Cafes competing for space in Sydney's CBD are not only places to enjoy a creamy latte away from the drudgery of a desk job. Many of the coffee shops that have sprung up around the city centre are dedicated to meeting the demands of an increasingly mobile workforce.
In Busy Meeting Grounds: the Cafe, the Scene and the Business, sociologist Eric Laurier of the University of Edinburgh looks at the features of cafes that draw us to them. “Good coffee, as a certain sort of urban stimulation and intoxication, is one of them," he writes. The buzz, of course, is another. Going to the cafe, as a change of scene, is an opportunity to switch the computer off, get some fresh air and fresh ideas.”
Sydney lord mayor Clover Moore says she doesn't often get the chance to escape from her office but when she does venture out, Bill & Toni's (74 Stanley Street, 9360 4702), on the fringes of the CBD, gets top billing. Ms Moore says catching up for coffee has become inextricably linked with the way work is done in many city firms and she loves seeing people getting out of their offices and meeting at cafes around the city.
“Holding a business meeting at a cafe is healthier than being cooped up in the office all day and is a good chance to recharge the batteries,” Ms Moore says.
Sydney College of Etiquette founder Treska Roden agrees cafes have become an important part of casual catch-ups but believes many delicate or confidential business matters should be discussed only behind the closed doors of a conference room.
As for the etiquette of orchestrating a private meeting in a public space, Roden has an exhaustive list of do's and dont's.
“The golden rule is you must ensure your mobile phone is switched off. You should also be conscious of other diners when you are talking and be mindful you are in a public place,” says Roden, whose grandmother owned a finishing school in Europe.
“Don't talk so loudly that other people can hear your conversation and never talk disparagingly about anyone, as you never know who might be listening,” she says.
Roden believes appropriate etiquette during a "catch-up over coffee" – no matter how informal – is integral to making a business meeting a success.
She encourages management at city firms to treat wait staff with courtesy and respect and to book out-of-the-way tables outside peak trading times so there is less distraction during the meeting and limited disruption to other diners.
“Yes, a cafe is a change of scene for corporate workers but city workers must understand that being outside the restrictions of their work role in the office does not mean they can behave as if they own the space,” says Roden.
“You will not build a promising corporate relationship if you are being rude to the staff or gossiping loudly about colleagues or rearranging the furniture with zero regard for other patrons. Be kind and courteous to all,” she says.
She says as well as being held at a mutually convenient location, the choice of cafe sends a strong message to associates about you and your business.
Top five cafes to conduct business meetings in Sydney's CBD
This intimate space pulls a caffeine-fuelled corporate crowd because of its central location, moody Euro-inspired interior, muffled music, pared-back menu and unpretentious vibe. Expect to see everyone from a certain pony-tailed chef to big wigs from the nearby courthouse. 185 Elizabeth Street, Sydney, (02) 9283 7098; bambinitrust.com.au [Neil Perry did recommend this one]
MECCA ESPRESSO CBD
Named The Sydney Morning Herald's Best Cafe in 2011, this place equates to heaven for your average corporate caffeine addict. It is also an obvious place to propose or discuss your triple-bottom-line approach to business, which is in line with the cafe's commitment to seasonality and sustainability. 67 King Street, (02) 9299 8828; meccaespresso.com
Bacco Pasticceria, on the ground floor of Chifley Plaza, is a magnet for the sombre-suit and sober-tie brigade who want to brainstorm business ideas away from the dreary routine of the office. Choose a private booth and order piccolos, paninis and pastry treats. 3/2 Chifley Square, (02) 9223 9552
DOUBLE BARREL COFFEE MERCHANTS
Dare to demonstrate Sydney's sophisticated cafe scene to visiting Victorian business bods at this city espresso bar. As well as celebrating Mark Dundon's Seven Seeds coffee from Melbourne, the seating out the back is conducive to hanging about for robust espressos and rounds of reuben sandwiches. Wi-Fi is on its way. Shop 3, 33 York Street, (02) 9290 1616.
This conveniently located cafe, which is all white walls, modern decor and natural light, serves homey scones, smoked salmon bagels and gluten-free banana bread. The street-side Wi-Fi-enabled venue welcomes the mobile workforce and the Single-O special blend coffee is enough to keep the creative juices flowing for an entire morning. 488 George Street, (02) 9266 2000