My colleague Adam Taylor recently wrote about Ziferblat, an “anti-cafe” in London’s trendy Shoreditch neighbourhood where you don’t have to pay for any items.
Instead, you pay by the amount of time you spend there.
So while passing through London this weekend I decided to check it out and see what it’s really like.
Shoreditch has a similar vibe to Williamsburg in NYC. There are lots of young people, trendy bars, designer pop-up shops, and coffeeshops.
Ziferblat is very easy to miss. You have to press a buzzer with a tiny sign to be let in.
After the door opens up, you go up two narrow flights of stairs.
This is what it looks like when you walk in. The box on the right is where they keep their money.
When you get inside, a host explains how it all works. The host gets you to a seat, and tells you there’s a kitchen off to the side where you can pour yourself coffee or tea and serve yourself cookies and toast. The host also explained that they charge 5 pence per minute, though for now since they just opened it’s all by donation.
It was super-crowded inside, and most of the folks there seemed to be in their early 20s. The vibe felt similar to when I lived in a coop in college. One guy was strumming a guitar (lightly).
My table had a clock on it, which makes sense, since one pays by the amount of time they’re there.
This is the kitchen. You can see the assortment of breads and crackers (and a roll of toilet paper strangely).
On the shelves in the kitchen were trays you could take.
And here’s how you served yourself drinks.
The kitchen was a bit chaotic in part because they only had one person doing things like refilling the water in the teapot and replacing supplies and that created a bottleneck.
But overall it was a very pleasant experience. Probably the biggest difference between this and a normal coffeeshop was that the vibe at Ziferblat was one of relaxed conversation between friends, whereas so many coffeeshops are filled with people sitting a lone staring at lap tops. Again, it had a chill college house vibe. Apparently there are a number of these in Russia and Ukraine, and judging by the throng of young people there it seems that the model could be quite popular elsewhere.
After about 45 minutes there, we had to go. But I left 10 pounds in the donation box.
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