A cafe in Brooklyn is trying out a different kind of payment structure: It’s charging per minute rather than per drink.
The cafe, named Glass Hour, opened in Williamsburg on August 26. Customers can consume all the drinks and snacks they want for free, and play the cafe’s video games, board games, and foosball. The catch is that they’re paying for the time they spend.
Glass Hour customers check in when they enter, and check out and pay before leaving. The full first hour is fixed at $6 — whether you spend two minutes or 55 — to ensure that grab-and-go customers don’t run off with super-cheap coffee. If you just want a quick cup of joe, it’s cheaper to go elsewhere; but if you’re staying longer than an hour, the unlimited granola bars, candy, tea, and coffee you can grab make that $6 worth it.
After the first hour, you’re charged 10 cents a minute, and if you stay longer than four hours ($24), the rest of the time you spend there is free.
If you’re hoping to plant yourself in a coffee shop and work all day, it’s obviously cheaper to sit in a Starbucks and just order one coffee. But you wouldn’t have access to board games or video games, and Starbucks locations in New York City can get congested at certain points in the day.
If you’re a full-time freelancer looking for working space, renting a spot in a coworking space in New York would also be cheaper on a monthly basis. Many cost $250-275 a month, and come with free coffee and storage space. But as a cafe, the pricing model is similar to the daily rates of some coworking spaces, which usually cost around $20-30 to use.
The metered pricing model isn’t unique to Glass Hour. Ziferblat, a Russian coffee chain that runs on the same payment structure, launched in Moscow in 2010. The chain now operates in 14 locations across Europe — it opened opened a London branch in 2014, a Manchester one in 2015, and two cafes in Liverpool in 2016 — so there’s obviously a market for it.
But will it catch on in New York? Allow me the tired, but appropriate cliche here: Only time will tell.
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