The Importance of Persistence, Transparency and Patience in Restaurant Financing
An Interview with George Weld, founder of Egg Restaurant, with Christine Rico, Slow Money NYC Board co-chair
Egg hatched in 2005 with the concept to make good food while also doing social good. George Weld launched his Southern-inspired breakfast eatery as a pop-up that operated in the mornings inside a lunch and dinner restaurant. Stunning reviews in The New York Times and New Yorker turned Egg into a phenomenon. A couple of years later, Egg was doing so well, they bought out the entire space and opened for business all day long.
“Sudden popularity meant we had to learn to do everything on the fly, under a lot of pressure,” said Weld.
With the intent to produce farm-to-table fare, Weld bought Goatfell farm in upstate New York to blend food and agriculture. They found more challenges than anticipated. Next came another neighborhood restaurant in Brooklyn and the search for investors to fund their expanding ventures. In 2010, they took on a lease for a space that required extensive remodeling. From there, it was a rough road that led Weld to success but not in the way he expected.
Here’s what Weld said about his Slow Money experience with impact investing in his restaurants:
How did you choose the right investors?
I found raising funds for this new place, later to be called Parish Hall, was a challenge. In fact, it took 2 full years to raise the capital needed to build-out the space. A failed Kickstarter and efforts to find direct investment proved frustrating. Then our operations VP stumbled upon Slow Money. We were pleased to find like-minded investors committed to social and environmental good. Throughout the whole process I was very transparent about what we were going to do; I kept looking for people that shared our values.
“Our restaurant is committed to being a good place to work and to buying from farmers who care about the planet. These are non-negotiable. We won’t drop them for the sake of returns.”
How did you prepare to pitch the investors?
We pitched at both Slow Money NYC and a Slow Money national gathering. At the national gathering we thought we had found the perfect setting. It was disappointing that all our prep work and enthusiasm didn’t result in funding. In NYC, we tried pitching to like-minded investors in smaller settings. When I made embarrassing missteps, like miscalculating IRR, they coached and helped me.
Weld revealed, “I did a lot of learning by doing. We were pretty comfortable presenting our financials and telling a story. The pitching part was easy.”
What has raising capital done for the business?
With 26 private investors (including many affiliated with Slow Money NYC) and a bank loan, we opened Parish Hall in Williamsburg in 2012. It failed by 2013. We were able to salvage things by moving Egg into the shuttered location. We slowly recovered, avoided bankruptcy, and thrived with a new and singular focus on the Egg brand.
What is your relationship like with your investors now?
Despite the failure of Parish Hall, I was surprised my investors continued to be supportive and encouraging. They wanted to know what happened and what was next. Now, I have a small advisory council formed from key investors that I rely on for suggestions and unique expertise. It’s pretty good with room for improvement.
“I found I’m not as good at communicating as I should be, but my priority is the restaurant and the workers,” said Weld.
What have you learned through this process?
Over the past eight years along this funding road, I learned that I should have planned better to make sure I had enough operating capital and to be clear about how we would use the funds. Given that relationships with investors are long-term, you must be sure it will work well.
Weld said, “Don’t tell people what you think they want to hear — be straightforward about your priorities.”
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