Introducing The Restaurant Project

Helena Price
4 min readApr 7, 2020

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We’ve been quietly working on something at Haus that we’re excited to share with you.

Today we’re launching nine new aperitifs, in collaboration with restaurants across the country.

100% of the profits go to the restaurant you purchase from, covering their costs, supporting employees, and keeping them in business until they can open their doors again.

How does it work?

  1. Order an aperitif from your restaurant of choice here.
  2. We pay the restaurant’s cut immediately, so your purchase has an immediate impact.
  3. We’ll send you your bottle when it’s ready in May, and keep you posted every step of the way.

This project was no easy feat to pull off. Here’s a little background on how it was possible.

First off, let’s start off with an obvious question: Why?

People across the country are looking for impactful ways to support restaurants and their employees.

E-commerce is a big opportunity for restaurants to make money while their doors are closed. But launching an e-commerce brand can take many months and have considerable up-front costs, so it’s not an option for most.

Instead, restaurants are primarily earning income through delivery. While helpful, most restaurants cannot sustain on this income alone.

By creating products for restaurants, we take on the hard part — supply chain, production, selling, shipping. They can focus on keeping afloat.

It’s a win for both the restaurant and the customer — the restaurant is supported, the customer receives a quality culinary product in return.

But really, why are you doing this?

This is our industry. We care deeply about its future. We can help, and so we should.

What are the products?

Each aperitif is an ongoing collaboration between us and the restaurant, designed to reflect their culinary approach.

Brandon Jew is creating a smokey sipping aperitif inspired by Mister Jiu’s signature roast duck, with black cardamom, lapsang tea, spicy ginger, and floral osmanthus. Edouardo Jordan is doing a riff on gin and juice with juniper, elderflower and orange. With every recipe we pushed the boundaries on what an aperitif can be.

All of the products are both conceptually novel and of the highest quality, with whole, natural ingredients from the best farms in America. We think this is an exciting moment for alcohol in general.

You’re working with some of the most successful restaurants in America. Are these restaurants actually at risk of closing?

Yes. If we launched this campaign a month from now, it would already be too late. Based on our conversations in the industry, most restaurants that haven’t closed already will close their doors this month if a drastic solution is not found.

How much money do the restaurants actually make from this?

Spirit margins run about 60–80% on average. We’re estimating about $50 per order. We don’t know how much we’ll sell yet, but here’s a hypothetical:

If James Beard Award winner Ashley Christensen sells 2000 orders (that’s 2% of her restaurant group’s total Instagram following) she gets approx. $100,000 from us. If she sells that much this week, that’s the payment she’ll get on Friday.

How can you pull this off without wrecking your own business?

We own production and supply chain, which allows us to create and ship new products quickly. This also prevents us from mis-projecting and sitting on unused inventory.

We have healthy margins allowing us to cover our own product costs and still deliver considerable profit to the restaurant.

Why aren’t restaurants making their own booze brands already?

Prohibition-era “tied house” laws. In the federal three-tier system controlling the liquor industry, no single entity can own multiple tiers. A distributor or a retailer cannot make their own alcohol brands, a producer or distributor cannot own their own retail, etc.

In other words, it’s illegal for restaurants to make and sell their own alcohol.

By us making and selling the alcohol for them, then donating the profits, the tiers remain separate, and the restaurants can enjoy the benefits of a proprietary brand without breaking the law.

It’s also illegal to sell booze (other than wine) directly online. We are an exception, thanks to a loophole involving low-ABV and grapes in our products.

Why aren’t other alcohol brands doing this?

For the most part, they can’t, because they can’t legally sell direct online, or don’t own their own supply chain and production.

Are you going to be adding more restaurants?

Yes. Our second roster will be announced in late April. If you’d like to be considered you can apply here.

What happens after the crisis is over?

We’ll keep this going as long as restaurants are impacted by COVID-19.

We plan to add some products to our permanent collection, and continue to work with restaurants we love, through both e-commerce and wholesale.

How can I support restaurants more generally during this time?

We have compiled a list of organizations that are doing great work to support the restaurant industry here.

Sending our gratitude for those who have supported us through the crisis, and glad we are lucky enough to pay it forward now.

Helena + Woody

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