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  • Writer's pictureCalla Norman

How these 5 Restaurants used Crowdfunding to Comeback after COVID-19!

Updated: Jul 14, 2021

It’s not news to say that restaurants have had a hard year because of the coronavirus pandemic. While some help is on the way with PPP loans and the Restaurant Revitalization Fund program, there’s still a major funding gap for small restaurants trying to make it work in this climate.

Here at Honeycomb, we’ve worked with restaurants to raise over $3 million in investments from their communities to weather the storm and grow in the process. Below, we’ve got five stories of different restaurateurs who were able to use crowdfunding to not only overcome the challenges that this year has placed on them but also to thrive!

Learn more about growing your restaurant concept with Honeycomb Credit's The Ultimate Guide to Growing Your Restaurant in 2021!

Square Cafe

When the pandemic first hit, beloved Pittsburgh neighborhood brunch spot Square Cafe was operating out of the same 2,000 square foot space they’d been operating in for nearly 20 years. However, with spacing out customers becoming a necessity, it was apparent that they’d need to make some changes. They also were struggling with limited parking space, which was necessary as they began relying more on takeout and delivery services.

Owner Sherree Goldstein chats with customers at Square Cafe in Pittsburgh

In May of 2020, a new space in East Liberty (just a 15 minute or so drive from the original location) opened up, and owner Sherree Goldstein knew that now was the time to make her move. This new space was 8,000 square feet, which would make all the difference to the business’s success, especially with pandemic restrictions still in full swing.

Square Cafe ran a Honeycomb campaign that raised $250,000 for this move in record time. This allowed them the space - both indoor dining, outdoor dining, and parking - that they needed to safely distance customers and still run the business.

Learn more about how neighborhood institutions like Square Cafe have raised their capital needs for moves and buildouts here.

Leavened Bakery and Cafe

It had always been a dream of Ian Herrington, proprietor of Leavened Bakery and Cafe in Cleveland, to open his own bakery. He never expected that he’d achieve this dream in the middle of a global pandemic!

Ian, a head baker with 8 years of experience at some of Cleveland’s most popular bakeries, was ready to go out on his own, and he turned to Honeycomb to fund his next venture, Leavened. He was able to raise $43,550 that went towards opening up the new space.

Owner Ian Herrington stands wearing mask in front of the counter at Leavened Bakery and Cafe in Cleveland

Leavened is about so much more than being another spot to get amazing baked goods - Ian’s also committed to making the bakery a part of the neighborhood’s economic development, and making his bakes accessible to people of all income levels. Ian can’t wait until he can safely open up the cafe to dine-in patrons to make it more of a community hub and “third place,” but for now, he’s serving up delicious homemade bread and pastries six days a week.

UnBar Cafe

UnBar is another Cleveland cafe that was directly impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. At the start of the pandemic, UnBar, a coffee shop that prides itself on creating a community without the presence of alcohol, had to lay off its employees.

Melissa Hirsch, the owner of UnBar, knew she needed to bring these employees back in order to be a part of keeping her community’s economy going. So, she ran a Honeycomb campaign, raising $30,675 to hire back her employees, get some working capital, and get an e-commerce system up and running.

Melissa Hirsch, owner of UnBar Cafe, adjusts a display in the store

UnBar is important to their community not just because they create a space for people to come together, but because they also uplift other businesses in the area! Melissa has partnered with other businesses such as Honeycomb alumni Squash the Beef and GO Buddha to carry their products in the cafe.

Businesses like UnBar have weathered the pandemic, and now is the time for restaurants to Comeback and revitalize their neighborhoods. Find out more about Honeycomb Comeback Loans here.

Red Feather Kitchen

Brad Bernstein is a 3rd-generation restaurateur with the mission of promoting sustainable, farm-to-table food with his restaurant The Red Feather in Cincinnati. He also owns Postmark, another contemporary American fine-dining establishment, and when the pandemic hit, he knew he needed to pivot.

The Red Feather’s Honeycomb campaign raised $56,655 to help Brad add new revenue streams to his businesses. He opened a retail wine shop, grocery store, meal prep service, and more, all of which allowed him to continue serving high-quality food to his community.

A retail wine shop with shelves lined with wine and wooden decor

According to Brad, restaurants need to be accessible and expand their offerings in order to navigate the ever-changing economy. However, as much as The Red Feather has grown since the Honeycomb campaign, Brad insists on keeping his high standards for quality consistent across the board.

Driftwood Oven

Last, but certainly not least, is Driftwood Oven. This James Beard-nominated pizzeria in Pittsburgh’s Lawrenceville neighborhood has gotten so much acclaim over their Old World-style sourdough pizzas and other delicious baked goods.

Owner Neil Blazin began baking sourdough as a hobby between his shifts at another Pittsburgh restaurant and soon began selling it there as it became more popular. After a while, he decided it was time to do something for himself, and he purchased a mobile pizza oven. As Driftwood Oven’s popularity grew, it was time to open up a brick-and-mortar location. Yet soon after that, there was the need to expand even more!

A pizza with veggies and white sauce from Driftwood Oven in Pittsburgh's Lawrenceville

That’s when Neil turned to Honeycomb, raising $150,000 to fund some general construction of a restaurant space as well as some new equipment. The pandemic put the dining room plans on hold for a bit, as Driftwood remains a take-out only joint, but they’ve been able to make up for that by expanding their bakery offerings and hours!

Still, Neil can’t wait until he can populate the new space with customers again, and wants to host community events like sourdough workshops and more.

Honeycomb helps restaurants Comeback with the power of Community Capital

Do any of these stories resonate with you? Are you a restaurateur whose passion project has been put on hold, closed down, or otherwise been sidelined by the coronavirus pandemic? Now is the time to get back on track, with the help of Honeycomb Comeback Loans.

These loans are specifically designed for restaurateurs to get the capital they need for their projects fast, so they can get the equipment they need, hire back their old crew, and get the burners going at their new restaurant.

Sounds interesting to you? Learn more at

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