Photo shows the new Golden Bean café in Luxembourg-Kirchberg
As cafés grapple with a sluggish post-lockdown return of customers, one café chain owner has an ace up his sleeve: co-working.
When owner of the Golden Bean chain Felipe Carrillo was approached to rent a 165m2 space in the Infinity project in the European end of Kirchberg, Carrillo hesitated. The space was much too large for a café. But, what if he could diversify?
“People who come to work in a coworking space want a more chilled ambiance and coffee goes well, studying and work. Many of the clients in our coffee shops came to work or study,” the Colombian entrepreneur told Delano.
The café, his seventh, which was expected to open in 2019, finally opened its doors at the end of July 2020. The coworking space followed two weeks later. Spanning three floors, including a mezzanine, the space offers closed and open desks for up to 40 people, and office services like printers and high speed internet. On the ground floor are cosy meeting hubs, which are also accessible to the general public. Carrillo hopes to secure one or two startups or small businesses that may serve larger companies in the district but which cannot afford the rents there.
Photo shows the first floor co-working space of the Kirchberg Golden Bean café. Photo: Golden Bean
It is a tricky time to open a business, even in normal times, with many would-be customers on annual leave. Covid has not helped. “Even within the gastronomy sector cafés were harder hit,” Carrillo said. “People were very careful about hygiene and safety measures. If they have to go to work and can’t work from home, they still need to go for lunch. But they don’t need to go for a coffee.”
The thinking behind the expansion of his chain of cafés since the first one opened in rue Chimay in 2013, was to spread the costs through scaling up. But, now he said it is spreading the problems. “In this context, having seven cafés is a problem to the power of seven,” he said. The main issue is the rent. “Some landlords are understanding, others defer your payment but still you have to pay. If you’re closed up to 3 months, that adds up.”
Carrillo acknowledges the lifelines offered by the Luxembourg State in the form of partial unemployment, particularly when he considers the devastating impact of covid-19 on his native Colombia where his parents still live.
And, like many entrepreneurs, he is seeking solutions. He does not believe that the pandemic will kill off co-working and is pushing ahead with a second space above his Brussels café. This site is expected to launch later in 2020. At the same time he is developing e-commerce applications to sell coffee beans.