A New York City startup is building a potential opportunity for restaurants to generate revenue from their existing real-estate assets.
Spacious is a service that transforms restaurants that are typically closed during the day into co-working spaces, or affordable locations where the growing number of independent contractors or business travelers can work or take meetings.
Members pay a monthly fee of $95 for unlimited access, or $6 per hour, and they can work out of a network of restaurants that have signed on as partners.
Spacious has hosts at each restaurant to check guests in and out, and provides power cords and Wi-Fi access, as well as coffee and tea.
The restaurants share a percentage of the revenue generated, with little to no effort beyond opening their doors.
“Operationally, the only thing we needed to change was the cleaning schedule for the front-of-the-house areas,” said Dan Rafalin, owner of the AvroKO Hospitality Group, whose restaurant Public in lower Manhattan has partnered with Spacious since September. “Previously, we would have a porter clean the front-of-the-house areas during the day before the service, and now we have the night porter clean instead.”
Public is one of seven restaurants that have signed on with Spacious in New York City, including DBGB Kitchen & Bar, La Sirena, L’Apicio, Corkbuzz, MP Taverna and Toro.
Preston Pesek, co-founder and CEO of Spacious, expects to have 20 sites in New York before the end of the year. The company is launching in a second market — either Boston or San Francisco, depending on timing — with Los Angeles and London also in the works. The goal is to build a network of restaurants for workers to have access to in their own cities or as they travel.
Pesek, whose background is in commercial real estate, sees the partnership as a “healthy win-win” for all involved.
“I recognize that in cities like New York, and really in most places, restaurants operate prime, street-level real estate locations, sometimes the best in the city,” he said.
Some are beautifully furnished and have made deep investments in design, he said. But in today’s challenging business climate, opening for lunch may not be justified.
Spacious allows restaurant operators to make more efficient use of those high-value real estate assets, Pesek said.
“We’re seeing a rise of the independent workforce — freelance creatives that need a place to go to work that’s not their home office,” he said. “It was simply a match of supply and demand.”
At Public, Rafalin said the restaurant was already broken down after service each night for cleaning. Now Spacious members can drop in and use the restaurant tables as their workspace.
The restaurant’s deliveries and prep work are unaffected, he said. And now he doesn’t have to staff the front during the day because Spacious hosts are there, not only to greet their own members, but to welcome restaurant guests looking to book a reservation or peek at the venue.
Sometimes Spacious workers book the restaurant’s private rooms for meetings, and that generates direct revenue for the restaurant, he said.
AvroKO has also created a Spacious member happy hour at the group’s bar next door, The Daily, and at a sister property down the street. Spacious members can also order food at lunch for delivery from nearby sister restaurant Genuine Superette.
And in May, Spacious will launch at AvroKO’s Saxon + Parole, where a light lunch menu will be available for members, he said.
Rafalin said revenue has grown every month. He expects it to pay the equivalent of at least a month of rent over the course of a year.
For Gianni Cionchi, general manager of the 150-seat MP Taverna in Brooklyn, N.Y., partnering with Spacious also required the minor adjustment of breaking down the dining room after service, rather than a reset.
In terms of revenue, Cionchi estimated that the Spacious partnership brings in the equivalent of doing one or two private events each month, he said.
Cionchi likes that the presence of Spacious members makes the restaurant look more inviting once service begins.
Workers are pinged by Spacious an hour before dinner service starts, but MP Taverna allows some overlap. Often, Spacious members are ready for a drink and a bite to eat at that time, he said.
“It makes it easier for that first person who comes through the door to come in, knowing they won’t be sitting in a big, empty restaurant by themselves,” Cionchi said.
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