Ah, the awkward cafe-based work meeting. You arrive at the cafe first– do you order or wait for the other attendees? If you all arrive at the same time, who buys? And what do you do when there are no tables available? Or worse… no wifi? What’s a yopro to do?
If you ask alternative real estate entrepreneur Preston Pesek (formerly vice president of Fortress Investment Group), the problem isn’t a scarcity of work-friendly space. Rather, bad urban planning is to blame. And so in his bid to “reclaim the city for creative professionals,” he has soft-launched Spacious, a startup that’s building a “hidden network” of meeting and coworking spaces within New York City restaurants that would otherwise be closed until dinner service.
For a monthly $95 fee, Spacious members get access to any restaurant added to the network, where they’ll find staff on hand to help with sign-in, music at a work-friendly volume, internet, ample adapters, and open workspace– no reservation required. There’s even free coffee, tea and water (sorry, no beer, like at WeWork). Members are allowed one free guest every hour (additional guests incur a $6-per-hour fee), and conference rooms (actually converted private dining rooms) can be reserved by the hour for an additional fee. Currently it’s BYOL (bring your own lunch), but a limited menu may be introduced if and when membership reaches a critical mass.
The first reclaimed restaurant space, which soft-launched two weeks ago, is Daniel Boulud’s DBGB Kitchen and Bar at 299 Bowery. DBGB used to be open for daily lunch service, but for the past few years it has been closed until dinner Monday through Thursday, due to the East Village’s residential nature. According to general manager Mike Favazzo, DBGB gets “a great deal of neighborhood traffic at night, but during the day everybody goes off to work. There aren’t as many offices where people are looking for space to have lunch. During the week it didn’t really make sense.”
Enter Pesek. A few months ago, while he was conceiving of the startup, he attended a private dining event at DBGB, liked the space, and pitched Spacious to Favazzo. “It sounded like a good solution for both of us,” Favazzo told us. “It was not a used space during the lunch hours currently and this was a way to perhaps generate some revenue for us during that time.” Pesek doesn’t pay rent to DBGB per se, but he does set up a profit sharing agreement with his restaurant partners.
Favazzo told us the profit sharing agreement has “already kicked in,” but added that DBGB’s participation in the “symbiotic partnership” is more about increasing traffic flow than making some quick cash. “I think that was the main focus for us,” he said. “It’s really a great way to expose our space to people that are our clientele but that hadn’t necessarily seen us.” Apparently, one person who participated in the Spacious beta testing there brought 25 people back with him the next week for a reception at the bar.
You may be wondering– why would you pay $95 per month for an all-access pass to a network that only has one location? You wouldn’t. So Pesek is offering 20 percent off to early adopters. He said a new location is opening soon in the same neighborhood (a strategic decision in case DBGB books a private event during regular Spacious hours) and that he has a half dozen other “well-located” restaurant partnerships in the works.
Ultimately, he hopes to grow Spacious throughout the entire city and outside of New York, and put profits toward another cowork-related idea of his: a hotel where the rooms have fold-up beds and can be converted into day-time coworking space when not in use. Whether that’s inspired urban planning or “uber for banging your coworkers,” like Buzzfeed’s Caroline O’Donovan tweeted, we’ll let you decide.