Restaurateur Gary Usher is aiming to raise £50,000 in 24 hours in his most ambitious crowdfunding campaign yet, which launches at 9pm tonight.
If successful, his 55-cover bistro, Pinion, in Prescot, Merseyside, will open this summer. It will follow the same style as Usher’s other restaurants, Sticky Walnut in Chester, Burnt Truffle in Heswall on the Wirral, Hispi in Didsbury, Greater Manchester, and Wreckfish in Liverpool.
Usher, who featured in The Caterer’s Top 100 Most Powerful People in Hospitality, told The Caterer that Pinion will see him return “back to where he started with restaurants” and that it will be “really casual and have a neighbourhood restaurant feel to it, where you could nip in on your way back from work and have beef and chips”.
He hopes that Pinion will become part of the regeneration of the area, which had seen a drop in footfall since a shopping complex opened nearby. “It’s taken all of the people away from the high street, so if we can help get people back where there’s a little butchers and fishmongers, then that would be cool to be part of. All the locals and the people from around the area are so positive and completely behind Pinion, it’s been amazing.”
Usher accepted the building from landlords Gav and Will, also the landlords of Wreckfish, about 12 months ago, and explained that he was in “a bit of a rush to commit to them”.
To totally renovate the site, an old Betfred bookies, will require about £125,000, Usher said. He explained: “£50,000 doesn’t even get close. What it does is it gives us a bit of power for when we do go to the banks to say we have £50,000 backing us. The banks are a lot happier to get behind you when you have a bit of capital at the start.
“I want this to be a proper business model. I get a bit sick of seeing crowdfunding from certain people and I don’t want people to think that, I want people to see it as a fully-fledged business plan. In my opinion it’s harder than it’s ever been to borrow from the bank, particularly for restaurants as they are so susceptible for failure at the minute.”
Rewards for pledges include a name on the founders’ wall (£10), meal vouchers to the value of the pledge (£25-£100), two opening night party invitations (£100), masterclasses and lunches at other Elite Bistros sites (£200) and a private home-cooked dinner (£2,000).
Usher explained he wanted the rewards system to be “transparent” this time round, meaning that £50 invested would transfer to a £50 spend in the restaurant rather than just a meal ticket.
Usher opened Sticky Walnut in Hoole, Chester, in 2011. His first Kickstarter campaign for Burnt Truffle secured more than £100,000 from 891 backers and saw the restaurant open in July 2015. Didsbury-based Hispi followed suit, receiving nearly £60,000 in pledges.
In May 2017 Usher raised more than £200,000 from 1,522 backers for his fourth restaurant, Wreckfish, in Liverpool. It is believed to be the most money ever raised for a restaurant through a crowdfunding campaign in the UK.
“I don’t want to stop growing or opening restaurants and if crowdfunding is the way to do that, then that’s the way we are,” Usher said. “It’s all about teamwork. If you look at Wreckfish, 2,000 people pledged on there, so 2,000 people got behind us, supported us and egged us on to succeed and cheered us over the finish line. That kind of support, you can’t pay for.”