Here’s the second in an irregular series of wifi cafe and co-working spaces, written by me and my friend Laura. This time we visited the Kitchen Garden Cafe on York Road in Kings Heath, Birmingham.
I want to say first of all that the KGC is a great place. The staff are friendly, the food is good, wholesome, mainly organic and pretty good value for money. It’s comfortable and relaxed. But, is it a good space for co-working?
We arrived at 11 am and ran into a friend of mine who was already working in there. We sat in the back room because there happened to be more accessible power points in there. Here, the cafe scores well, with lots of double plug sockets near to tables; no trailing leads to worry about and the tables are of different sizes, so you don’t have to worry about taking up a big one just because there’s electricity there. It can get a little bit crowded but, to be fair, it was fine today, from 11am till about 1.30 pm.
The wifi access is simple – choose the one network that comes up and put in a password: no need to register or sign up for anything. I had some laptop issues which were my own fault, but my two companions accessed the internet fine and didn’t seem to have any problems with the signal dropping or fading.
Food is of decent value and range at lunchtime. They sometimes have skimmed milk available; if they don’t, there’s always soya milk on offer (and they popped out to get some more this time, rather than just saying they’d run out), and, more importantly, there’s a friendly understanding that that is what I need, it’s not odd, and semi-skimmed won’t do. This is slightly unusual, and to be praised! We both had home-made fishfinger sandwiches (the fishfingers are pieces of battered fish, not the breadcrumbed variety that I’d been expecting, but to be fair, I didn’t ask, they did do me a lovely sandwich without butter or tartare sauce, and there was enough filling that I could extract the fish from the batter and construct a decent sandwich).
So, a good experience so far. But unfortunately, lovely cafe as it is, with the excellent assets of plenty of power points, simple wifi access and no one hassling you to buy another cuppa, I’m not sure it’s always the best place for co-working, or indeed working. The music was quite loud when we were in there, and also – another plus in general – it’s a very family friendly place … so it was full of small children and the inevitable accompanying wails and cries. I want to stress that we are not anti-child, and it is fine that this is such a place for young families to visit and feel comfortable in. It just didn’t go, on this visit, with trying to take phone calls or concentrate all that much. I got some writing done on some draft blog posts, but don’t feel I could have concentrated on anything that immediately needed to represent me perfectly, like publishing blog posts or posting on forums.
But: I do see people in there on laptops a lot, and presumably they’re not all playing Farmville and Tetris! And I do like going there, and I’m sure it depends hugely on who else is in. And I would never want to deny the other users their space and enjoyment of this lovely part of the local community! I wonder if a solution would be to open up the room upstairs that’s used for music events, pop a table and some chairs in there and call it a co-working space. I’d certainly use it!
I will be back, to draft some blog posts or go on some online forums, but mainly in my usual incarnation as a straightforward customer (or BookCrossing lady), there to have a nice, relaxed time and a nice cuppa in a good atmosphere.
Read Laura’s post here and see what she thought of our co-working experience!