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Looking at Value from a Different Perspective – Lessons from a Little Russian Hipster Anti-café

23 July 2014

A friend shared an interesting article with me the other day about a new type of café that has opened in London – “Ziferblat”. Ivan Mitin, an “entrepreneur” (I use the word carefully as his quest seems to be more of an socially idealistic one as opposed to one driven solely by profit) has successfully opened a chain of what he calls “anti-cafés” in Russia and he has now turned his attention to trendy Shoreditch. His anti-cafés provide people with a place where they can “build a small world of their own where the ‘stupid and artificial’ rules of society don’t work”. So how do these anti-café’s challenge societal norms? Well, they do not charge you £2.60 for a chai latté and £5.60 for a toasted, roasted vegetable flatbread I.e. the products that they have ‘for sale’. Instead, they charge you for the amount of time that you choose to spend in their establishment: relaxing, chatting and potentially planning social revolution. For £1.35 you could spend 45 minutes in their environs, helping yourself to a hot drink, fixing yourself a snack from food in the cupboard and chatting to your friends on your laptop using their wifi.

When I first read the article the initial ‘oo’ came from the prospect of a free, uninhibited, different kind of space that would be full of cool people being supercool, but as ever, my thoughts quickly turned to lean and the revelation that Ivan has created an enterprise around a completely different, untraditional perception of customer value. Indeed, he states “It feels like people [in London] are much more tired of consumption and really happy not to be “clients” anymore”. He’s empowering people to be in charge of themselves in the café environment. The customer-supplier transaction that is taking place is merely providing the right kind of creative, comfortable space upon which “clients” can act however they like (I imagine, within reason!). Payment takes place aligned to customer value – the amount of time that people wish to be privy to this creative space.

It’s genius! When I think about what I value from a café, yes, it’s great to have a well crafted cup of coffee, but actually, what I really appreciate is the time to stop, have a chat with a friend, to sit in a pleasant (for that read trendy.. however I realise that the very use of the word trendy somewhat raises an eyebrow on my ability to fit in with the hipster scene) and so paying ‘by the minute’ to be part of such an “anti” space would be very appealing.

Of course, I haven’t seen Ivan’s accounts, I haven’t even visited one of his cafés, so I cannot attest for the success of such a ‘business model’, but it definitely made me think.

Within service, increasingly IT is used to provide the ability for customers to ‘self serve’ and Ivan is doing just that – providing a ‘self serve’ café experience which puts the price on what people really value – time. Have a look at the service you provide. Are you putting a price on the superficial value visibly provided? Are you missing the identification of what customers actually care about from your offering? Can such a revelation help you to innovate within your business model? Is there an opportunity to provide more ability to “self serve”, empowering your customers to truly feel in control and a participant within the service?

You can read the original article here: