From Scratch Traditional Italian Restaurant Crowdfunds Kitchen Expansion!
From Scratch is a bright, airy, tastefully decorated restaurant in the heart of Ridgewood, New Jersey that is redefining how Jersey does Italian cuisine. Opened in 2015 by Claudia Rovegno and Roberto Santagati, the family-owned restaurant started at a local farmer’s market and has grown into a neighborhood institution.
From Scratch is truly family-owned and “100% Italian,” as owner Claudia mentions, as they immigrated from Italy in 2013. Claudia is the head chef, her husband Roberto runs the front of house, and their grown children come to help out at the restaurant when they’re home from college.
The homemade pasta and traditional Italian recipes are inspired by Claudia’s grandmother’s recipe notebook, and this last year she decided to introduce a new menu item - pinsa.
Pinsa romana is an ancient Roman food similar to pizza, except the dough is lighter and takes longer to ferment. Claudia and Roberto knew that pinsa would differentiate From Scratch from the other restaurants in the area and would support the takeout side of their business, which was necessary amidst the pandemic lockdowns.
To purchase a professional pinsa oven and renovate the restaurant, From Scratch decided to run a crowdfunding campaign with Honeycomb Credit, raising their maximum goal of $50,000! Read on to learn more about their experience with the campaign, and how Claudia and Roberto are continuing to grow From Scratch.
Innovating through the pandemic with traditional recipes and crowdfunding
Since opening six and a half years ago, From Scratch has cultivated a devoted customer base and found national acclaim, including a feature in the New York Times. Customers come from all around the region for a taste of their authentic Italian cuisine.
“It's the way that they really want to eat!” says Claudia. “In New Jersey, there are a lot of Italian American families. When I put a traditional dish on the table, I was very surprised because I couldn't believe that people could know that kind of dish. They knew it because they used to eat at home, because their grandmother or their mothers used to do it on Sundays for instance. That was a very nice touch to put something of our tradition into our restaurant.”
However, in 2020 From Scratch experienced many of the same hardships that other restaurants across the world were facing, dealing with pandemic lockdowns and ever-changing circumstances.
“We had to always reinvent ourselves according to the situation,” says Claudia. “We need to be flexible and try to always put curiosity in what we do and try to keep our customers always in the loop.”
As From Scratch pivoted to focus more on takeout, Claudia and her husband Roberto decided that they wanted to incorporate takeout-friendly pinsa into their menu.
In order to serve up an authentic pinsa, however, Claudia and Roberto needed to purchase a professional oven to cook it, as well as some other additions to their restaurant. So, they decided to crowdfund the capital with Honeycomb.
“Honeycomb was easier than a bank, because a bank needed a lot of personal guarantee, and we just moved from Italy!” notes Claudia. “For us, it would be hard to have the same interest that Honeycomb was able to get us than a bank, and with a bank there’s also more bureaucracy and it would have taken more time to get the money.”
The Honeycomb campaign allowed From Scratch to raise their maximum goal of $50,000, which unlocked the capital they needed to buy the pinsa oven and other equipment, renovate the restaurant’s interior, and focus some working capital on their marketing and advertising.
“When I realized that we arrived at the maximum in less than two weeks, I said, ‘Oh my goodness, now we have to roll up our sleeves and work really hard.’ I was scared and happy at the same time and now I can say that I'm very happy,” says Claudia.
She also found a lot of support with crafting her campaign page and marketing the campaign from the Honeycomb staff. "All the people that I worked with from Honeycomb were amazing people, they tried to make everything easy for me with the language and everything.”
Growing a successful restaurant one take-out box at a time
Unsurprisingly, when From Scratch purchased the oven with their crowdfunded loan and introduced the pinsa to their customers, they found it was a hit!
“I just went to look at some numbers yesterday, and thanks to Honeycomb, I can tell you that from the end of April until now we have already increased 15% of all our revenue in two months and a half,” says Claudia. “So, it's a great goal because if we continue in this way, in December we will reach 30%. That much in five months, it's a very big plus for us.”
As From Scratch grows, Claudia wants to expand the pinsa business even more. “All the people loved the pinsa. They really loved it. So that's why our idea is, now that we start to have some numbers, we want to open a place for takeout of our pinsa romana.” She also wants to initiate their own delivery service, in order to get away from third-party delivery services like DoorDash or GrubHub which take a portion of the revenue.
These days, From Scratch is continuing to serve up their pinsa and fresh pasta and see their regular customers, many of whom invested in their campaign. “No one new invested in our campaign, it was all people we knew,” says Claudia. “I know exactly who invested in us. They come to the restaurant and they ask us, ‘How's it going guys?’ and we are happy. They're not worried about having their money back, they just want to be sure that the money that they invested in us was helpful to us.”
Have a new product that you know is a future neighborhood favorite? Why not crowdfund it?
Roberto and Claudia knew that pinsa was something that their community was missing, and thanks to their Honeycomb campaign they were able to make it a part of their thriving restaurant. If you’re looking to expand your restaurant’s offerings but need equipment, why not bring your neighbors into your growth?
Learn more about Honeycomb Credit crowdfunded small business loans for restaurants here, and sign up below to receive more information!