Independent Coffeehouses Understand Their Market

Yesterday I ran into Valdis Krebs. Valdis is a well-known figure in the world of social networking analysis.

Cafe CrawlSeeing him reminded me to write about an intriguing trend. Look at this photograph to the left and tell me what you see that is strange.

If you see that everyone in it is looking at some kind of digital device, you’re correct.

In today’s environment, savvy coffeehouse owners are offering wireless Internet service to accommodate technophile customers like these, who wouldn’t be caught dead without their digital appendages (OK, maybe that’s a bit of an overstatement, but you get my drift).

And most of these technophiles insist that wireless access be free.

The photo was taken by Valdis on a recent tour of coffeehouses in Cleveland that offer free wireless Internet (wi-fi) service.

Valdis and intrepid bloggers/wi-fi enthusiasts/coffee-lovers George Nemeth and Steve Goldberg spearheaded the tour, which was last week. It turned into an all-day event. Our intrepid bloggers were met along the way by other local bloggers who stopped and joined in for a cup. The whole event was blogged and podcasted and captured in digital photos posted to Flickr. And captured in print by journalist Chris Seper (himself a blogger although on hiatus), in a Plain Dealer piece:

“They strapped on their notebook PCs, iPods, digital cameras and mobile phones (complete with wireless earpieces) and blazed through a dozen cafes on the coffeehouse circuit….”

Valdis pointed out to me that with the exception of Panera, all the coffeehouses that offer free wi-fi are independents…local small businesses. Most of the chains charge for wireless Internet access. In this it seems that the local independent coffeehouses understand what their customers want, better than the chains.

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Anita Campbell Anita Campbell is the Founder, CEO and Publisher of Small Business Trends and has been following trends in small businesses since 2003. She is the owner of BizSugar, a social media site for small businesses.

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