Looks like Cleveland chefs are getting in on the Kickstarter trend: Jonathon Sawyer of Greenhouse Tavern and Noodlecat is launching a Kickstarter campaign to help fund his upcoming restaurant Trentina. As first reported by Crain's Cleveland, Sawyer is just one of many chefs in the Cleveland area to turn to crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter to fund their business growth. The Kickstarter page will be going live later this afternoon.
Eater caught up with Sawyer over the phone, who explains that he was inspired by the Travail team's Kickstarter story in Minneapolis. He says he's attracted to the idea of a "city-based shareholder system" in which the best customers can really become "benefactors of the restaurant." To that end, he says that he will only be asking for a portion of his overhead costs, to keep the fundraising goal in line with what his Cleveland customers will be able to support.
Sawyer was also inspired by his most dedicated diners, some of whom had been asking him if they could become actual investors in the restaurant. Rewards will include namesake cocktails, cooking classes, access to a special reservations line, and other "tangible," experience-oriented perks. Adding that Trentina has secured a good portion of its needed finances already, Sawyer says: "Kickstarter will allow us to execute the most ambitious restaurant opening Cleveland will see this year."
Matt Danko, Jonathon Sawyer. [Photo: Eater.com]
Sawyer also gave some details about the upcoming Trentina restaurant. Sawyer and chef Matt Danko are planning on focusing on cuisine from Northern Italy's Trentino region. Finding that the ingredients there overlap with local produce in Ohio, Sawyer aims to "take a cuisine that's foreign and interpret it through" local ingredients. He says Trentina will be a "finer" restaurant than his others, with a focus on tableside service. The 36-seat restaurant space used to belong to beloved Cleveland chef Sergio Abramof, who passed away in 2012. Sawyer is aiming to open in May 2014, but notes the opening could potentially happen in April or June.
While Kickstarter has been extremely successful in bigger cities, especially the New York Area, plenty of chefs in smaller cities have turned to Kickstarter. Recently Pittsburgh-based chef Kevin Sousa broke Kickstarter records and raised over $310,000 or his upcoming restaurant Superior Motors. In Cleveland projects like the BlueLoon Farm microdairy and Pour Cleveland both exceeded crowdfunding goals.
Below is a video from the Trentina Kickstarter that explains more about the restaurant project. Go, watch: