TOWN centre coffee shops are increasingly becoming the place where work is done and business relationships are forged, it has been claimed.

Paul Kinvig, chief operating officer of Bournemouth Town Centre BID, said the rise in the number of coffee shops was not as sharp as people often thought.

In 2016, cafes accounted for 39 of the 474 businesses in the BID’s area of the town – eight per cent of the total.

By 2019, that had risen to nine per cent – 49 out of 518 businesses.

While those cafes include the big brands of Starbucks, Costa and Caffe Nero, Mr Kinvig pointed out that there were successful small businesses too – as well as local companies roasting their own coffee.

“The independents are carving out a really strong niche for themselves,” he said.

He said the town’s coffee shops were often the place where business people met new contacts, or even where job interviews and appraisals were conducted.

“I think people underestimate just how much business is actually done in coffee shops,” he said.

“It’s almost what the golf course was 15 years ago.”

He said the continued success of coffee shops coincided with the rise of co-working spaces, as more people went freelance but sought an alternative to working at home.

“It affords those single person businesses the chance to meet people face to face. It affords them the opportunity to do their work – especially if it’s online. Sometimes working from home can be quite lonely,” he said.

He said today’s cafes were reminiscent of 17th and 18th century coffee houses, where people would meet for commerce as well as conversation.

But he acknowledged concerns that the town needed a mix of businesses. “There’s got to be a clear vision that includes local authorities, landlords and managing agents as to how we support and encourage a wider range in what we would call traditional retail,” he said.