Cincinnati’s Red Feather Kitchen raises $56,655 for Restaurant Expansion
On a bustling street in Cincinnati’s Oakley neighborhood is Red Feather Kitchen, a warm, wood-paneled, upscale casual restaurant that serves up refined handcrafted food in a rough luxury setting.
Chef Brad Bernstein is the proprietor of Red Feather Trading Company, a hospitality group that includes Red Feather Kitchen, and Postmark Restaurant and Wine Shop, which is a “farmhouse refined” concept restaurant, a grocerant, larder, and delicatessen. All these different yet related elements of the business serve each other to provide guests with an upscale yet welcoming experience, no matter the circumstances.
Over the past seven years, the awards have piled up for various Red Feather Trading Company establishments. Red Feather Kitchen was awarded one of the top 10 Cincinnati Restaurants in 2014 and Postmark won #1 restaurant of 2017 from Cincinnati Magazine. Furthermore, Brad and his wife Rachel even won the hit Food Network show, Guy’s Grocery Games!
With a Honeycomb campaign that raised $56,655, Brad was able to continue this expansion and open up the new retail wine shop, which became especially important after the coronavirus pandemic made fine-dining in places like Postmark and Red Feather Kitchen more difficult. This made the need for restaurant funding imperative.
“With Red Feather, my approach has always been to be inviting and engaging as a fine dining restaurant, to be approachable. I didn’t want to be stuffy or snobby, I wanted it to be a fun place for people to dine in that fine-dining element, but not for anyone to be turned away,” says Brad.
“That was always my goal, and now the restaurants that are surviving are those that are more casual, that doesn’t have the stuffy aura about it, and aren't closed off. At this time, people aren’t wanting to spend very much time in restaurants because of the pandemic, though I’m starting to see that come back,” he continues. “That’s why we looked for ways to connect and get your product to serve your customers’ needs. That’s why we started the grocerant, meal-prep aspects of the business to fill some of our gaps.”
Read on to learn more about how Brad’s values have influenced the success of his Honeycomb campaign for funding his restaurant.
Slow Food Values in a Fast-Paced City
On top of numerous other accolades, including Top 10 Best Restaurants in Cincinnati and Best Mother’s Day Brunch in Ohio, Red Feather Kitchen was awarded the Snail of Approval from Slow Food Cincinnati in 2016. The values of slow food permeate all aspects of Brad’s restaurant, from the ingredients he sources to the community investment he sought through Honeycomb.
But, what is slow food, exactly? Slow Food is a movement that began in Italy and took root in the United States in 2000. It began as a reaction to fast-food franchises taking over traditional agricultural and culinary practices, and today organizes campaigns, creates partnerships, and organizes to provide “good, clean, and fair food for all.”
Many restaurants that identify as Slow Food operate hyper-locally, sourcing their ingredients seasonally from nearby farmers as best they can, as well as making food as from-scratch as they possibly can make it. Red Feather Kitchen does both of these things, especially their “slow, careful preparations” of foods using classic culinary techniques.
“[Slow Food] makes for the best way for people to live, to be able to walk in somewhere, have that recognition and attention to something that people have always craved,” says Brad. “It’s what’s formed societies and communities and in some ways, I feel like things have gotten impersonal and moved past that connection. All that means is I want to know the person I’m working with, who’s buying from me, and who I’m selling to.”
Brad sees a direct connection between the Slow Food values in Red Feather Kitchen and the response from the community that it’s received. “When people are involved not only in the commerce and businesses in their community, they’re also connecting with where that product came from, how it was made, and it really is a special thing when it can be completely a local community-level focus,” he says.
“To me, that’s more important than money,” Brad continues. “Even with Honeycomb, I might have been able to get more money from the bank, but with Honeycomb it’s not so much the money, but rather it’s a great way to reach out and make that ask.”
Check out more about how Honeycomb leverages your regular customers to finance your restaurant here.
The other element of the Honeycomb campaign process that links up well to Red Feather Kitchen’s slow food values is the personal touches involved in financing the restaurant.
While Red Feather Kitchen began to pivot due to the pandemic, offering more meal-kit services and take-out options on top of the new grocerant and wine shop, the funds from their Honeycomb campaign helped supplement these changes.
“It’s important to have that connection with the investment in these times,” says Brad. While the capital raised from his investors was important to the chef for his restaurant’s revitalization, the lasting relationships with his customers he formed through the campaign were more valuable. “A bank’s not going to come to the restaurant, it’s more transactional,” he continues. “Honeycomb is much more personal.”
One thing about fundraising that Brad, like many successful restaurateurs, was a bit uncomfortable with was putting the ask out there for funding. We get it, but we also know that crowdfunding is definitely different from panhandling - it’s your investors showing how much they believe in you, so much so that they’ll put their money into your business!
Still, sometimes it feels a bit awkward asking for money, but the touches that Honeycomb put on Red Feather Kitchen’s campaign page allowed Brad to put all the information out there and allow his potential investors to make the decision for themselves. “Honeycomb gave me the tools to make it into a good conversation, to make people aware of what was happening and inform them that they could invest,” he said.
How are restaurateurs like Brad coming back after the challenges of the pandemic? Honeycomb Comeback Loans are playing a major role in restaurant revitalization in 2021.
Crafting a Community of Restaurant Investors
For Brad, one of the highlights of the Honeycomb campaign was the community of investors he was able to form around Red Feather Kitchen. Ultimately, 46 investors contributed to his restaurant financing, and each one of those investors Brad sees as an integral part of the restaurant’s community.
“I liked the idea of having a lot of smaller investors, building that community, creating a small pod, and developing that relationship,” he says. “With Honeycomb, my investors seemed to want to spread the word more, to get more involved also, which was really intriguing.”
This is a phenomenon that happens all the time with Honeycomb campaigns, especially restaurant financing. The relationship between investors and the small businesses they support is so much stronger than the relationship between a business and a regular customer.
“I like the philosophy of getting your customers to support you and be engaged, and to feel a part of the community instead of just donating or buying something,” says Brad. “That really stuck with me, creating a lasting relationship where the customers look at it as being a part of us.”
Even throughout the pandemic, when the act of creating a community at the restaurant was much more difficult, Brad sees his restaurant’s connection to its investors as a bright spot in its revitalization.
“I can’t wait to see that community connection piece moving forward - that’s been what’s kept us going through the pandemic. People are loyal because of that piece and they want to see us through,” he says.
Even Slow Food restaurants can unlock fast community capital
Whether you’re a highly acclaimed fine-dining restaurateur like Brad Bernstein or you run a humble (yet incredible) family-owned restaurant, you can use your tight community bonds to help raise capital for your next project.
Restaurateurs from James Beard-nominated pizza makers to community ice cream mavens have used Honeycomb’s crowdfunded loans and Comeback Loans to get the capital to fund their dreams. Find out more by signing up below!