When you want to get out of the house and work in a new environment, many head for the local Starbucks. Starbucks locations are easy to find no matter where you are, and the experience is consistent. Jazzy music, dark earth tones, small tables, limited non-coffee […]

When you want to get out of the house and work in a new environment, many head for the local Starbucks. Starbucks locations are easy to find no matter where you are, and the experience is consistent. Jazzy music, dark earth tones, small tables, limited non-coffee menu and sparse outlets. The reason we’re there is the reasonably reliable TMobile Hotspot wifi priced at $6 for an hour, $9.99 for 24 hours, or monthly plans starting at $29.99 if you commit to a year. Minor ambience or menu changes aside, you know what you’ll get when you walk in, even if you’re in a new-to-you Starbucks in a new town.

Here are a few other franchises that offer the essentials of web working: wifi, food/beverages, power outlets and no one expecting you to leave the minute you finish whatever you’ve ordered to eat or drink.

Panera Bread. According to Panera’s website, there are 940 locations across the country that offer free wifi. This is primo web working territory if you have a location near you. It’s certainly my first choice. There are a wide variety of table configurations in its large dining rooms, from booths, bar stools, square and round tables and couches so you can settle down as you feel comfortable. The lighting is excellent. The menu is a wide variety of breakfast/lunch foods. I don’t know if this is specific to our local Panera Bread, but at the Princeton, NJ location I go to there is a corner of the dining room that is particularly web worker friendly. A bit more isolated from the rest of the dining room and two, count ‘em two power outlets. The wifi is free, as are the fountain drink and coffee refills. My only complaint, and once again this may be the particular location, is that the music is played too loud. Headphones are a must and phone calls are best taken outside.

Borders Books. If you have a T-Mobile Hotspot account and you’re tired of fighting for a table at Starbucks, then head for your local Borders instead. Most, if not all of the cafes are Seattle’s Best Coffee shops now, still T-Mobile hotspots. Lighting and access to power outlets will vary widely location to location, but tend to be much better than Starbucks. Expect to have to leave for lunch, as the non-bakery foods are not very good. If you are near Penn Station/Madison Square Garden in Manhattan, the Seattle’s Best Coffee cafe on the 2nd floor of the Borders next door is particularly comfy for web working. And you have the added bonus of being able to flip through a real, live book during down time.

Barnes & Noble. These bookstores have wifi by AT&T FreedomLink. Monthly services starts at $19.99 per month, which is more reasonable than T-Mobile. For those not wanting to make a monthly commitment, you can buy prepaid access in smaller increments. Many Barnes & Noble stores now have their cafe in the center of the store, so while the location is good for a quick check of email over coffee, it’s not ideal for extended stays. I’ve yet to see an easily accessible power outlet close to the cafe in any location, but that’s doesn’t mean it’s not possible.

McDonalds. I suppose there’s no point in commenting about the quality of the food, is there? If you’re used to surfing with a latte at your side, this isn’t where you want to head. However, if you have watch of the kids and you’re on a deadline, the time spent at a McDonald’s with your laptop might not be terrible. Definitely hold off unless there are no other options. Pricing is reasonable compared to other not-free services, at just $2.95 for 2 hours.

Cosi. Cosi is more of a lunch place than a coffee shop, with locations primarily in the Northeast and California. The wifi is through Surf & Sip, and has been free since the middle of 2006. Lighting is not as good as it could be, and the few locations I’ve been to have been very noisy. Not my first choice if a Panera Bread can be found.

Admittedly, these are franchises with locations in the Northeast United States. Do you have any coffee/lunch franchise shops to recommend in your part of the world? Share in the comments.

  1. [...] * WebWorkerDaily: Forget Starbucks, check out these other Web Worker friendly franchises that offer everything from great bread to good Wi-Fi connections. The names on the list will seriously surprise you. [...]

  2. [...] Worker Daily compiled this list of 10 franchise establishments where web workers can do their thing. The list involves cafes (Starbucks, Cosi, Panera Bread) and [...]

  3. in Ahmedabad, India, there is a place called Mint. You get good snacks, food, mocktails, and red bull. The wi-fi is from icenet, and is free.

  4. Judi,
    There are a number of great free wifi locations in the Princeton, NJ area. My favourite is the Panera Bread (Nassau Park, West Windsor) but I can also be found at Orpha’s Cafe near Route 206 and 518 in Skillman.

  5. Caribou Coffee has free wifi: they’re a chain in the US southeast, but I think they have locations elsewhere too.

    Another option: skip the chains altogether and check out your local owned coffee shops and bookstores. Most of them offer wifi, and many of them are a little more relaxed about how long you setup shop. More importantly: you can get to know the company, and possibly have an in for a contract job down the road: hard to say that about Starbucks.

  6. When it comes to coffee… Go local!!!

    The coffee is almost always better and the wi-fi almost always free!

  7. Franchises That Are the Web Worker’s Best Friend

    When you want to get out of the house and work in a new environment, many head for the local Starbucks.

  8. You guys are right, the privately-owned local shops are great. But there are some national chains that are pretty good (like Panera) and it helps to know exactly what you’re gonna get before you walk in the door and that’s what I was trying to highlight.

    I’ve found that it’s more than the free wifi. Lighting, noise level, square tables (can’t stand working at those small round tables at Starbucks) and power outlets are key for me.

    Khurt, that’s exactly the Panera I was talking about. I know there’s another one across from the University, but the one at Nassau Park has easier parking. :-) I didn’t realize Orpha’s had free wifi. I love that place for, of all things, the coffee!

  9. If you are in the Lansdowne, PA area, Go straight to Regency Cafe.
    Great food, great coffee and espresso, and free wi-fi.

  10. [...] Franchises That Are the Web Worker’s Best Friend [Web Worker Daily] [...]


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