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These New Startups are Letting Freelancers Work out of Empty Restaurants

There’s a new startup idea designed to make the life of New York and Toronto’s freelancing set a little more convenient.

Currently, there are over 2000 restaurants in New York City that open for dinner service only, sitting vacant during the day. Spacious makes use of empty restaurants by offering them up to freelancers and other remote workers who are tired of overcrowded coffee shops.

According to Business Insider, the startup will charge $95 per month for unlimited access to all locations – with a day pass option of $29 – and shares a portion of their profits with the participating restaurants.

The company’s founders set the mood by managing the playlist and music volume, setting up their own Wi-Fi network, offering unlimited coffee, and hiring part-time hosts to take care of the members.

It didn’t take long for Toronto to follow suit.

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Brand new on the Toronto freelance scene is Random Works (rndmwrk). Like Spacious, the startup allows users to book out space in local restaurants and bars that usually sit empty during the day. To start, the company is piloting one location – appropriately located in the freelancer-filled West Queen West.

I think it’s a brilliant idea.

Now more than ever, we need to adapt to an economy of freelancers and a workplace culture that encourages working remotely. Let’s be honest: it looks like we’re moving further away from both the traditional office and the 9-5 workday.

Not only is the commute a waste of valuable time for some, the cost of office space, furniture and equipment doesn’t make sense to some employers in our ever-connected world.

Not to mention, the people-filled office can be a major distraction for some. A recent(ish) Harvard Business Review article suggests that if you want to raise the productivity of employees, you should let more of them work from home.


It isn’t just arts-based companies that encourage their employees to work remotely, either. A friend in finance recently told me that her company now enforces rotating desk space (meaning, there isn’t enough space for everyone in the company at any given time), enforcing that employees work remotely two days a week.

The thing is, despite the sweatpants and the option to work from bed, working from home definitely isn’t for everyone. The go-to alternative, of course, is the local coffee shop. But coffee shops are increasingly busting at the seams with fellow perpetually typing freelancers.

We see it happening in our major cities.

It’s not only true that the coffee shops are becoming overrun with patrons, many owners (especially of cool indie coffee houses) are having to deal with artists and freelancers who may order one coffee and camp out for hours, taking advantage of the free Wi-Fi and the change of scenery from their apartments.

With that said, the coffee shop may indeed be the only option for some freelancers – especially the newbies.


Dropping less than $10 per day for a makeshift workspace is a pretty attractive option for the cash-strapped. Some freelancers simply can’t afford the membership for apps like Spacious and Random Places. It is, however, a more affordable option to members’ clubs like memberships at Soho House, which can set you back around $1800 for a local membership (as opposed to a pricier international one).

Another example of the prevalence of freelance economy is the explosive growth of WeWork co-working office spaces. The US-based company currently offers daily and monthly office leases for shared workspaces in the US, Canada (as of December 2015), Israel, the Netherlands and the UK.

When it comes to freelancers, entrepreneurs, and small business owners, most I know have one thing in common: they like to work odd hours – whether that means super late at night or very early in the morning.

Personally, I think it would be cool if there was a spot that catered to freelancers who either have to pull all-nighters, or would rather work late at night, that’s literally open 24/7.

Though most WeWork buildings are accessible via a keycard 24/7, what I’m referring to is a vibrant and lively workspace that caters to the night owls specifically. The fridges could be stalked with energy drinks, there’d be a full coffee bar, break-time distractions like Ping-Pong, video games, and board games. But it would also be fully equipped with everything and anything you need to get your job done (think a mini Kinkos). To keep energy levels high, there could even be DJs or really great playlists. There could even be napping pods.

Anyway, back to Spacious….

The backdrop of curated art, cool décor and fellow pavement-pounding millennials offered by a Manhattan restaurant may be more inspiring than a white-walled office (or worse, a cubicle). Not to mention, Spacious can help the city’s culinary cause, too by relieving ground-level retail pressure. The reduction of this financial pressure means that restaurants can take more risks in what they do best: food. It’s a win/win, right?


Moving forward, Spacious would like to offer small plates and an exclusive lunch menu for members, and is considering the possibility of an open bar.

The startup recently closed a round of fundraising from three venture capital firms, including Lerer Hippeau Ventures, BoxGroup, and SV Angel. Hopefully – for the sake of our creative class and restaurant scene – Random Spaces will be met with similar success.


Erin Davis

Erin is a Toronto-based actor, writer and queen of the side hustle. When she’s not writing the day away in a face mask, she’s taking in the city’s vibrant arts scene, doing a red carpet interview or brunching with her leading ladies. Follow me: @erinnicoledavis