Gary Usher, the North West chef-patron behind the Sticky Walnut, Hispi and Burnt Truffle, has told MCA he turned to crowdfunding because banks were unwilling to lend to a fledgling restaurant operator.
Usher, who is currently raising £200,000 via Kickstarter for a new Liverpool restaurant Wreckfish, said crowdfunding was good for publicity, but that he would prefer more “mature” backing.
He said that while he had held talks with several private equity groups he had been unconvinced the obligations would be the right fit for his small collection of restaurants.
Usher also said that while he would consider opening a site in London, he was conscious that his high profile in the north west would mean nothing in the capital.
He told MCA: “I’d love to add more restaurants, but doing it this way again with crowdfunding? I’d rather the bank took us seriously. I’d like to do the business in a more mature way.”
He added: “With my first restaurant I went to the bank and struggled to get a £10,000 loan for air conditioning, and I realised I was going to need to look elsewhere to fund the business.
“With Kickstarter you set your goal, and if you don’t hit it, it goes back. I enjoy the fact it’s a bit of a gamble, its more exciting having a time limit. It revs everyone up to keep an eye it.
“The publicity is huge. You couldn’t buy exposure like it. Crowdfunding lets so many people know you’re opening.”
On the risks of crowdfunding to investors, he said: “We are trying to open a restaurant, I’m not inventing a radio you can use under water. We’re selling meal vouchers. The chances of our restaurant closing is the same as anywhere.
“Even if the restaurant fails, we have three others where people could use their vouchers.”
On the potential for a move to London, he said: “If something came up I’d take it into consideration from a team point of view. If everything was perfect, and we could afford the rent, we’d do it.
“But we’re doing well in the North West, so it might be silly to go down south.
“In London, I’d be a nobody, my food would be nothing. The competition is huge. You really need to stand out. I do bistro food, I don’t do anything special.”