Before customers start to file in for the dinner rush, unused tables at restaurants and bars that are normally closed to the public can welcome independent professionals looking for space to work.
That’s the thesis behind a new startup called WEach Seats, cofounded by husband-and-wife duo Matthew Weaver and Sarina Chernock, of Queen Village. When the couple welcomed their son Garrett into the world in April of last year, their home office was quickly flipped into a nursery.
Thus, Weaver, 39, was left without a desk for his work as a political comms specialist.
“I wanted to be close to home and have flexibility,” Weaver said. “Looking at what was available, coffee shops were not an option: you’re crammed in with no space, and they don’t care about your WiFi. And the coworking industry, they’re mostly in Center City high rises, so for us in Queen Village it wasn’t an option.”
At the end of last summer, thinking of the available space at restaurants and gastropubs, Weaver and Chernock started approaching owners to see if there was an appetite for a side of coworking.
“The idea is that we could help them create revenue on space that’s empty with no overhead,” Weaver told Technical.ly. “We’d only need one person to open up, make coffee and keep the pot filled.”
Thus far, four restaurants have signed on for opening exclusively to members of WEach Seats on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.: Bar One and Ela in Queen Village, Writer’s Block Rehab in the Gayborhood and Paris Wine Bar in Fairmount. The sites will have tables set up, coffee and outlets available for members. A monthly membership costs $165, while weekly access will run “WEachers” (what the startup calls its members) $55.
The service is not yet live, but the company hopes to start offering the service in the coming weeks. It did, however, launch its mobile app built by Center City dev shop PromptWorks.
Mind you, the core idea behind WEach Seats is not a novel one: companies like New York-based Spacious and KettleSpace operate similar networks in four cities. Arlington, Va.-based CoworkCafe, tried out by Technical.ly DC alum Lalita Clozel, launched in 2015. This could be, though, the first attempt at restaurants-as-coworking-spaces in Philly.
At least a few possible snags come to mind. The first one being, what will happen in the afternoon hours, once restaurant staff starts running around and prepping the tables ahead of opening time? The cofounder is hoping the penchant for service found in the restaurant industry will help smooth that transition.
“They’ll know how to accommodate,” Weaver said. “We’ve spent a lot of time talking with owners and they are instructing staff to be accommodating. In our vision for this work environment, once it’s 4 p.m. people will feel encouraged to head into a happy hour, or call friends to meet for dinner.”
And will restaurateurs find it to be worth their time? Weaver, who declined to mention specifics, said the company would guarantee a daily fee for the restaurants to stay open regardless of traffic.
But most importantly: Will potential members take to it?
“Every person I’ve talked to knows at least one person who would use this,” Weaver said. “I could see this changing the work/life paradigm that people have.”
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