These things have but one common thread. They’re all words which first came to prominence in 2005; a year which was, apparently, as futuristic as it was contagious. Thankfully, however, only two of them have spread since then – and it’s the first one which has captured our attention today.
Yep, you don’t need statistics to appreciate that coworking’s on the up and up. But if you’d like one anyway, the number of shared workspaces around the world has shot up by 30,000 in the last three years alone. While older generations would happily commit to a company, or at least a career, for their entire life, today’s young creative professionals crave variety – variety which they find in regularly changing jobs, freelancing, building portfolio careers and joining start ups which grow (and shrink) in size every other week. And the primary beneficiaries of this trend are, of course, the increasing number of companies offering flexible workspaces to the world’s increasingly mobile (and technology-enabled) workers.
Feeding into this increased demand for flexible and affordable office space (plus free coffee, and permanent access to as many ping pong tables as possible) is the hike in property rental values from San Francisco to London, which makes it extremely challenging for fledging enterprises (of which there are now many, many more) to hold down a place of their own. Take London, for example: recent research found that a modest 600 sq ft office in Shoreditch will set a start up back around £51k a year. But the situation isn’t much brighter for established businesses: media and creative giants who have been based in Soho for decades are now paying over £200 per square foot per month. And it’s these prices which have, quite literally, cleared the way for a new way of working. When WeWork was founded back in 2010, there were a mere 21,000 people working in shared spaces around the world. Today, that figure’s closer to 1.2 million.
So, coworking’s on the up, and it’s not showing any signs of stopping. It’s flexible, it’s varied, and it feels more modern than the monotony of cubicle working. However as the demand for decent coworking spaces has increased, so too has the cost of working in one.
Goddamn you capitalism.
And, of course, it’s not just the office-based businesses that are struggling in this ridiculous climate. The restaurant scene has been taking a pretty good kicking of late, and like many things, it’s Brexit’s fault. Restaurant insolvency rose by 13% in the year following the referendum, and a particularly gloomy report by Moore Stephens predicts that 20% of restaurants will be forced to close over the next few years due to falling profits. There’s been sweeping culls of chains like Byron and Jamie’s Italian; shock closures of beloved, unique spots like Beagle and Paradise Garage; and casualties amongst old and new alike – the century-old pie and mash shop, M Manze has closed its doors in Islington (leaving just 3 remaining branches of what was once a traditional, London-wide stalwart), while Firedog and James Cochran N1 bowed out gracefully after a matter of months. These are, for the most part, not unpopular restaurants. They didn’t have dirty kitchens, unpleasant service or sub-par food. They’re simply struggling to keep their heads above water when imported produce is increasingly less affordable, the living wage is rising, and household disposable income is falling. The daytime shifts at restaurants need to sing for their suppers to hold up; and many closures – including Paradise Garage, and Sosharu, which is set to move to a busier area – have specifically cited low lunchtime footfall as making rising business rates and rent costs untenable.
If only someone, somewhere, could swoop in and magically fix the problems of millennial freelancers and struggling restaurants in one seamless move…
Haus coworking at 100 Wardour Street
Created – perhaps unsurprisingly – by one of those very freelancing millennials, Haus looks set to kill the two birds of pricey office space and a flagging restaurant trade with one, pretty genius, stone.
Founder Kani Rayev’s idea is to create luxe, enviably-located working spots by taking over restaurant and bar spaces that are largely unused during the day – which means you could be holding board meetings in opulent private dining rooms, or conducting your start-up from a leather armchair in a luxe, subterranean whisky snug. And the restaurants, meanwhile, gain a bevy of potential customers who’ll host lunch and breakfast meetings in their restaurant, stay for drinks after work, and generally rave to their friends about the super-sweet little place they know.
The idea first came to Rayev when he started work as a graduate on developing a new app – which meant a lot of time working alone in coffee shops, since most of his colleagues were abroad. “From morning till evening, I would be sitting on my own without opening my mouth at all – maybe chatting to the barista a bit, but that was it”, he recalls as he surveys the Haus coworking space at 100 Wardour Street. It was at that time that a friend who was planning to launch a restaurant enlisted Kani to help research the operations side of things. He found that even for the establishments willing to stay open longer hours, there are multiple restrictions on licensing that mean bars can’t open, or sell alcohol, during the day. “That’s why they’d just close it down, otherwise they’d have to brand themselves as a coffee shop or lunch space, which can be difficult,” he explains. “So I thought, why not use these places which are closed as a place for working and meeting?”
Why not indeed – Haus members pay £95 a month to access exclusive areas in these restaurants, each well stocked with sockets and pacy wi-fi, as well as an endless stream of complimentary tea, coffee and biscuits. There’s none of the awkwardness of eking out a cold cup of tea to legitimise sitting there – the eternal bugbear of coffee shop working – but it’s also far cheaper than many of the other co-working memberships in central (or at least accessible) areas of London. The nearby WeWork for example, is £500 per month. “Even if you pay £100 [for a space] it would give you some kind of limited access, either on evenings, or 5 days a month, something like that,” Kani explains.
Step into my office.
It was May 2017 when Haus launched its first location in Holborn eatery Sway, going on to open at 100 Wardour Street before Christmas – a spot which had initially rejected Kani’s proposal when he first presented the idea almost a year earlier. As we chat in the Haus space here – a gloriously skylit, roped-off lounge on the ground floor – people are drawn in to the place by the sight of laptop workers sat by the window; either signing up for free trial days on the spot, or just glad to have found a decent spot for coffee until the rain holds off. Suddenly bustling on a weekday afternoon at half past two, it’s not hard to see why the management here changed their mind.
For Kani, there’s one last thing that sets Haus apart from coffee shops, or other hot-desking clubs. “The best part is that we chat to each other…you have a community,” he explains. At the minute, he’s making the effort to personally introduce members to each other as they share the space – “I meet so many people – 15 or 20 in a day, and all of them are really interesting”, he beams. “I just can’t imagine that in a co-working space I would get to do that.”
The long-term plan for Haus? To launch across the city, so that members can host meetings across London while meeting new faces, taking new routes to work and “trying new places for lunch”.
Let’s just hope – if Haus takes off – that there’ll still be a few restaurants left to have lunch at….
NOTE: Haus currently operates at 100 Wardour Street (Soho), with memberships priced at £95pm. You can sign up for a free day trial and find out more on their website HERE.
Freelancing in London? Read our guide to the most chilled coffee shops for working
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