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'Pay as you stay' coffee house opens in Manchester

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A new coffee house in Manchester has taken the saying 'Time is Money' to a whole new level.

At the 'Ziferblat' cafe, the drinks and cakes are free - all you pay for is how long you stay.

Customers are charged a flat rate of 5p per minute, measured by the mismatched vintage clocks handed to guests at the door of the Edge Street venue.

“It completely turns the model on its head,” says Gareth Harold, the project’s head of operations.

The concept was pioneered in Russia by author-turned-entrepreneur Ivan Meetin as a social space for artists to meet and share ideas.

“They wanted a common space they could use- a shared sitting room,” says Ben Davies, head of marketing at the Manchester branch, which is the latest of 14 that have since popped up across Europe.

“They always had a donations box in a suitcase by the door and those who spent longer there would tend to give more.

“As time went on they thought how can we expand this and do it in different places, and it became a bit more structured.”

– Ben Davies, head of marketing
Credit: Manchester Evening News

The UK’s first Ziferblat - which is Russian for clock face - opened in Shoreditch, London, last year, when it hit the headlines as the capital’s first ‘pay-as-you-go cafe’.

But both Ben and Gareth are at pains to stress that Ziferblat is not really a cafe at all.

“It’s an office space to all intents and purposes and the people who come to us are almost like micro-tenants,” says Gareth.

“One thing we are categorically not is a cafe. We’re not home, we’re not work, we’re a third space somewhere in between.”

He added:

“The margin in it for us is very small,” says Gareth. “You could come in and down a cup of really good coffee in 10 minutes and that would be 50p.

“If you go to a popular chain it might cost you around £5 for a coffee and a brownie. Here at Ziferblat you can have all the coffee and brownies you like in an hour and 40 minutes for the same price.”

Customers can help themselves to drinks, cereal, cakes and biscuits. But there are measures in place to stop people treating it as an all-you-can-eat challenge.

“The main rule is to respect the space like it’s a friend’s living room,” says Ben.

The team have bought the Ziferblat franchise for the UK and Ireland, where they plan to open a string of new branches over the next five years, including two more in Manchester.