Local startup transforms trendy restaurants into temporary office spaces

Startup Flexday has figured out a way to make use of the city’s restaurants when they’re not bustling with diners by bringing together entrepreneurs and freelancers in need of office space with restaurant owners.

Flexday brings together entrepreneurs, freelancers with restaurant owners to make use of off hours

Flexday founder Justin Raymond says his app understands what's required in the sharing economy space. (Guillaume Cottin/Radio-Canada)

Toronto is home to world-class restaurants that come to life as night falls on the city, but during the day, they often sit vacant and empty.

But now one startup has figured out a way to make use of the city's restaurants when they're not bustling with diners. Flexday brings together entrepreneurs and freelancers with high-end dining establishments to make use of restaurants' off hours. 

It gives dining establishments squeezed by rising rents and labour costs another source of income, while also giving those looking for office space an alternative to noisy, crowded coffee shops.

Self-employed digital marketing recruiter Todd Hummel doesn't have a fixed office and joined Flexday a few months ago. Now he works out of trendy downtown eateries.

"Our alternative is a coffee shop or paying way more for a desk in a co-work location place that doesn't necessarily give you the same benefits of being able to be all over the city," he said. 
Self-employed digital marketing recruiter Todd Hummel works out of trendy downtown eateries through Flexday. (Guillaume Cottin/Radio-Canada)

With Flexday's app, users can reserve a spot at any of its three locations, and for $95 a month, they also have access to wi-fi, power outlets, meeting rooms, unlimited coffee and snacks. Users can also bring up to four guests per visit.

"For entrepreneurs, or people that don't have a set schedule, or a home office, it's really key because again you can be in any location you want and I think it's a very reasonable price," Hummel added. 
Flexday brings together entrepreneurs and freelancers with dining establishment owners to make use of restaurants' off hours. (Guillaume Cottin/Radio-Canada)

Flexday's restaurant partners get part of the rental fee, which may give dining establishments some much needed financial relief.

Zoran White, general manager of restaurant Marben, points out that costs in the restaurant business are going up with Ontario raising its minimum wage and rent increasing in the downtown core.

"The rent is going up, the margin is already small. You're just squeezing, squeezing and squeezing, and eventually something's gotta give," White said. 
Flexday turns restaurants like Marben into workspaces when it isn't hosting diners. (Guillaume Cottin/Radio-Canada)

He might not be alone. With the app fast approaching a thousand users in just three months, Flexday plans to open up five new locations over the next few weeks.

"The freelance, independent contractor community, entrepreneurs, startup world is growing every day," Flexday founder Justin Raymond said.

He expects these increasingly nomadic workers to form a third of the workforce in the next two years. 

Raymond was also behind the taxi hailing app Hailo that shut down in 2014 due to "stiff competition," but this time things are different.

"Having worked in this sharing economy space before, I think we understand what's required and I think we're creating the foundation for a great growth story," he said.

With files from Philippe de Montigny