The Internet is still having trouble deciding if crowd-funding campaigns launched by restaurant operations are inspiring or infuriating.
For every ballyhooed success — Minnesota's Travail, raising a quarter-mil — there's a project like Philly's own Yachtsman, which earned some derision for its (successful) late-inning tactics. Supporters laud the simplicity of the act: Why jump through all those flaming SBA hoops when you can get the cash infusion you need from your own customer base? Detractors, meanwhile, resent the implication that they should help pay for an establishment that's already planning to take their money.
Tony Montagnaro, a member of the cooperative developing W/N W/N ("Win Win") in a former Thai restaurant in the Eraserhood (931 Spring Garden St.), has been grappling with this issue since they began work on their cafe-bar-restaurant in early 2014.
"For a for-profit business, there are some ethical conundrums when it comes to crowd-funding," says Montagnaro, a former Pizza Brain employee opening W/N W/N with seven others. "[Traditional] investors get their money back with interest. But with those donating smaller amounts of money, they get gifts, but they don't really get their money back."
Unsatisfied with the limitations of platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, and faced with the bookkeeping reality that W/N W/N needed $10,000 in additional capital to stay on-target for a mid-November opening, the team decided to develop a crowd-funding strategy all its own.
"We were trying to find some middle ground where we could feel morally comfortable accepting money from people who aren't big-time investors, and also making sure that the money they gave us was able to get back to them, and then some," says Montagnaro. The solution: W/N W/N tapped local web developers Dylan Valentine and Tammer Ibrahim to build a proprietary system designed to benefit both ends of the transaction.
The basic idea: W/N W/N will begin offering "shares," priced at $25 a pop, to its potential customers via the web.
This value will be transferred, at an increased rate of $30 each, to house credit. Each time a shareholder patronizes W/N W/N, he or she will receive 25 percent off his or her check, leveraged against this investment. These discounts will continue with subsequent visits until one's credit is depleted. This way, even modest investors will eventually experience a full return on investment, with bonus bucks to boot.
"The idea is half-borrowed from the CSA model, where you pay in the beginning to ensure you can get food throughout the season," says Montagnaro.
There is no limit on how many shares an individual can purchase, though they're still determining whether or not they'll be available year-round, or only during dedicated "share drives," held sporadically.
The first of these drives is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 25, from 6 to 10 p.m. in the pretty-much-completed W/N W/N space. (RSVP on Facebook.) Expect previews of the restaurant's cocktails and straightforward seasonal cuisine, plus pickles from Gary Ducket and beer from Crime & Punishment. If all goes as planned, W/N W/N will officially open during the week of Nov. 16.
Pureed orange/purple cauliflower stuffed pastry
Root veggie latke w/ bosc pear sauce & herb cream
Collard green wraps with kabocha squash, brown rice. minced pork or tempeh option
Caramelized fennel on flax cracker
Baked apple with candied walnuts and rum cream