THE proliferation of coffee shops in the CBD is stimulating a resurgence in the practice of blending work and pleasure.
Take a coffee break in any of the many outlets on St Georges Terrace during the working week and, more than likely, you’ll find yourself sipping an espresso with an executive or a macchiato with a manager, both of them engrossed in serious business talk.
Meeting over coffee might not be a new concept but doing business this way is becoming more common in Perth.
And it’s not because more people are craving caffeine.
A combination of declining meeting rooms along the terrace, where office space is at a premium, and a decision by the City of Perth in 1985 to allow retail to open, have played an integral part in a coffee shop boom that started about five years ago.
Now, a new genre of coffee shops has opened – funky little coffee outlets located in the foyers of office buildings.
They join neighbouring coffee outlets in taking advantage of the out-of-office meeting.
But why the decline of in-house meetings?
According to leasing analysts spoken to by WA Business News, it’s a combination of factors – primarily the open office design, the tech boom’s ‘casualisation’ of the workplace and a council eager to promote foot traffic along St Georges Terrace.
According to NSC Corporate director Jeremy Dalton, meeting over coffee is the result of people being forced to find new meeting grounds, rather than craving a good cuppa.
“We’re seeing commercial tenants going to open floor plans,” he said.
“Before, we had a manager with an office and if they had a client come into the office they would meet in their office. Now you’ve got more people on the floor but there are less meeting rooms.
“Tenants are saving costs and saving space, so when someone wants to meet it’s a matter of saying ‘let’s go have a coffee’.”
And while there have been numerous coffee shops open along the terrace in the past two years, office tower tenants are increasingly asking that amenities be housed in the building to act as a communal meeting room.
An upmarket, as-yet-unnamed, coffee outlet will open in the Allendale Square foyer in two months, while Exchange Plaza has plans to open a foyer-based restaurant by January.
The Woodside building’s ground floor retail stores will open in September.
The restaurants and coffee shops join the likes of BankWest Tower, the AMP Building, 182 St Georges Terrace, and QV1 to offer tenants the ultimate in meeting rooms – great coffee, food, and service in contemporary surrounds.
According to Lease Equity director Jim Tsagalis, more coffee shops are providing facilities that allow people to hold productive coffee shop meetings.
“We had the casualness of work places about five or six years ago, which was at its height three years ago and it’s diminished a bit because it saw production go down,” Mr Tsagalis said.
“Initially people felt more comfortable and it was hip and productivity went up, but then people’s attitudes dropped off.
“Now it’s gone full circle and we have coffee shops with a hub in terms of telecommunications. We’re seeing things like wireless facilities that’s allowing people to work outside of the office.”
Mr Tsagalis believes the Perth City Council has also played a role in making the ground floor of the terrace attractive for retailers.
According to City of Perth media relations manager Peter Jackson, a change to planning codes in 1985 has helped generate retail activity on St Georges Terrace.
“Previously, under an old zoning by-law, coffee shops and retail were not permitted on the terrace because it was to be a street of commerce,” Mr Jackson said.
“Things changed when the city launched its planning scheme, which was gazetted in 1985. That scheme has been replaced by a new one that came in late last year or early this year, but it continued on.
“Since 1985 there’s been a steady growth in retail.”
Mr Tsagalis said the owners of many office towers on St Georges Terrace had an intimate knowledge of the benefits of offering a retail product.
“A lot of the owners of these buildings are big trusts or institutions that have had a substantial degree of success with shopping centres and they can see a convenient offering in retail,” he said.
“I think these managers are thinking about what retains tenants. Things like lift speeds and car parking are just one of 40 or 50 things they consider.
“But I think it’s more than just offering quality food; it has to be a point of difference.”
Exchange Plaza general manager Trish Innes agreed that the focus on finding a restaurateur to open a venue in Exchange Plaza’s foyer was driven by tenants.
“It’s a demand from tenants,” she said. “They want a range of amenities for their staff and this is just one of them.
“They want things like gyms, lockers, and shower facilities for their staff.
“I think employers are being more aware about the hours people put in and want to provide a nice environment for their staff to spend the working day.”
Cino To Go is located on the ground floor of 182 St Georges Terrace and, according to Cino To Go managing director Nigel Oakey, its set up was designed to attract those who want to work outside of the office.
Unlike other Cino to Go stores, the terrace shop has a state-of-the-art boardroom, as well as power points and wireless technology available in the main cafe.
Mr Oakey said people were using the facilities to hold meetings or to work outside of the office walls.
“I think someone had a web conference in there the other day. People are definitely using it,” he said.
- More coffee shops are opening in building foyers to meet tenant demand.
- Open-office design has led to a decline of meeting rooms, prompting more ‘coffee shop meetings’.
- Cafes along St Georges Terrace have prospered since a City of Perth planning change in 1985 that allowed retail to open on the terrace.