As New York City and San Francisco rents and minimum wages climb, restaurant owners are getting creative with how they use their resources to increase profits. Enter Spacious, a start-up that is trying to ease some of this burden by partnering with restaurants to create a new style of co-working spaces. Its unconventional digs, collaborative environments and limited business hours set Spacious apart from the traditional co-working approach.
The idea behind Spacious is to give its members daytime access to restaurants that are often open only for dinner. This makes for a sustainable way to capitalize on space that would otherwise be vacant. Starting at around 8am in each Spacious location, you’ll find a mix of entrepreneurs, freelancers and creatives scattered at various booths and tables, tapping away on their laptops and chatting freely. Then at around 5pm, the seats that were taken up by these go-getters will be filled with eager restaurant diners in their place.
When Spacious was just in its beginning phase, COO Jaclyn Pascocello, whom I had formerly worked with in the restaurant industry, met with me to offer business advice about an unrelated venture. Not having an office of my own, I suggested we meet at a nearby hotel café where I knew if I was lucky, I might be able to snag a spot to sit. In a recent interview Jaclyn laughed about the experience, “Remember when I met you at the Ace hotel? I could not believe how crowded it was. I also couldn’t believe that you were able to see because it was so dark. I remember thinking to myself like wow, there’s really a market for this.”
Here we are years later discussing Spacious’ success at the bright and roomy restaurant, La Sirena. Like all other Spacious locations, La Sirena was thoughtfully chosen to avoid those circumstances. “We look for beautiful restaurants that have a lot of natural light, places where people want to be productive,” Jaclyn explained.
Also, at each location, members are always guaranteed a spot to sit and can even check the Spacious website to see how busy a space is at any given time. In the restaurants, members have access to unlimited coffee and tea, outlets at each seat, clean bathrooms and most importantly, guaranteed high-speed Wi-Fi (installed and operated by Spacious). Members join online via a monthly subscription that currently gives them access to all 15 locations in New York City and 5 newly opened ones in San Francisco. They can go to as many different locations as often as they like during Spacious hours and can host guests for free during their first 60 minutes.
Justin Sievers, Managing Partner of NYC’s Bar Primi in NoHo, told me all about his partnership with Spacious and how it has impacted his business so far. “We love having them here, and it’s really a great use of the space. Lunch business in this area hasn’t been very strong since we opened nearly four years ago. It was kind of a natural thing to figure out how can we can utilize the space for something good that is also going to benefit mutually. This was it.”
Bar Primi is a little different from the other Spacious locations because it’s a two-level space that keeps its downstairs area open for lunch service while Spacious operates upstairs. Because the two businesses would have to exist side-by-side, Justin had his initial doubts. “We were a little bit concerned about using our space as something other than a restaurant. How does it look? Does it look desperate? Does it look like we can’t fill up our space for the purpose that we’re open for? But in the end, it’s NYC, every inch counts and you’ve got to make it work. I think people understand that and don’t have a negative connotation with us using this space as that.”
Spacious offers its partners a profit share, access to its marketing channels and a way to bring in new potential clientele. Jaclyn’s previous restaurant experience helped her realize the importance and value in that. “New York and San Francisco are not easy cities to run restaurants in, so if we can open up a space to people who can really use it, and also give a nominal amount to a restaurant so they can focus on their primary passion, then we think it will work well.”
Justin confirmed those intentions. “Spacious definitely holds up their end of the bargain. They understand how restaurants work. They understand that hospitality is a two-way street. Their people are very positive and conscientious about our business, and we try to be the same with them. It’s really a good partnership in that way.”
To maintain the turn-key factor for their restaurant partners, Spacious places a strong emphasis on its team of hosts. Hosts remain on site during Spacious hours to greet and assist members with anything they might need, but also to build and maintain close relationships with restaurant managers to ensure that their needs are being taken care of as well.
“[The hosts] are great!” Justin said. “We really don’t need to take care of anything up here. They take care of it all. Which, as a business that’s partnered with them, is huge. We have enough going on and if we had to staff it or had to be more involved, I think that we, and restaurants in general, would hesitate more to do it.”
Bar Primi is the first location to roll out Spacious’ newest feature, offering members a small lunch menu on site. Although Bar Primi has an advantage because they’re already open for lunch in their downstairs space, they’ve had to play around with how they approach it. In the beginning, they offered Spacious members the full lunch menu, but now as more of an incentive for members to dine-in, Bar Primi created a small version of its menu, complete with pasta, meatballs and sandwiches at discounted prices.
At the moment, the only other Spacious location to offer a food menu is Finn Town in San Francisco. Jaclyn told me the success of these two menus has sparked interest in other locations to do the same, even if they don’t normally serve lunch. “There usually is a prep cook or line cook there at 8 or 9am prepping for dinner service,” explained Jaclyn. “When you see 80 people in your space it’s hard [for a restaurant] not to think about ways to provide food for them.”
Jaclyn proudly told me that along with new member features, expansion is also key to their continued success. “We hope to be in the cross section of every urban intersection one day. We do plan to go really deep into both cities in 2018 and expand quite a bit. We also hope to launch in Los Angeles this year.”
Its seemingly win-win restaurant partnerships and growing community of members have proven Spacious’ potential and ability to flourish. Even as they expand into new territories, Jaclyn reassures me that their ultimate goal is to keep members inspired by their spaces and to keep restaurants as their main focus. “Spacious will continue to evolve in what we offer, but restaurants will always be a pillar. I think there’s a lot of reasons for that, but the hospitality factor of restaurants really just is so energizing for us.”