People visit different kind of cafés everyday, for a cup of coffee before work, catch up with a long lost friend, or to get a quick bite. We visited different kind of cafés to see if these kind of public spaces defines itself as a space of encounter, being a place were you can also meet new people, from different age, culture and wealth classes. As Vancouver is known for its diversity and inclusion, we wanted to see if people really had this image of Vancouver and if the concept of these cafés stimulated these places as a space of encounter. And if not, what kind of idea the community of Vancouver has to improve cafés and Vancouver in general as a space of encounter.
Enjoy this music to feel the café vibe!
Save on meats
Save on Meats a is diner located at East Hastings. They serve “Family Style” meals to reduce waste and encourage positive socialization over food in a retro style diner, but you can also casually drink a beer with friends in the late evening hours. Next to providing affordable meals to a diverse group of customers, they also collaborate with A Better Life Foundation providing meals to support some of the city’s most vulnerable and equip recipients with the nourishment and strength to persevere through challenges most of us will never know.
“These meals are not just critical to survival, they contribute to the success of continued education, active recovery, positive social experiences and much more. More than a resource for people outside of ours walls, the preparation and execution of these meals provide meaningful employment for folks in our community – the majority of which identify as having been or being marginalized themselves who we need to keep employed and supported amongst full business closures in our industry” – A Better Life Foundation (2012)
To support homeless people in the community, Save On Meats provides special diner tokens, which can be bought by guest during their stay. These tokens can be gifted to people who cannot afford to buy a warm meal themselves and they can hand it in at Save on Meats for a nice warm meal. Next to this, this cafe hires people with a rough and complicated background providing them with a fresh start to build up a stable live. Additionally, they also organize special events during the evening to include and welcome people in the community, for example a drag show. Therefore, Save on Meats welcomes a diverse group of customers and supports diversity and inclusion in the community.
Click here to visit their website: https://saveonmeats.ca/
Click here to visit the website of A Better Life Foundation: https://www.abetterlifefoundation.ca/
The entrance of safe on meats. Rick’s radio station is located next to the entrance and is called Save on Radio. Scroll down to see who Rick is.
Save on meats as a retro-style diner.
Revolver is a coffee spot located in Gashtown. One side of the café is considered the socializing area containing benches across each other for friends to talk (see photo). The other side is more used for people to work, read and concentrate. This side has tables including sockets for people to charge their laptop. This especially attracts student and working people to study or work here, next to the fact that there is also public WiFi. Due to the prices of the coffee (about 3.50-5.00CAD) and clean interior, it is considered a more fancy coffee place.
“Revolver is about two things: Coffee and the experience that should go with it. Our coffee program is simple, but precise. All drinks are made fresh to order – after you order it, never before – from a rotating menu of our favourite coffees from world class roasters around North America and beyond. We like being consistent, so we measure and weigh every variable there is, until there isn’t.” – Revolver (website)
Click here to visit their website: https://revolvercoffee.ca/
The entrance of Revolver with chairs located at the window were we mainly saw people working or reading.
The “socializing side” of revolver with benches across each other to stimulate people starting a conversation.
Matchstick Coffee Roasters has multiple affiliates spread through the city centre. The Matchstick café on the pictures is the one located in Chinatown. Matchstick is a modern and simplistic coffee place. The café located in Chinatown is the second Matchstick café which opened in 2014. This expansion was used to broaden their goal of including a kitchen to move their entire food program in house. Therefore, this affiliate also sells daily spread including croissants and pastries, sandwiches and salads. This specific affiliate also has 6 taps with rotating local beers and ciders, thereby also supporting the local breweries. Matchstick roasts its own coffee because they want to feel connected to and responsible for growing green coffee. Due to the prices of the drinks (about 3.00-4.50CAD) and the great variety of food, it is also considered a more chic lunch/brunch café. We observed that most customers are locals, students and working people.
“Our company exists because we see purpose in getting our hands dirty, and because we believe that one minute longer doesn’t have to mean one minute wasted.” – Matchstick
Click here to visit their website: https://matchstickyvr.com/
Modern styled inside of Matchstick, with a lot of lightning and people mainly sitting on their own reading or having a break from work.
The entrance of Matchstick.
During our trip, we observed that coffee cafés are more private spaces, eventhough it is a public place, meaning that people mainly come here for a few reasons, namely quick break with coffee, working or meeting up with people they already know. We observed one chance encounter in a coffee bar, where two older men who did not know each other were talking to each other. However, they were both men, both the same age group and looked quite similar when it came to their appearance, so this encounter was not very much one between different subgroups. All the other people we spoke to also said they hardly ever spoke to someone they did not know in a café.
Pubs on the other hand allow for encounters way more, since people go there to socialize and meet new people, as well as often drink alcohol which makes it so much easier to approach people. Including alcohol in the coffee cafes was therefore also a suggestion of our interviewees to stimulate new encounters. A few other suggestions were to exclude WiFi to destimulate people to look at their phones, turn down the music, put objects on the table to talk about or add a variation of boardgames.
During the trip, we also wanted to go to catfé (cafe housing cats to pet during a coffee), however this place had an entrance fee of $10 which is quite expensive for most people. This makes it less attractive for different people to enter and encounter each other. However, we expected the cats to be a common interest of visitors and therefore a great tactic for people to break the ice for a conversation and therefore, a meaningful encounter. The expensiveness of the coffee in the visited cafés was also mentioned a few times, as a barrier for many people to sit in cafés decreasing the diversity and inclusion for such places.
When it comes to the specific locations of the cafes, Gastown is more known for familiarity and its nice atmosphere, where people go to pubs mostly for leisure. On the other hand, downtown is more business-like, where people go for meetings and for a quick lunch or coffee, as well as friday drinks with their colleagues. This means that also the location of the cafe influences the extent of encounter.