A report from remote work booking platform Third Place and Swinburne University has identified pubs as a potential workplace for remote workers.
The concept of a ‘third place’ dates back to 1989, when sociologist Ray Oldenburg argued that a third place, apart from the home (the first place) and the workplace (the second place), was important for civil society, engagement and wellbeing. Popular examples include barbershops, cafes, and pubs.
During the pandemic, the importance of third places grew, initially as customers felt their absence and were unable to access them, and later, as possible working locations, as remote work became increasingly normalised.
The report found that workers typically use third places two to three times each week, and can stay as long as four hours, spending as much as $30 per visit. Cafes are the number one location for third place workers, but participants in the study also mentioned pubs as another prominent workspace.
Australian Hotelier spoke to Dean Katz, CEO and founder of Third Place, to hear how pubs can provide for and benefit from this growing market of customers.
“We’re absolutely seeing the same trend with workers using pubs,“ Katz said.
“We find that around 30 to 40 per cent of our bookings are pubs and our users spend on average $25 to $40 per visit. And then there’s our corporate and business users who typically spend up to $50 or more per visit.”
A world-wide phenomenon
Katz pointed to further, global research, that supports the findings of the Swinburne and Third Place study.
“A recent report by me&u entitled ‘Pubs, Pints & Predictions: Hospitality Ten Years On’ interviewed more than 5,000 pub-goers across Australia, the UK and the US on what they expect from hospitality venues in the near future. Seventy-eight per cent of the respondents said that they see pubs playing a changing role and are looking for venues to adapt to different needs across the day or week, including offering flexible ‘work from venue’ options.”
In the course of their research, Swinburne academics detected four distinct groups of third place users.
“We identified a range of different third place users,” says lead researcher and Swinburne Innovation Fellow, Associate Professor John Hopkins.
“Firstly, there are ‘Device Disconnectors’ who like to visit third places for a quick break away from technology. Then there are ‘Caffeine Creatives,’ who use the change of environment as a mental reset, which helps them to think creatively. ‘Suburban Socialites’ like to counteract the threat of loneliness when working-from-home with short regular visits to their local third place, whilst ‘Lunchtime Liaisons’ use third places for regular meetings with clients or colleagues, often combining this with lunch or breakfast.”
Katz explained why pubs are well-placed to cater for these workers – and how they can ensure they provide a welcoming space for them.
“Pubs and hotels actually have some of the best spaces to work remotely and are very popular amongst third place workers because they really do have all the right ingredients – numerous tables to choose from, closed off booths for a bit more privacy, private dining rooms for team meetings and function areas for larger groups.”
And the CEO had further useful advice for operators looking to optimise their pubs for these third place workers.
“One of the biggest issues, which is highlighted in the Swinburne report, is that people don’t feel welcome or they get that ‘awkward feeling’ when working from pubs and other hospitality spaces.”
Clear signage that workers are welcome in the pub is highlighted in the report as a key step that pubs can take to attract and retain this trade. Katz outlined other ways pubs can ensure workers are at ease.
“The report mentions the analogy that family venues often provide paper and pencils for kids to draw. Well, it’s the same concept – if you make third place workers feel welcome, seat them near the power outlets or offer them portable chargers, give them the wi-fi codes, offer them a coffee (or two!), show them some private spaces available if they need to hold a zoom call, that is what will attract all types of third place users.”
Seizing the opportunity
As Katz sees it, the potential benefits for pubs are manifold – particularly, the chance to bring in custom during the traditionally quieter parts of the week.
“The beautiful opportunity is that third place workers traditionally do not book workspaces on the weekends or during the night trade but rather bookings on Monday through to Thursday (during working hours) are very popular,” he said.
“There are thousands of companies and millions of employees in the market right now and it’s growing exponentially since the end of the pandemic. It also attracts a new type of customer, who can then become repeat customers during the social trading hours, whether over the weekend or with family and friends.”
Indeed, Third Place stated that 98 per cent of those surveyed would continue to use a third place for work – highlighting an opportunity for publicans and hospitality operates to secure long-term repeat trade.
This said, Katz stressed that he and his company were not looking to radically transform the nature of pubs, but to lean more upon what they already inherently offer.
“The key is we’re not trying to convert hospitality venues into coworking operators. As it happens, co-working operators and traditional offices are trying to become more like ‘hospitality’ to draw people back in. But you can’t be more hospitality than hospitality! You can’t beat the hospitality experience of a pub, a café, a restaurant or a hotel.”
“Pubs are perfectly positioned to take advantage of the third place demand,” Katz concluded.
“They are conveniently located, anywhere and everywhere (from regional to suburban and CBD locations). They can help companies save substantial costs and provide far greater value as the food and beverage offerings come together with the space. They provide the magical moments that build company culture and connection and they are in the business of providing hospitality experience. They are at the heart of the community and can play a vital role in improving the mental health and wellbeing of the workforce in the future of flexible work.”
You can access the full report here.