This post is part of a series examining how café owners can expand their business by hosting events.
Living Room of the City: Meeting Rooms
While some café venues are dedicated to entertainment and celebration, others are more focused on providing practical meeting space.
Before starting Atmalogy in Nashville, Tennessee, Heather Riney traveled the world teaching yoga. “The cafés were just my favorite place anywhere I went,” she says.
After yoga classes Riney attended, participants often headed to nearby cafés to discuss their shared experience. “So I wanted that, where you could have an experience or go to a workshop, and then hang out in a café,” Riney says.
When Atmalogy opened in 2013, Nashville didn’t have anything like it. The building used to be a house, and it now centers around the café and sprawls into six rooms that can be reserved, starting at twenty-five dollars an hour. The smallest room holds no more than three people, and the largest holds up to seventy-five. Spaces are used for everything from baby showers and kombucha-making workshops to meeting spaces booked by coaches and small business owners.
Spaces are used for everything from baby showers and kombucha-making workshops to meeting spaces booked by coaches and small business owners.
Atmalogy charges a fee to reserve their workshop and event spaces, but in Salem, Oregon, Broadway Coffeehouse offers meeting spaces for free to customers. They’ve found this model to encourage more traffic to their shop and allow them to be a hub for community meetings—a valuable asset in the state’s capital city. The shop houses four conference rooms, each with a table and eight chairs. “We don’t charge for our rooms, but we ask that you be a customer of the coffee house,” says manager Luke Glaze. Rooms are popular with government officials and the school district, as well as with students and businesspeople.
Atmalogy and Broadway both strive to be community meeting centers. “Our desire is to see our space as the living room for our city,” Glaze says. Being a resource for the community has resulted in increased awareness and business for both Atmalogy and Broadway, and both shops find that customers discover them because they first attend a meeting there, and then return later just to enjoy the café.
When it comes to managing the gathering spaces, Atmalogy and Broadway take a hands-off approach. For most of Atmalogy’s rentals, guests book online, show up, and then leave, with little to no interaction with staff. Occasionally, large events will require catering and some staff involvement. Some spaces are rental-only, but others are mixed-use, so the availability of certain spaces varies. “To help customers understand which parts of the café are available, an event schedule, created by a local artist, takes up one wall of the café, illustrating what’s happening where,” says Riney.
At Broadway, room reservations are exclusively online. “Our system of having it be automated is really helpful for us, otherwise people would have to be answering phones. The amount that you can reduce that, especially when not charging for a room, is helpful,” Glaze says. Because rooms are free with the purchase of café goods, the staff regularly combs the lobby, looking for customers who could potentially be using the spaces.
—Kaitlin Throgmorton is a freelance writer based in North Carolina.
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