When coworking meets retail
Coworking companies are turning to non-traditional working spaces in order to grow and reach employees who may need a less expensive alternative to shared office space, and, in the process, turning retail into an unlikely ally.
Telecommuting is gaining popularity with both businesses and employees, and, often, remote workers turn to shared office space, or coworking space, for its office amenities and sense of community. According to The New York Times, the number of employed workers in the U.S. who spent at least some time working remotely has increased four percent between 2012 and 2016 to now make up 43 percent. As a result of a growing virtual workforce, coworking is undergoing explosive growth. Coworking companies are turning to non-traditional working spaces in order to grow and reach employees who may need a less expensive alternative to shared office space, and, in the process, turning retail into an unlikely ally.
It’s expected that more than one million people globally will work in approximately 14,000 shared work spaces in 2017. By 2020, coworking is expected to balloon to 26,000 spaces and 3.8 million remote workers. One of the limitations, especially for freelance or self-employed virtual workers, is the cost. Coworking space averages approximately $170 a month in the U.S., and that can price freelances out of the market.
Companies like Spacious and Reset offer a less expensive option by pairing with restaurants that typically only offer dinner service. Since restaurants that do not offer non-dinner service often have large, empty spaces during the day, both the startup and the restaurant capitalize on that unused space. During the day, virtual workers may use the tables and treat themselves to coffee and tea, Wi-Fi, power and the ambiance of a café versus an office. Once dinner service prep begins for the dining room, the workday is over, typically around 5 or 5:30 p.m.
Spacious is a startup founded by Preston Pesek and Chris Smothers that currently operates in New York City, where approximately 2,000 restaurants sit empty during the day. Virtual workers can be alone or in groups, and Spacious can also work with groups on private meetings. For $129 a month, virtual workers can get unlimited access to 11 Spacious partner restaurants in addition to having one free guest per hour. They also offer a reservation-free day pass for $20. Spacious features include coffee, snacks, Wi-Fi, work-friendly music, a host to take care of members and a digital platform for check-ins and payments.
“In a city where rent is such a meaningful component to a retailer’s expenses, and, therefore, its ultimate success or failure, Spacious is allowing restauranteurs to create a new revenue stream from their space during the daytime, when the space would otherwise have been vacant,” said Scott Aiese, JLL Managing Director in JLL’s New York City office. “It’s a clear evolution of the sharing economy and analogous to an accountant and a bartender sharing an apartment.”
Restaurants and members aren’t the only ones who have taken to what Spacious has to offer. Three venture capital firms, Lerer Hippeau Ventures, BoxGroup and SV Angel; MetaProp NYC, an accelerator; and private investors participated in a round of funding Scott Aiese last year, and the company is looking to expand to Boston and San Francisco.
The trend is also taking off in smaller markets like Austin, Texas, where restaurant coworking startup Reset operates. Founded by Siri Chakka and Silva Gentchev looking for a solution to their mutual struggle to find suitable workspaces in the city, Reset is, according to its website, “a way for people to experience new spaces in their local communities and get their work done – without breaking the bank.”
Reset charges as low as $3 per hour but have a flexible pricing model that ranges from day, month and even unlimited pricing. Currently in three locations, Reset has options that include teams and even students.
Shared workspace in restaurant and retail space combines current employment trends with commercial real estate. The situation can be a win-win for property owners, coworking companies and a growing virtual workforce.