Targeting the wandering workforce. A laptop, cell phone and a grande latte are all you need to set up a mobile office at any Starbucks. When it’s time for lunch, McDonald’s and Panera Bread offer burgers and paninis along with wi-fi hot spots. But most professionals in search of a quieter, more business-like setting—perhaps with meeting space and classier food—have to settle for hotels or pricey executive centers.
Enter the Corporate Café. “It’s a niche no one else was filling,” says Brian Boeger, founder of the Olathe, Kansas-based concept, “kind of a merge between Starbucks and Applebee’s, complete with full business services.”
Corporate Café’s business theme includes TVs displaying streaming stock quotes and business news programming. Patrons can hook up laptops to plasma screens at every booth and view polished Powerpoint presentations while they enjoy NYSE Biscuits and Gravy or AmEx Steak. A private room offers space for large meetings and an on-site business center features free computer stations, copying, printing, faxing, mail and even notarizing services so contracts can be signed and sealed on the spot. While there’s a full bar on the premises, customers also come for the “executive blend” coffee roasted by a local company and a chef-driven menu at breakfast, lunch and dinner.
These perks are music to the ears of the work-from-home crowd, which numbered 20.7 million at last count, according to 2004 figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Add to that the throngs of road warriors who carry their offices with them, and you have a solid customer base.
Boeger says that groups are now booking meetings five days a week months in advance and a second Corporate Café is under construction in Kansas City, Missouri. It will feature more private meeting rooms.
What’s next? “I hope to develop six to nine more locations in the near future and eventually reach 20 to 25 operational restaurants in the next three to five years,” says Boeger. With a flexible prototype that can vary from 1,000 to 9,000 square feet, he can target locations as diverse as airports, urban business districts and suburban lots. That means more choices for hungry workers to meet and eat—wherever their travels take them.
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