Next time you're crammed next to a cappuccino-slurping graphic designer at what used to be your favorite coffee shop before the rest of the freelance community caught on, think about Spacious. It’s a new start-up aimed not only at alleviating you and your fellow freelancers from cramped quarters, but also at making use of all the perfectly good, free space in New York City: the hundreds of restaurants that lie empty every day before service.
According to Spacious cofounder Preston Pesek, there are close to 2,000 restaurants in Brooklyn and Manhattan with not just available space but a hospitable work environment—tables, chairs and a great ambiance—just begging to be used before 6 p.m.
Pesek recognized opportunity in the valuable, first-floor real estate that so many restaurants occupy, and launched Spacious with cofounder Chris Smothers to turn these spaces into communal workplaces during off-hours.
“It is obvious now that you look at it, but it’s taken some time for mobile technology to catch on to create an opportunity for this,” Pesek says. It’s a unique moment in time when the freelance economy is thriving, and at the same time, the workforce is more mobile than ever.
Restaurants are “accidentally perfect for this new way of working that’s emerging in the 21st century,” Pesek says.
Spacious provides admittance to the restaurant, as well as Wi-Fi, free coffee, tea and refreshments. Two hosts will be stationed at each location to set up the coffee, roll out the power cables and then break it all down. Members get to try out the service free for one day, and after that, it’s $29 for 36 hours of universal access to all locations. There is also a $95 monthly fee with the same, unlimited access.
Communal work spaces are currently open at DBGB, and L’Apicio and Public are next. More restaurants across the city will follow this summer, but Pesek wants a steady rollout, so he can keep an eye on quality control.
“We’ve been working with DBGB for a few months to make sure we preserve their state of normal and don’t disrupt their primary business,” Pesek says.
“We want to make sure that we can maintain a culture of hospitality,” he continues. “And every space is a little bit different, so we do our best to adapt our best practices.”
Custom snacks might one day be available for purchase at certain restaurants, and the bar might open, too—but not until at least 1 p.m., Pesek notes with a laugh.
It’s certainly a win for anyone who scores a table, and the potential blessing for restaurants can't be underestimated either. To quote Danny Meyer, “Untenable rent escalations” have forced even the most successful restaurant to close in recent years, and chefs are fleeing the city in droves. Even a viral sensation like Nutella lasagna that made the already-successful Robicelli's famous wasn't enough to keep the bakery from leaving NYC. Robicelli's is now looking for a new space in Baltimore.
While the Spacious guys are currently focused on “the substantial pipeline of restaurants” they have ready to roll out, they also plan to “find other gaps in the urban fabric that can be activated.”
Pesek sees this as “a whole new way to look at all kinds of commercial spaces.”
In the expanding shared economy, could Spacious be a game changer along the lines of Airbnb? It follows the same ethos of capitalizing on unused space in a win-win scenario for all parties. Time will tell, but we’ll certainly be keeping an eye on it.