Imagine a commercial cafe where customers wash the cups, cutlery and other dishes they have used in the place. Traditional Asian hosts will not allow guests to do that in their homes! The cafe can be full of alternative lifestyle types - freelancers, artists, focus groups, philosophers, etc. The first of such cafes opened in Moscow in 2010, and have extended to thirteen , mainly in eastern Europe, although there are outlets in Manchester and Shoreditch, London. The founder Ivan Mitin was only 25 years old when he commenced with a pay what you can concept - Melbourne and Sydney's Lentil As Anything Cafe operate on such a basis - to the current pay by the minute when you are using the cafe. Staff clock in guests as if they arrive to a factory or office for paid work.
The average stay by a guest at a Ziferblat can vary. If you stay for 5 pence a minute in the UK, that amounts to only about four Brit pounds for around 80 minutes, which is around the price of a barista coffee. At Clock Face, which is what Ziferblat means, cookies and beverages are complimentary. What an unusual concept in retail business - but I reckon such cafes have to be located in urbanite places with hipster crowds that make individuals want to pay for hanging around an establishment. It may also mean degrading the significance of the coffee served!
Would it work in the Antipodes? Maybe for groups, formal and informal, requiring a central site to gather and promote their work. Political associations, artists and students with a purpose have always sought such a location in history past. Are such people seeking attention to be seen or heard? The usual conference hubs have charged both for venue and food in the ubiquitous pow-wows held so many in this modern age. The difference with the Ziferblat business model when compared with convention centre sites is that the former is more relaxing, offers a simpler setting, offers a cosy atmosphere and works like a private house gathering of friends than conference delegates who don't even chat with each other.
Customers at Ziferblat can even be encouraged to bring their own food. Hold it, it is beginning to sound like a shared picnic party. Maybe this underlies the casualness of it all. Asian cultural norms would see guests being invited to a home, but in today's Western infused modern urban society, groups of people who know each other increasingly prefer to meet outside the home. Would Gen Y cohorts bring their connectable gadgets and pay for time sitting in a Ziferblat cafe? Most probably not, the purpose after all is to engage, converse and communicate with the other guests around you.
How viable is such a business model? People in history have gathered at watering holes, fine dining places, community canteens and public squares without ever having to pay money for time spent.
It may not work on sleepy islands where nothing much happens. It can only thrive in population centres where trade, energy and creativity are at high activity levels. Such cafes can be the new destinations for corporate groups undergoing training and required transformation.
I reckon this is an interesting experience for all visitors to Europe, to sit in such a cafe and experience the notions and reality of things turning upside down in their expectations and perceptions. Yes, this has emphasised the value of time, personal, community, employer and family time. It shouts silently in every one's face that time is precious, irreversible and really, is priceless.
It has recognised that time is a limited resource, have economic value and can be bought and sold like a commodity.