Once upon a time, Internet cafés were a pretty straightforward business. People were happy to pay for access to fast, reliable Internet and, well, we all know that sedentary pastimes, such as using a computer, are always conducive to beverage consumption. Not to mention that there’s always a market for a nice cup of coffee. Nowadays, it’s safe to say that things have changed. Internet access is almost ubiquitous, and so is computing itself, as modern mobile devices are evolving into very capable personal computers. People are always connected, and the web is always a click or a tap away.
So, where does that leave Internet cafés? While it’s true that there’s no longer a specific consumer need for this kind of enterprise, there’s a large variety of services that will always be in demand, even in this era of widespread access to technology.
First of all, there’s still the need for reliable and affordable access to the web. Users that are traveling away from home may need to do some serious work while abroad, and a mobile connection, with data roaming charges that border on the exorbitant, is far from ideal. In areas that attract lots of business travellers, this could be a very serious source of income. A well designed and fully equipped business centre, with good document handling and conferencing capabilities, might turn out to be a major attraction for professional users with high disposable income.
Gaming is another major source of income for Internet cafés. Gaming is a community-based hobby that can be very demanding technology-wise. Competitive free to play games, such as League of Legends, DOTA 2 and Call of Duty are all the rage these days, and serious gamers appreciate anything that will give them an edge over their opponents, such as lower ping times and expensive dedicated hardware. After all, competition isn’t much fun if you can’t gloat over your defeated opponents and LAN venues are ideal for that. Internet café owners should also keep in mind that professional gaming is on the rise, with substantial monetary prizes being offered regularly to the winners. Being part of this circuit will certainly increase a venue’s popularity and profitability.
Last but not least, Internet café owners and managers shouldn’t neglect the “café” part of their business. Coffee and beverages are a very profitable commodity, and people will always be happy to pay for a good cup of Joe to help them get through their day. Granted, most people want to enjoy their coffee away from the constant buzz of activity, and that boisterous group of teenagers that just completed a round of Call of Duty are not the ideal ambience for a spot of relaxation. On the other hand, since you already own a coffee machine, you could always offer nice, high quality coffee and beverages to go. Not to mention that gamers appreciate a good cup of coffee and a tasty sandwich as much as the next guy. Vendor machines may be profitable, and they save you a lot of space and money, but you may be missing out on a whole new demographic of potential clients, so you have to weigh carefully the pros and cons. All it takes is a bit of innovation and a lot of good business sense.