Coffee is an integral part of college and professional life so it’s best to know how to navigate the many situations you will encounter in your favorite coffee shop. From meeting friends, to dates, to interviews and meetings, coffee shop etiquette is a skill that will not go unnoticed. Get ready to ace every coffee encounter from now on, with these tips for the most common situations.

The First Time Meeting

Whether it’s a date or meeting a friend of a friend for the first time, this is a pretty casual meet-up.  Coffee shops are a great place to meet up with someone without the time-commitment of a full meal and in a setting that helps keep the conversation moving and casual. Whoever gets there first should grab a table and either get a drink right away or wait until the second person arrives. If you arrive separately, you can just pay for yourself. If you both get there at the same time you can offer to pay, but don’t feel obligated. If they offer to pay, feel free to accept. That being said, picking the coffee shop can be the tough part here. You don’t want a place so small or popular that you won’t be able to find a table, but you also don’t want one so empty that it will be uncomfortable. Take the area agreed upon by you and your coffee date and scope out a few places before the meeting to get a sense of the vibe and people who are inside.

*Whenever choosing a coffee shop for a meet up, make sure you note things like “cash only” and give your coffee date a heads up.

The Networking Meeting

This is a more professional meet-up and you should act accordingly. Arrive a few minutes early to save two seats and a table if possible. You can either get your coffee now or wait for the person you’re meeting to show up. As for paying, if they are meeting you out of their way to lend some friendly advice, you can offer to pay. If this is an interview, they may offer to pay. Don’t make this a big deal, if they say no to your offer, let it be. If you accept theirs, thank them and move on. You don’t want who-pays-for-who to become the longest or most memorable part of your meeting. This is also not the time to eat breakfast (eat something before to avoid the off-putting stomach growling). Remember that whoever you are meeting is likely higher up in their profession than you are and their time is valuable. Be attentive and prepared with information and smart questions (not ones you can find the answer to with a quick Google search or on the company’s website). Be mindful of how much time has been allotted for this meeting. If your date has offered a “quick chat” or hasn’t made it clear how long they plan to stay, be sure to give them an out after about a half hour.

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Photo Courtesy of Stumptown Coffee Roasters

The “I’m Going to Sit Here All Day”

Sometimes the library just won’t cut it and you find yourself hauling off your books and yourself to your nearest coffee shop to camp out for the day. If you plan on taking up a table it’s important to pay your dues to stay on good terms with your barista. The rule of thumb is to buy something for every 2 hours you spend working. The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Coffee Etiquette says “no” to turning on your computer volume, so always use headphones. It’s totally acceptable to ask someone to watch your things (but watch this person for a while before entrusting them with all of your belongings). Finally, don’t bring outside food in. Some snacks are fine (think trail mix or fruit) but in general, don’t take in food from home or from other restaurants.

Now you can sip your soy latte and relax because you’re going to ace your next coffee encounter. You never know who you might meet in a coffee shop, they could become your best friend, your boss, your significant other or your favorite barista!