“Classic Lightbulb Moment” Brings Low-Cost Coworking To NYC

KettleSpace @ Distilled NY
KettleSpace @ Distilled NY: Distilled NY in Tribeca is KettleSpace's first location.
  • Launched in 2017, KettleSpace repurposes underused restaurants in New York City into coworking spaces
  • KettleSpace is the brainchild of startup consultant Andrew Levy, former WeWork employee Dan Rosenzweig, and restaurant owner Nick Iovacchini
  • With supply of quality space under pressure, research suggests more brick-and-mortar businesses will be repurposed to meet demand for coworking.

Given the choice, would you rather sit down with your laptop in an office, or at your favourite restaurant? For some, it’s an easy decision – especially when the restaurant option only costs $100 per month.

New York based KettleSpace, a startup that’s transforming underused restaurants and hotels into workspace during the day, is building bridges between the hospitality and workspace sectors, while simultaneously maximising empty commercial space.

It’s also opening up new workplace opportunities for New York’s army of laptop-wielding freelancers and startups. Not that New York is short of coworking spaces; according to New Worker Magazine, there are now more than 200 coworking spaces in NYC alone. Unfortunately for budget-conscious business owners however, it’s also the most expensive place to plug in your laptop. Last year, the Instant Group reported that New York is the priciest coworking location in the world.

It’s a coworking conundrum. How do you stay loyal to smaller businesses by remaining affordable, while operating in an increasingly competitive and space-squeezed market?

KettleSpace believes it has the answer.

“Our model utilizes existing assets so that we can pass along the savings to our members, from not having to do a buildout,” explains Andrew Levy, co-founder at KettleSpace. “This is how we can offer the best workspace pricing in NYC.”

Launched just six months ago, the workspace startup partners with restaurants that have private, unused dining areas during the day, transforming them into a network of collaborative spaces for freelance workers. For just under $100 per month, members are given passport access to a network of KettleSpace locations around New York City.

“We currently have 6 spaces in NYC,” Levy explained, “and plan to open more across the city and new markets soon.

“We are very focused on delivering a superior experience for both our members and our space partners, so selecting the right partners and the right spaces is of the utmost importance.”

A “lightbulb moment” for coworking

The idea for KettleSpace came about following a remarkably commonplace scenario: finding somewhere quiet to take a call in a public place.

“One of our co-founders, Dan Rosenzweig, was working for WeWork at the time,” explained Levy. “He needed a quick place to take a call while walking down the street on a rainy New York City afternoon. The Starbucks nearby was too noisy and had no seats so he ducked into an empty restaurant that was ‘open for lunch’.

“There, he had the classic ‘lightbulb moment’ for asset light coworking.”

At the time, Levy had recently left employment at Twitter and was consulting with startups, and, he explained, “was fed up with the coffee-shop office experience”.

Completing the trio is Nick Iovacchini, who owns Distilled NY — KettleSpace’s first partner — who realized the “tangible business value this model could bring to his restaurant.”

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According to Levy, they all found that “productive workspace was too expensive, coffee-shops and working from home wasn’t cutting it”, while at the same time restaurants and the broader hospitality sector were being “economically squeezed but sitting on great assets”.

“There was an opportunity to bring all of this together in a synergistic fashion. Each of us gravitated towards this idea from different perspectives.”

“Growing pressure” on supply of traditional spaces

In a report into the coworking market released in January 2018, Elaine Rossall, Head of London Markets Research at Cushman & Wakefield, identified “growing pressure on the supply of suitable coworking space” as a key obstacle in the industry’s growth — but identified the use of alternative spaces as a solution.

“Any brick-and-mortar business that is vacant for a period during the day could be utilised for flexible working,” she said in a press statement. “While offices have been the traditional source of space, pubs, hotels and libraries are increasingly of interest to flexible space providers, building on the popularity of coffee shops and cafes as flexible workspaces.”

Like KettleSpace, Spacious is a similar platform that connects coworkers with empty space in restaurants. Other types of community-centric facilities that have the potential to extend naturally into coworking include libraries, pubs, even post offices.

And the idea is catching on fast.

“The model of coworking in restaurants is still very new, but we find that most hospitality owners are at least aware of the concept of coworking,” Levy explained.

“Many restaurant and hotel owners or operators do reach out to us seeking partnership. Most have at least heard of WeWork, but we do have to educate many that with KettleSpace, their space can be repurposed for coworking as well.”

As for next steps, Levy says they are “open to any space that has the right ingredients to flourish as a workspace” and are currently working on “a lot of great new things” over the coming months.

Less than a year after launch, the signs are positive. “People come to us on a daily basis telling us that what we’re doing is exactly what they’ve been looking for, how much they’re enjoying their experience with us, and how they met their business partner or client through our community.

“We are still quite early in our lifecycle but the response we’ve seen from the market has been tremendous,” added Levy. “Members, space owners and operators, partners, local communities, and many more have engaged with us and we could not be more excited.”