Coffee Shop Etiquette Rules You Need to Follow

9 Coffee Shop Etiquette Rules You Need to Follow

When you sit at a table to organize your bills or get a jump-start on work, is it OK to spread out? Even if you mind your manners at work, online, and when speaking on the telephone, proper protocol is increasingly important during casual encounters, too. Here’s how to polish up your coffe shop graces.

Yes, you can answer the phone

Yes, you can answer the phoneISTOCK/MONKEYBUSINESSIMAGES
If you’re alone at the coffee shop and your phone rings, it’s OK to have the conversation without going outside. Of course, you’ll want to keep your voice at a reasonable level. “Also, keep the call as brief as possible and watch the body language of those around you to make sure you’re not bothering anyone,” says Elaine Swann, a lifestyle and etiquette expert in San Diego. “But it’s perfectly fine to take the call. Modern society has created an environment—free Wi-Fi, charging stations—to do this.” (Related: Here are times when calling is actually better than texting.)

Take long, loud conversations outside

Take long, loud conversations outsideISTOCK/TODOR TSVETKOV
Although most calls are acceptable to take inside a coffee shop, let common courtesy prevail. If circumstances necessitate you raise your voice—such as when speaking through a bad connection —the call is personal, or you plan an extended conversation, it’s proper to move outside. “Respect, honesty, and consideration are the guidelines you should always follow,” she says. (Related: Follow these little etiquette rules when dining at a restaurant.)

Don’t hog extra space

Don't hog extra spaceISTOCK/JACOB AMMENTORP LUND
Yes, coffee shops are designed for those who want to work and read, but it’s always a good idea to minimize the amount of space you use. “Don’t get there, spread everything out, and make others feel they can’t join you,” Swann says. “It’s absolutely important to make an effort to compartmentalize your space.” (Related: These are the most annoying coffee shop habits, according to Starbucks baristas.)

Ask before you plug in

Ask before you plug inISTOCK/PEKIC
Sometimes plugs are not convenient to your seat. Ask before you plug your computer, cellphone, or other device into an outlet near someone else. Sure, the outlets are for everyone, but it’s polite to ask before reaching across someone else’s table.

Buy something

Buy somethingISTOCK/STURTI
Yes, coffee shops are business-friendly but respect the owners enough to understand they are businesspeople too. Support it. “Don’t ask for water and sit there all day,” Swann says. “Buy something. And if you’re there for a long period, buy a second cup of coffee or a muffin.” Wi-Fi, electricity, and the space cost money. So support the business, especially at a mom-and-pop coffee shop. (Related: Check out these 10 weird facts about coffee.)

Don’t let children run wild

Don't let children run wildISTOCK/CATHY YEULET
It’s fine to have your child accompany you to the shop, but don’t expect employees to babysit. “The coffee shop is a public establishment with the same guidelines as a restaurant,” Swann says. Reasonably quiet voices in a confined location are in order.

Step out of line

Step out of lineISTOCK/PEOPLEIMAGES
If you haven’t decided on your order when you get to the counter, allow the person behind you to order. “Say ‘I honestly haven’t decided’ or ‘I can’t find my list’ and allow the other people to go ahead of you,” Swann suggests. “Don’t hold up the line.” (Related: Get answers to all your important coffee questions.)

Don’t try to change the coffee shop to suit you

Don't try to change the coffee shop to suit youISTOCK/TODOR TSVETKOV
If the music is too loud for your taste or the tables are too close together, don’t ask staff to change it to suit your preferences. “Instead, look for a coffee shop that better fits personality,” she says.

Treat employees with kindness and courtesy

Treat employees with kindness and courtesyISTOCK/G STOCKSTUDIO
As your mother no doubt taught you, you should always say please and thank you. And if you’re a regular, go the extra mile and get to know the staff. “Learn your barrista’s name and ask her about herself,” Swann says. “Try to remember to ask if someone had a nice vacation or if a baby nephew was born. Treat people with respect.”

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