Why Do Coffee Shops Close So Early? (Fast Facts)

Outside the big cities, coffee shops have always closed early (I first noticed this during my college days when I wanted to study in them). So why is this?

Coffee shops close after serving their main market of morning and daytime coffee drinkers, who come in early for coffee before work or study, and then return for lunch. By late afternoon and early evening, most people do not want to drink coffee so cafes and shops begin to close.

Let’s dive down into the subject of coffee shop closing times in more detail, and discover what hours they open, when and why they close, and how long is acceptable to stay in a coffee shop when working, studying, or simply enjoying a coffee…

Why Do Coffee Shops Close So Early?

Why Do Most Coffee Shops Close So Early?

There are various reasons why coffee shops close earlier than, say, bars and restaurants. The main one is that by late afternoon and early evening, we’re ready to move on from coffee. It’s time for a meal, and many coffee shops don’t provide this sort of menu.

Then there’s footfall. Coffee shops are there for busy office workers, parents with young kids, students, shoppers… This tends to be a daytime market, so the coffee shops are located near office buildings and malls.

By the evening, with everything in the area closed, there’s no passing trade for the coffee shops.

They also open early to serve us those essential early morning coffees, so closing early makes sense, especially for smaller businesses that don’t have the staff to work in shifts.

What’s The Normal Time For a Coffee Shop To Close?

Unless you’re somewhere like NYC, coffee shops normally close early in the evening, sometime between five and seven pm.

By this time, the stores and offices are closing. We’ve all had our morning fuel and our afternoon pick-me-up, and many people prefer not to drink coffee into the evening in case it prevents them from sleeping.

What Days Are Coffee Shops Busiest?

Generally – and of course, we can’t speak for every business or neighborhood – a coffee shop’s trade varies across the week.

According to Google Maps stats, Saturday mornings are super-busy, while Tuesday afternoons are the quietest time to visit a coffee shop.

Busy times vary between the week and the weekend. Saturday morning is a popular time for a coffee, generally between 9 and 11 am. There’s another splurge around mid-afternoon, between two and five. Saturdays are busier than Sundays.

During the week, peak periods are 7-10 am then 12-3 pm. Yep, that seems to fit well with our working day and caffeine needs! We’re not sure why Tuesdays are a bit quieter, but bear that in mind if you don’t want to queue…

How Long is It Acceptable to Stay in a Coffee Shop?

This is what we all want to know. Can we just move in to our favorite coffee shop, like someone out of Friends? With their comfortable seats and lingering aroma of coffee and cake, the coffee shop sure is an appealing place to hang out.

Well, much as all coffee shop owners and managers aim to create a homey and inviting ambience, truth is, you’re not really meant to treat it like your living room. 

Aim to leave half an hour after finishing your last cup. This should really be the maximum lingering time (and this 30-minute slot includes paying and using the bathroom).

If the coffee shop is almost empty, the staff may be more chilled about you staying a little longer. However, if it’s busy, even half an hour is too long.

Can You Sit in a Coffee Shop Without Buying Anything?

This is a clear no. The coffee shop is a business, its role is to serve food and drink to customers, and it doesn’t double as your own personal hang-out.

As well as not supporting the business, people who hog tables are also preventing other potential customers from using the coffee shop.

But – and this is a quite significant exception – Starbucks does have a no-purchase policy. People are welcome to sit in its restaurants and use the restrooms without so much as a single shot of espresso.

We’ll look at Starbucks’ unique approach in just a moment. However, in general, if you want to sit in a coffee shop, you need to be a customer, and that means that you have to purchase something.

Can I Sit in Starbucks All Day? (If I Want To Study?)

Back in 2018, Starbucks announced a new policy. Called the “Third Place Policy”, it aims to create a “warm and welcoming environment where customers can gather and connect”.

The new policy goes on to say that “Any customer is welcome to use Starbucks spaces, including our restrooms, cafes and patios, regardless of whether they make a purchase”.

The customer has to abide by certain standards of conduct, but provided they aren’t disruptive, they are free to sit in the restaurant all day.

This new policy came not long after Starbucks caused an uproar over the treatment of two Black men wishing to use the facilities. Starbucks later apologized and changed its policies.

If you want to study in Starbucks, you can be their guest. Just be considerate towards others while you’re enjoying the WiFi and the comfy seats.

How Long is It Acceptable to Stay in a Coffee Shop?
How Long is it Acceptable to Stay in a Coffee Shop?

Can I Work in a Coffee Shop All Day? (On My Laptop)

As we’ve just discussed, Starbucks welcomes people who simply want to hang out there, so if you have a local branch, it’s a good place to pitch up with your laptop. What about other coffee shops? 

Most places want you to make a purchase. Provided you have something to eat or drink, you can generally stay for a few hours. Four hours seems to be seen as the max, and a whole day really wouldn’t be appropriate in most venues.

You’re also expected to “top up” your purchases. So, order a fresh coffee every half hour to hour, and maybe add lunch if you have the funds. Never bring in your own food. If the place starts to fill up, pack up your laptop and free up the table.

Some places have an unwritten etiquette about using your laptop on the premises: don’t take up a whole big table, be courteous to other guests who might need to share, and certainly don’t take phone calls or hold Zoom meetings. This is simply common sense and politeness.

Other establishments have stricter rules, such as time limits and certain tables. This can actually be better, as you know exactly where you are and what’s expected.

Even if you’re in the “working zone” of the coffee shop, don’t expect anyone to look after your stuff if you go to the restroom, unless you’ve come with a friend.

What about meetings? Most coffee shops welcome informal work meetings, provided you all have at least a coffee. Just be mindful of other users: don’t get too loud (however exciting the topic), and remember that you never know who might be listening…

Here’s a look at how not to work with your laptop in a coffee shop

Conclusion: Why Do Coffee Shops Close So Early?

So it seems that outside the biggest urban areas, and unless you’re in the ‘third place’ that is Starbucks – coffee shops will close pretty early and expect you to buy something – rather than using their facilities as an extended lounge.

The coffee corporates aside, I think this is fair play for all those smaller artisan cafes and coffee shops that have to make a profit and have staff wages and other overheads to pay.

The truth is, most people don’t want a shot of caffeine later in the day, so that’s why coffee shops close up and give way to the evening bars and restaurants.

So let’s all make sure we support our local independent coffee shops when they are open during the day. 🙂