How long should I stay?

Quite a number of years ago, before I was a passionate coffee drinker, I read this article in the New York Times: “How Long is it Okay to Linger in a Cafe or Restaurant?”

The question and commentary stuck with me for some time, and obviously still resonates with me.

Two years ago I really started making the local coffee shop my work space and personal space. I started drinking coffee to relax my mind and take a break from life. I started taking online classes and made the coffee shop my place to study, write, and learn. Throughout this development, I monitored my time, not out of this article’s inspiration per se, but out of a genuine feeling that a couple of hours was enough time for me.

Recently, as I have started researching and doing more business in coffee shops, I have still paid attention to the length of my stay, but now out of appreciation–I want to make sure that I am a fair and polite customer.

In this pursuit, I wanted to determine what exactly “fair” and “polite” looked like–especially given that I started to take note of others’ behavior.

“7 Rules for Coffee Shop Etiquette” and “How to Work on Your Laptop Without Being a Jerk” summed it well.

Basically, I have followed a standard that is appropriate and amenable. I have been on the right track, my instincts were on point.

How long should I stay?

  • Well, as long as I purchased something reflective of my time there–one hour means less spending expected, four hours means more purchasing expected–I am good.

How long should I stay?

  • Well, if I ‘ve been parked in my seat for some time and it’s empty, I am welcome to keep sipping my cup or sitting next to my empty cup for a little bit longer. If my seat is needed and I do not plan to purchase anything else, I should relinquish my seat, or buy something else, out of courtesy to the business and other customers.

How long should I stay?

  • Well, allow me to defer to my own high expectations. If I were a business owner, how long would I expect a person that bought a $5 coffee to stay?

This concept, this rule of thumb, this etiquette lesson, is my own guiding outline. There are no hard and fast rules, but generally speaking a coffee shop is a business, it’s not your home and it’s not your office, so make sure to treat it with respect and patron appropriately.


If there are other considerations or input to this etiquette question and lesson, please feel free to comment–often times there are multiple ways of answering behavioral questions.

On the Merits of Coffee Chains

  • Dunkin’ Donuts
  • The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf
  • McDonald’s McCafe
  • Peet’s Coffee and Tea
  • Starbucks

You know them.

You know their logos.

You know their colors.

You know what to order.

I am a huge advocate of local coffee shops.

I travel and search for the best local coffee shops. It is within the family-owned business, within the truly local scene, that you get a more personalized experience. It feels like your business not only means more in these places, but it has the ability to do more. Finally, it’s in these venues that you can explore the culture of a community. Locals patron local venues.

That all being said, there is something truly wonderful about coffee chains. I will not promote these brands with the same pomp and circumstance as Mothership, or Sunrise, orĀ Affogato, but I will say that coffee chains are valuable and beautiful in their own right.

Coffee chains have standardized decor, menus, and processes, so you are quite guaranteed the same experience, and taste. Coffee chains are more likely to have drive-thrus, so you can keep yourself moving. Coffee chains are more likely to have rewards programs, so you can feel a little bit better about spending money on your morning cup of coffee. Coffee chains are by definition, everywhere–if I’m going to work, if I’m on vacation, or if I’m at my mom’s house, I know that there’s a preferred chain nearby–I know where I can get something I definitely like to drink.


These chains, by being ubiquitous, give you options. If you love a particular drink, but dislike a barista, or the parking situation, or whatever about that particular store, you don’t have to give up that coffee drink you love–you just have to hop over to a different location to savor the same coffee in a better environment, which ultimately enhances the taste.

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There’s nothing wrong with a coffee chain.

I want to find the unknown location, the hidden gem, or the new hot-spot because it’s different and new. However, I do not condemn, or completely shun, coffee chains.

I like that there are certain places I am guaranteed to find wherever I go. That is security, and security feels good.

There’s no need to scour a menu or hope for a good recommendation or worry about the price. I know what I like, what I want, and how much it’s going to cost. That translates into even more security and comfort, even more of a good feeling.

What else is neat, arguably better, about coffee chains? Sometimes I find a new place and I think it’s only available to me for now, but then I discover it’s a chain within a specific region. That is an awesome surprise!

Places like Philz Coffee, Blue Bottle, and Dutch Bros. I originally thought were local gems have grown into, or been discovered to be, smaller chains. I don’t have to only be in *insert specific city* to patron this particularly awesome locale.

Smaller chains provide a measure of novelty as well as security–they may not be near me, but I’m traveling this summer and two of my favorite smaller chains, unavailable to me at home, are available during my travels and that’s exciting! If I want the comfort and assurance of great coffee, I already know where to go.

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Each coffee shop, even each chain, has its perks and pitfalls. So, there is always room to explore and grow as a coffee drinker.

For instance, seasonal drinks: I love when new drinks or season-based drinks come out. It’s something to look forward to, or crave, even if it’s just temporary. It’s a way for a coffee chain to entice me to them–above all others–for just a few months.

The merits of a coffee chain are plentiful, and it’s okay to go back and make sure that our preferred drink from *insert favorite chain* in Ontario, California is just as good in Henderson, Nevada.


So I say go ahead and have your standardized, reliable cup–a cup you can get anywhere in case of an emergency. Enjoy the smaller chains, know you are special to live or be in a place where this brand has been established. When you travel, find comfort knowing that a big chain, or smaller chain, is available to you to fulfill your coffee needs. Relish in that feeling, enjoy that experience.

It is an amazingly secure and comfortable feeling created by a menu you know and trust. I can’t deny it, and that’s why coffee chains, big and small, are actually kinda magnificent.

Yes, coffee chains, you have my full love and support. Cheers to you!


Thank you to all the coffee chains for giving us all something so dependable in our hectic lives.


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