In our shop, customers come up to the counter and order. We then take the beverage to their table. If they just come in and sit down, and don't order for 10 minutes, then I (the owner) approach them and say, "Please, come up to the counter to order, and we'll be happy to serve you." If they say they don't plan on ordering, then I say, "Well, I'm so sorry, but you have to order to stay." Think about it this way... if they get "insulted" and never come back, you are not driving away a good customer. You are driving away a bad customer. They can go to the library and camp out for free, if that's what they're looking for. I also have had people come in with OTHER SHOP'S food & beverage. Now, that's nervy! I tell them it's against health code to bring in outside items. If someone gets sick, I wouldn't know if it's my food or someone else's.
I dont say anything, if they hang around enough they will probobly eventually order something. if not they may end up bringing someone who will order something. just remember if you insult someone they will go tell people who will tell people who will tell people that they employees at your shop are rude. I believe it is always better to be hospitible. sometimes i'll even offer one free drink. after that they are hooked and will be back time and time again. kindness is the best advertising anyone could do.
Why do most coffeeshops put themselves at a lower standard than a bar or restaurant??? Go in to a local bar or restaurant, hang out, don't order... see what happens. You have a business. Treat it like one. If, as an owner or a manager, you don't place yourself at least equal to a good bar or restaurant, then no one else will either. Take pride in your business, be polite, be firm, make 'em order or move on.
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