This post was published first in the Slow Money newsletter, January 2013
By Tony Ferrari and Jonathan Sutton
Hillside Supper Club is a neighborhood restaurant in San Francisco, embedded in the community of Bernal Heights. Our place is a social, casual gathering of people who enjoy eating and drinking, love good food and like to meet new friends. After meeting Slow Food’s Carlo Petrini and Alice Waters last year, we are even more inspired and committed to producing simple, locally sourced, market-driven, seasonal food. We will stay involved with Slow Food and other local food communities to share food and nutritional education.At community dinners, we invite and feature farmers who supply our ingredients. Our restaurant is never stuffy, always comfortable. Our motto is “come as strangers, leave as friends.”
Edibles are our best assets, why not use them in fundraising?
To take our San Francisco restaurant to the next level, we have been raising funds through Credibles from our loyal customers. Credibles allows us to use meal credits as a means of funding and payment.
Until very recently, Hillside Supper Club has been a “pop-up” business, serving meals on the two closed days of another restaurant. We are now going through a metamorphosis to take over this place full time. Such a transition needs a significant investment. Traditional lenders told us that loans might be available if we generated a good portion of funding from our “friends and family.” We both have worked with amazing, successful chef-owners, but this is our first business. So we turned to our customer community, which we consider part of our extended family.
First, we turned to Kickstarter for a crowdfunding campaign, offering T-shirts and name plates, to be placed in the new restaurant as rewards. The campaign went so-so. Once we learned about Credibles, whose founders happen to be customers, however, we realized that the most enticing rewards are edible: the meals we produce in our kitchen.
Offering future meals in exchange for funds took our campaign over the top. Within weeks, we had more than 40 customers, each with prepaid balances of up to $400. Impressed with our community traction, other lenders came through with their loans.
Tracking the prepaid meal credit of dozens of customers over many months is a daunting task. Using Credibles, however, it’s always clear where their credit balances stand and how the meal credits are being “eaten.” When our Credibles customers come in, they don’t need to take out their wallets. Our waiters run the transaction on the iPad we use for our point-of-sale, or POS, system. Before we started using the iPad, we used the Credibles app on our iPhone.
The customers who funded us have become outspoken promoters of Hillside Supper Club; we are now more connected. There is a good chance they will prepay us again once they’ve eaten their current meal credits.
Before we forget: Our remodel is costing a bit more than what the contractors quoted us (no surprise!). You can support us by prepaying your meals on Credibles.org or at the restaurant. It’s good to have edible credits waiting for you in San Francisco.