Gary Usher is preparing to return to Kickstarter to plug a £100,000 shortfall in the budget for his new Manchester restaurant Kala.
The North West-based chef’s Elite Bistros group has started building its sixth restaurant in 55 King Street with landlord Orbit Developments.
The chef admitted he was reluctantly returning to the crowdfunding platform after under-budgeting for the new site.
Usher had secured a £150k incentive from the landlord, a £100k loan, and £100 finance, with the total costs estimated to be £500k.
Meanwhile, the chef-patron is believed to be in talks on a seventh site in Leeds’ Wellington Place development, while he is also considering potential opportunities in London and Ibiza.
Speaking to PR agency Luya’s podcast in Hawksmoor Manchester, Usher said: “I didn’t want to do another Kickstarter, as I thought with the landlord’s incentive I didn’t need to, but I think I’m going to have to do a crowdfund
“I don’t want to do it again, I was feeling quite proud that we’d finally got to number six without needing it. It’s a tricky one. The reason we got into it in the first place is because we couldn’t fund restaurants in the normal way.”
On his use of crowdfunding, he continued: “If I go to the bank now and say I want to open a restaurant, can you lend me the money, they’ll say no. If I walk in and say I have £150k, can you put in £150k, they’re much more likely to say yes.
“My restaurants aren’t profitable enough to have cash in the bank to expand. That might sound crazy as people will say, if you don’t make enough money, you shouldn’t expand. But neighbourhood restaurants just don’t make enough money. If you’re careful with the produce you buy, the offer you give, and the people you work with, you won’t make money. Enough to survive maybe, but not enough to open new restaurants. Will you have a business to be proud of? Yes.
“Crowdfunding for me is definitely a business plan. Why can’t people get their head around it? A lot of it is probably jealousy. If you’re old school, and been around for 30 years, and are struggling like everyone is, and some young upstart comes along and is able to source £100k from the general public without any ownership of the business, or any shares, you’d probably be a bit fucked off.
“But if someone has raised £50k in an hour, why wouldn’t you applaud it? Anyone who has bitterness about that you have to ask what’s up with them.”
Usher said that after a recent profile in The Times which he deemed unflattering, he was pausing all media engagements, and had cancelled a Channel 4 documentary due to be filmed this year, giving him more time to focus on his business.
He said: “Restaurant-wise the build at Kala has started, and will hopefully be open in three months.
“I’m in talks with landlords in Leeds about a site at the old Lifting Tower. That’s amazing, I hope Leeds will happen. Anything that comes up I will look at it. There’s an opportunity to open a restaurant in Ibiza. I’m not gunning for it but I’ll look at it. There’s opportunities in London as well. If it’s right I’ll go for it.
“The last opportunity we had in London was in Shoreditch, but it’s just so clichéd. I’ve looked at it, considered it, and will continue to consider it. But we are a drop in the ocean compared to the competition in London. Is there any point in running one restaurant 200 miles away? I’m not sure.”
Usher admitted his fiercely loyalty to his business and staff was sometimes interpreted as hostile.
Meanwhile he said his group had a zero tolerance approach to bullying and abusive behaviour.
He added: “All I’m interested in is my business and the people that work in it. If someone attacks the people that work for me, I will fucking attack them back. I’m not trying to save the hospitality industry. I’m not trying to prove anything. The only confrontations I’ve ever got in have been protecting my business. I don’t look for trouble.
“We had a head chef, very experienced guy, who joined from a Michelin star this and that. Amazing cook. But he kept being really rude. If you do something wrong you’d be spoken to in a pretty nasty way. He got spoken to, and was given two warnings. One service he used homophobic slang to one of the chefs when they did something wrong. Rich, the exec chef said, I want to sack him straight away. It’s tricky, because I came from that style of kitchen. I didn’t use that terminology, but I saw it a lot. Rich said I want to sack him, and I said ok, let’s do it. That’s how we run the company.
“Everyone should speak up, there shouldn’t be anyone who leaves their job going home upset. I don’t accept it – we stamp it out completely. If there’s a wider project that could help with that – brilliant.”