Let’s meet for coffee, carbs and confusion

HTWB StarbucksWelcome to, potentially, the latest business device since “we must do lunch.” This is the 21st century incarnation of the 19th century German Kaffeeklatsch, which as we learn here was …

“gossip over cups of coffee,” 1877, from German Kaffeeklatsch, from kaffee “coffee” (see coffee) + klatsch “gossip” (see klatsch).”

THE living-room in a German household always contains a large sofa at one side of the room, which is the seat of honor accorded a guest. At a Kaffeeklatsch (literally, coffee gossip) the guests of honor are seated on this sofa, and the large round table is wheeled up before them. The other guests seat themselves in chairs about the table. [Mary Alden Hopkins, “A ‘Kaffeeklatsch,'” “Boston Cooking-School Magazine of Culinary Science and Domestic Economics,” May 1905]

Is this the new, austerity-program alternative to the lavish 20th century business lunch?

We’ve all heard the old line about the fact that there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Given that lunches can be expensive, it’s an understandable business maxim.

But coffee? Even in the fanciest and most elaborate coffee house in London, Paris, Rome, New York, Los Angeles, etc., the price of one or two cups of extravagantly named java still will not exceed that of even a simple lunch in the same neighborhoods.

And healthy minded folks that we all are, when we’re doing a “let’s meet for coffee” experience even in the most tempting of locations, of course we say no to the luscious KrispyKreme donuts or Tim Hortons goodies or Starbucks pastries or Costa munchies or any other such unfashionable carbohydrates because of course we don’t touch those, do we…

Let’s meet for coffee: advantages

Not nailed down to any particular time of day or night. Coffee can be consumed not merely in the morning to wake people up but right around the clock, provided that they are happy to tap-dance energetically when most others are shutting down for the night. Cheats who want to seem equally wired on caffeine can sneakily order decaf (but be warned: even decaf can contain a little caffeine.)

No matter how much you have consumed, you won’t lose your driver’s license for it. It may not give you the same hit as alcohol but it’s off the police’s radar and won’t give you quite the same hangover as booze.

Makes you seem like a health enthusiast even if you aren’t. Arguments about the health values of anything from coffee to heroin rage on in the media, but if you tend to stay on the coffee side you’re likely to pick up good brownie points for your efforts. Customers and prospects will like you for that, even if they think it’s all bullsh*t.

Let’s meet for coffee: disadvantages

HTWB PWW main in-post logoIf you work in a hard-nosed sales environment, meeting for coffee is going to be about as welcome to your sales efforts as a f*rt in a spacesuit. Getting a sale is hard enough without fannying around over a bitter cup of quasi-Italian sludge and a high-carb donut that whips your prospect up into a blood sugar delirium and consequently, a bleary view of your sales proposal.

Coffee meetings are random, and so have a way of messing up your neat and tidy scheduling of customer meetings and appointments. Lunch is easier because normally it happens in the middle of the working day, so it’s easier to plan around.

Depending on which country you work in, coffee can involve a number of different time frames, and if you get those wrong you could well be up for the high-jump. In the UK, coffee traditionally is taken in the morning but elsewhere in Europe and in North America, folks drink coffee pretty much any time.

And be warned: if you are  dealing with the more traditional types in England, don’t destroy your business chances by asking them to meet you for coffee in the afternoon … even if it’s at The Ritz. (The Ritz offers a much more attractive option anyway.)

What are your experiences with this current trend of creating business meetings over coffee? Please share!

And mine’s an Americano with cold milk, please.

While you’re here, don’t forget to stop by my Bookshop…books and eBooks to help you write better – and to give to friends and family (don’t forget the Holiday Season is coming soon)…

photo credit: Hryck. via photopin cc




  1. Sadly I gave up drinking caffeine drinks yonks ago, however I still meet business associates and potential clients for ‘coffee’ as it’s a neutral space and most often convivial. Sometimes it’s even productive too 😉

    • Glad coffee meetings work for you, Lynn! Yesterday morning I had two coffee meetings in a row and by lunchtime I was so wired I could have been hitched to the National Grid and powered a small town for the afternoon. Tip: if you do lots of coffee meets take Lynn’s advice and avoid caffeine drinks…

  2. Unless it is a decent venue then forget it – can’t stand the coffee chains for anything other than train station convenience…dinner is always my preference 😉

    • Dinner is lovely, Sarupa, but it tends to be pricier than coffee and cookies. Also tricky if you have kids/dogs/cats/partners/etc. to feed in the evenings. And from what you say about coffee chains, you obviously haven’t been to a Canadian Tim Horton’s coffee emporium…! 😉

  3. Love the reference to the Kaffeeklatsch, although that was only ever for women and even now men don’t attend a Kaffeeklatsch, purely because they don’ t gossip – yeah right 😉