clocks.

Those clocks aren’t just a design choice. Time is actually a very important concept at the shop. Even the name means clock face in Russian and German.

Time is so important at Ziferblat because that’s what customers are actually paying for when they go there. The coffee, tea, and cookies are free. But customers pay by the minute to sit and linger at the establishment.

The staff clocks patrons’ arrivals and exits on a time sheet. And consumers are expected to wash their own dishes at a communal sink. Then customers pay a fee, which varies per minute by location, for the time they’ve spent there.

The concept is taking off in several different countries. The first café in Moscow opened five years ago. And there are now 13 throughout Russia, Slovenia, the U.K. and Ukraine. And even more franchises are expected to pop up soon.

Founder Ivan Mitin is confident that the business model will continue to grow. He told Businessweek:

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“This project will be really successful everywhere.”

It’s definitely a different way of approaching the café business. Coffee shops are famous for attracting students, freelance workers and others who are likely to linger in seats after purchasing just a single cup of coffee.

So, while the concept could certainly result in some added revenue for the café, it might not seem like such a great prospect for those coffee shop lurkers.

However, the shop’s success so far would suggest that people like actually paying for the time they spend at a business, rather than trying to spend as much time sipping their one coffee as possible.

The model could also cut down on some of the pressure that some coffee shop patrons might feel to purchase additional items if they just need a place to sit and work or meet with friends for a set period of time.

Instead, customers can feel comfortable sitting for as long as they’d like, provided they’re comfortable paying for it.

Image: Ziferblat London


Annie Pilon Annie Pilon is a Senior Staff Writer for Small Business Trends, covering entrepreneur profiles, interviews, feature stories, community news and in-depth, expert-based guides. When she’s not writing she can be found exploring all that her home state of Michigan has to offer.

6 Reactions
  1. I think this works because people go to coffee shop to stay there and not so much for the food.

    • A lot of people definitely do that. That’s why this could turn out to be a really interesting concept.

  2. Andre Bolotini

    This concept is stupid or not according to how much they plan to charge – I, as a client, if I am not consuming, I don’t feel I should be paying. And the rest is greedy yadayada.

    • I would agree with you to a degree. But if a coffee shop only has a set number of seats and you plan on taking up some of those seats for several hours using wi-fi, etc. but not buying anything, the business can’t really succeed. I don’t know if this is necessarily the answer but it’s definitely an interesting take.

  3. This type of revenue model definitely predisposes the clientele toward higher socioeconomic status and could be highly profitable for the shop. The communal sink thing might have to be modified if it were to come to the US (health codes and such) but I could see it working very well in cities like NYC or San Francisco.