I am just wondering how you all handle the people who come in just to hang out or have a meeting without purchasing anything. They also have no intention of purchasing anything and get insulted when you suggest they need to buy something.

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I just walk to the table and say "How about a latte? We make the best in town, you won't be dissapointed!" Usually that gets the point across without insulting anyone.
Depends on the situation I guess, If there's a group of people who have all ordered something each and someone comes to join them and doesn't order then i leave them off. But we had 3 guys who used to come by the cafe frequently, and sit at the outdoor seating and have a little meeting and they kept looking like they were coming in to order and never did, so we eventually told them they had to order first before sitting. We now instill this policy with everyone... its a lot easier!! :)
I would come to the table and ask, "Is there a drink I can get started for you?" If it's a repeat problem, I would kindly ask them to at least get a bottle of water or a cup of coffee, reminding them that you gotta pay for the lights and rent somehow. Just be cool about it. If they react poorly after that, you have every right to ask that they respect your business and maybe go somewhere else. But, in everything tactful.
We used to have people come in to have like Amway meetings and other salesman, where they would come in, set up a mini-office, and people would come in and meet with them, but no one would ever order anything. And I finally had to have that conversation with them. They were cool about it, bought something, but never came back and oh well. The bottom line is that it is a business, and you have to pay the bills somehow.
Not run across that too much. Most times a group will take 5-10 minutes to assemble and come up and buy something after introductions. More often they'll have a laptop and come in to use the wifi without buying anything, in which case we boot them off of the network. When they ask about it, I tell them that they need the access code printed at the bottom of their receipt. Most will then begrudgingly buy a small coffee, which they then charge on their @#$% Visa Rewards card. Thanks.

A stop at the table with a tactful "can I get you something", repeated every 10 minutes or so, should suffice. They are welcome to feel insulted if, on your second or third visit, you inform them that your tables are for customers. If you've approach the situation reasonably, a reasonable person should not have any problem. Its not "customer service" unless you are dealing with a customer.

Obvious exceptions if you have good paying customers that have nowhere to sit. In which case, your responsibility is with your customer. Kick the freeloaders out!
Thanks for all the imput I have tried most of the suggestions and in the area I am in people feel they are entitled to a free place to have meetings and just hang out. I am part of a chain of owner operated stores and we are all having the same problem. On the up side though we also have some of the best and loyal customers in the area. Thanks for the insight and a place to vent.
I think people feel more entitled to hang out at a chain than at an independent shop. All the suggestions here are pretty good, so I would just say ditto. However, when I approach the table, I politely ask "Hey Guys, what can I get you today?" as in it's not an option. This seems to work better than the more passive "Can I get you something?" but again, be very polite and upbeat. 9 out of 10 times that works.
I'm lucky enough to work at a shop with a TON of room. But you know what, come 9:30-10:00 at night, we are full of students. At this point we start going around and hitting up the people that are camping. We just let them know that we are starting to get busy enough that they are taking up customer space with non-customer space, "Either you can buy something or we are going to have to ask you to leave so that people that have bought something can have a place to be." We never have any problems with this approach. Other than that, we figure if someone is just sitting, but we have 12 tables open, who cares. As long as they are not getting in the way of a customer, at least for us, it doesn't matter.

-Bry

The Barista Formerly Known As JavaJ said:
I think people feel more entitled to hang out at a chain than at an independent shop. All the suggestions here are pretty good, so I would just say ditto. However, when I approach the table, I politely ask "Hey Guys, what can I get you today?" as in it's not an option. This seems to work better than the more passive "Can I get you something?" but again, be very polite and upbeat. 9 out of 10 times that works.
Bring out your favorite dirnk and say "that will be $_____" enter price there. :)
Being in a college town this happens a lot. But if there's plenty of room to sit down at, then I don't mind people freeloading on the space. It's kind of like a club letting the first so many people in the door for free. But I do purposely walk by them with mouth watering creations in my hand and intentionaly hold it a little lower so that they can see it. Most of the time they end up buying a drink when they leave. If I know for sure that they're constant freeloaders and there's hardly a place to sit. I bring out the secret weapon. That crazy customer that's always there and can talk and talk and talk and talk. I do a quick chat with the freeloader, get there name and then say, "hey ____, have you met loco before?" Then let the customer do my dirty work =P
Oh Man! My favorite subject!! (being sarcastic of course!!) I own a coffeehouse in a "Shopping Village"where everyone thinks they can use my coffeehouse as the "public bathroom" for their shopping at other stores and as the "waiting area" for other restaurants! I approach the "(non)customers" by saying what everyone else says, "What can I get for you?". If they say they are waiting for someone, then I say ok. Usually, they will order after the person gets there. If not, they get the hint and leave.

My approach is this: If they have any etiquette, they will order, if not -- it's no sweat for me to remind them that they need to buy something in order to stay. If you lose this '(non)customer'...again ...no sweat.
Cedric said:
...I bring out the secret weapon. That crazy customer that's always there and can talk and talk and talk and talk. I do a quick chat with the freeloader, get there name and then say, "hey ____, have you met loco before?" Then let the customer do my dirty work =P

THIS IS GREAT!!! Gotta remember that one.
Hey Brady, are you using WebBeams for your receipt code printing, or do you have a different solution?

Brady said:
Not run across that too much. Most times a group will take 5-10 minutes to assemble and come up and buy something after introductions. More often they'll have a laptop and come in to use the wifi without buying anything, in which case we boot them off of the network. When they ask about it, I tell them that they need the access code printed at the bottom of their receipt. Most will then begrudgingly buy a small coffee, which they then charge on their @#$% Visa Rewards card. Thanks.

A stop at the table with a tactful "can I get you something", repeated every 10 minutes or so, should suffice. They are welcome to feel insulted if, on your second or third visit, you inform them that your tables are for customers. If you've approach the situation reasonably, a reasonable person should not have any problem. Its not "customer service" unless you are dealing with a customer.

Obvious exceptions if you have good paying customers that have nowhere to sit. In which case, your responsibility is with your customer. Kick the freeloaders out!

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