Caribou, Panera, Scooter's and Starbucks (Chain Edition)

Coffee Shop Coworking is a series that highlights cafes and coffee shops in and around the Des Moines metro perfect for entrepreneurs, freelancers, creatives, and remote workers to get things done. Each installment will highlight what a particular location is best for, what you can expect from its work environment, and what sets it apart from other local alternatives.

Chain Edition

There’s a lot to love about working from a coffee shop. From cozy corners and steaming handmade mugs to local art on the walls and neighborhood connections, you won’t be hard pressed to find a Des Moines cafe where it’s unpleasant to get at least some aspect of your work done.

But when it comes to coffee shop coworking, we also recognize that your local favorite isn’t always an option. Sometimes you’re across town and in need of some free wifi, or you’re working during the late hours or weekend days your go-to joint is always closed. When that happens we fully understand that you need to take all of the caffeine and free wifi you can get, and head to a coffee shop chain.

While there are pros and cons to each major chain we see in the metro, their common appeal remains the same—predictable hours, consistent offerings, and a general acceptance of patrons who camp out all day long.

Caribou Coffee

While the drive-through lines at Des Moines’ Caribou Coffee locations are notoriously long, each location also has a decently sized seating area perfect for getting some work done in a pinch. Some locations even boast a community meeting room you can reserve ahead of time for group work that requires a quieter setting. 

The Pros: Of all the coffee shop chains I’ve worked from, Caribous consistently feel the most inviting. While seating areas still aren’t entirely designed for your comfort, the coffee shop’s cabin theme lends itself well to a comfortable work environment.

The Cons: Depending on the location, Caribou’s free wifi can be a little touch and go. Granted, you get what you pay for, but when you’ve just picked your $4.50 latte up from the end of the bar only to discover that the wifi is inexplicably down, it’s tough to be tickled by the situation.

Locations: 9 across the metro

Panera Bread Co.

While it may not immediately jump to the top of your workplace list, Panera Bread Co. can be a surprisingly satisfying place to to camp out for an afternoon. With predictably large layouts, most Panera locations are also designed with high-walled booths (but not very many power outlets) to allow for a little more privacy while you work.

The Pros: Hands down, Panera is going to offer the best snack and meal options of any coffee shop on this list. If you’re working in long stretches or over an awkward meal time, you’re sure to find something to ward off hangriness and keep you productive at Panera. 

The Cons: Since Panera is primarily a restaurant, it’s likely to be a bit louder than some of your other coffee shop options. Sure, anywhere is going to have a bit extra noise during the pre-work rush, but if clanging pots and clattering plates are too distracting than Panera may not be the place for you.

Locations: 5 across the metro

Scooter’s Coffee

While Scooter’s Coffee may be a newer chain to the Des Moines metro, it’s presence (and smiley sticker on every to go cup) are welcome additions to the city’s chain coffee shop scene. Taking the place of Amici downtown and a campus-run Starbucks near the Drake University campus, Scooter’s franchises are not only centrally located but also an inviting locale for email answering or quick coffee meetings. 

The Pros: At least in Des Moines, location is the name of the game for Scooter’s. Located in convenient and accessible points across the city, Scooter’s is an easy stop (just downstairs from Gravitate in downtown Des Moines) no matter where your day may take you.

The Cons: While Scooter’s offers a variety of hot, iced, and even frozen caffeinated beverages, it’s offerings aren’t quite as tasty as those of some other local chains. Again, this might be a preference call but when it comes to a plain black coffee, I’ll take Caribou or even Starbucks any day.

Locations: 2 locations with seating (others are drive-thru only)


As one of the country’s biggest coffee retailers, there’s a good chance that wherever you are, there’s a Starbucks nearby that you could, in theory, be working from. 

The Pros: When it comes to strengths, consistency is Starbucks biggest asset. No matter what corner of the country you find yourself in, chances are there’s a Starbucks that can whip up your favorite drink with ease and consistency for a reliable taste of home. Don’t stress about the menu options and you’ll find yourself more at ease when it comes to plugging in and getting things done.

The Cons: I know lots of people who love working at Starbucks so maybe this is more of a personal preference, but I’ve yet to find a workplace that feels less productive and inviting. Maybe it’s that many of Des Moines’ locations are smaller grab-and-go shops, but the echoey, bustling nature of Starbucks makes for a less than wonderful workspace. If you’re not working long or don’t mind a constant stream of loud noise, this might not bother you, but for an extended time it’s certainly not ideal.

Locations: Many locations around the metro