The digital fabric powering America’s gig-economy
Freelancers make up over a third of the American workforce, and Upwork estimated them to be the majority of the working population in a decade’s time.
According to JLL, there are currently over 27 million square feet of co-working spaces in the US catering to this segment of the population.
On a related note, statistics from the National Restaurant Association shows there are over 1 million restaurants dotted across the US, and not all of them are generating revenue throughout the day.
Just as Uber and Airbnb encouraged people to share their cars and homes when it’s not in use; restaurant spaces can easily be repurposed to meet the growing demand for co-working spaces.
“In most major metro areas there are beautiful hospitality spaces, such as restaurants and hotels, that are already outfitted perfectly to be workspaces but are completely underutilized during prime working hours,” said Andrew Levy in an exclusive interview with TechHQ.
Andrew Levy co-founded KettleSpace. With the help of technology, the company is creating a working environment within existing hospitality establishments that provides more than just a desk space.
The company aims to digitize the offline environment, to make it easier for members to interact and engage with us, as well as with each other.
This kind of business model presents some unique challenges. For workers on the go, there are a couple key features they require out of a working environment: easy access to power outlets, strong steady WiFi, and the ability to leave things unattended.
“Working out of coffee shops, that experience was not cutting it for freelancers. Some are very obvious reasons like the ability to leave your things at your desk when you go to the restroom. These are very simplistic solutions to solve for very real problems,” Levy said.
Interestingly, these spaces are able to draw ideas from internet dating. By assigning a unique ID to members, users can drop in and out or networks without the hassle of reconnecting to different networks when working on different sites.
That’s never really been possible before outside of loitering in a coffee shop. But now, you can really have the city as your workspace.
The appeal of co-working spaces has always been the access to a wider network, which helps foster collaboration between companies. However, many current co-working spaces such as WeWork, Regus, and Impact Hub might not be achieving what co-working intended to.
“Today, almost all of the companies in the coworking office, called RocketSpace, pay for dedicated desks or private spaces,” another journalist evaluating co-working spaces wrote in a piece for Quartz. “Across the coworking industry, drop-in coworking space is disappearing.”
For freelancers and remote workers, co-working spaces aren’t exactly what is needed. What many drop-in workspaces offer are more personalized services compared to just a desk or office space.
“When they give us particular information; say they are real estate salesperson looking for more clients – we can actually connect them,” Levy explained. “We facilitate connections to each of our members in a fashion that that is impossible without technology.”
By creating a digital community platform, the company is able to connect people with the right skills to each other, as well as create a community that encourages collaboration and mentoring.
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KettleSpace is not unique in offering restaurants as working spaces. WorkEatPlay goes beyond restaurants and hotels, to provide spaces in museums and art galleries as well.
Another rival in the space is Spacious. Spacious’s approach to providing a personalized service to members is to run the space like a restaurant.
CEO Jaclyn Pascocello told the New York Times, “The goal is to know everyone’s name, know what they’re working on, know if they’re sensitive to noise, how they like coffee, the milk options.”
On the other hand, converting these spaces for work can easily add up to US$2 million in sales for restaurants with little operational efforts, according to Levy.
Meanwhile, KettleSpace takes advantage of the data it has on users, to push out notifications on benefits such as discounts on enterprise software, or lifestyle deals on dietary, fashion, or beauty products.
Whether it’s providing a convenient way to drop in and out of networks, a personalised service, or even discounts and deals; one thing is clear: what KettleSpace, WorkEatPlay, and Spacious are trying to achieve is to build the network and community that is so often lost in many of the dedicated spaces for co-working.
“I like the fact that it’s not a typical office space – just white desks and walls. I like the flexibility of using the restaurant space and feeling part of the city,” Diana Montano, tour operations and project coordinator for Museum Hack told the Business Insider.
There’s definitely a charm and value working out of a co-working space in a restaurant. Especially if you’re not among those who work late – tinkering on a problem, expecting to be left alone till you find a solution.