Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Department of Family and Consumer Sciences

First Advisor

Elke Altenburger


Coffee shops are a global phenomenon. They need to be understood as multifunctional spaces and complex social environments. A single coffee shop can serve diverse customers while offering socio-physical attributes that encourage remarkable ranges of parallel activities such as social gatherings, focused intellectual work, and creative endeavors. Coffee has reportedly been perceived as fueling the creative processes of many young professionals, creative entrepreneurs, and students (Attaianese, 2018). Fast-evolving communication technologies and the recent pandemic have accelerated existing questions and changed conventional conceptions about where one can do focused work, what qualifies as a place of work, and how workspaces should look and feel to help professionals and students be productive. Next to coworking spaces that have recently become prominent alternatives to traditional office environments, coffee shops started to house more working individuals than ever before (Yang et al., 2019). This case study was designed to understand which aspects of a coffee shop environment in a U.S. Midwest college town were important to patrons’ decisions to regularly spend extended time working there. My engagement as the participant observer was prolonged. I spent thirty-three hours over six weeks creating behavioral maps, tracing patrons’ locations and activities, and writing fieldnotes before conducting semi-structured interviews (Leech, 2002) with eight purposefully chosen ‘campers’ (Waxman, 2006). In a two-phase coding process, the data were coded for aspects that emerged from the data and concepts retrieved from the existing Dinescape (Ryu, 2005), Place Attachment (Waxman, 2006), and Servicescape models (Bitner, 1992) before studying prominent code co-occurrences to determine the overlapping patterns. The emerging themes were (1) working patrons preferred the atmosphere’s warm and familiar nature in comparison to the atmosphere their offices offered. (2) Working patrons enjoyed the lively acoustic environment as they believed it fueled their productivity. Campers reported appreciating (3) the combination of daylight and artificial diffused overhead lighting and (4) the casual and comfortable seating options. Perhaps most importantly (5) patrons, who primarily worked at the coffee shop, valued existing opportunities to socialize with fellow patrons and baristas as a secondary activity. Office spaces designed to mimic the described desirable aspects of the coffee shop work environment at the core of this study might help raise the recently considerably diminished interest of office employees attending their place of work in person. In conclusion, the researcher argues that the prominent aspects of coffee shop environments can and should inform current and future workspace design. To further grow our understanding of the popularity of coffee shops as spaces to work future research could address questions such as: What social affordances do coffee shops offer to their regular patrons that their spaces of work do not? Do coffee shops promote a sense of belonging in their working patrons and if so, how may this differ from patrons not there to work? Should coffee shops be designed around campers (Waxman, 2006) needs, or is the diverse range of users' and patrons’ behaviors present an important part of the appeal to working patrons?


Imported from Gwin_ilstu_0092N_12357.pdf


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