Paul Foster and the art of crowdfunding

Paul Foster and the art of crowdfunding

by Tom Shingler 25 February 2016

As the acclaimed chef puts everything on the line with the dream of crowdfunding his own Warwickshire-based restaurant on Kickstarter, we find out just how nerve-racking the process is and why people should pledge their money.

Tom Shingler is the editor of Great British Chefs.

Tom Shingler was the editor at Great British Chefs until 2021, having first joined Great British Chefs in 2015.

Every chef wants to own his or her own restaurant – it’s what most dream of when they get start culinary college or begin their first job in the kitchen. But the road to ownership can be a long one, and finding investors is incredibly tough. That’s why Paul Foster, who until recently was the head chef at Mallory Court, decided to throw the dice and secure investment through Kickstarter, a crowdfunding platform that’s helped all sorts of entrepreneurs achieve their dreams over the past few years.

Paul’s plan is to open Salt, a relaxed, fine dining establishment in Warwickshire, but in order to do so he needs to raise £100,000 by 8 March 2016. ‘At the moment we’ve just gone past £25,000 and have two weeks left to reach our target,’ he tells us. ‘We’re just really trying to get the momentum going and hope there’ll be a bit of a surge soon.

‘The restaurant is going to be really exciting for Warwickshire,’ adds Paul. ‘I’m looking to open Salt in Leamington Spa town centre which is a place that really lacks a fine dining establishment like the one I want to run. We’re doing away with all the formal stuff and going for a really good price point with a relaxed, easy going atmosphere.’

Around three years ago, Paul and his wife Rhiain were very close to owning their own restaurant, but after investors pulled out he decided to take on the head chef role at Mallory Court instead. This means they’ve always had the business plan in place, ready to go, but until now weren’t sure of how to go about securing investment. ‘Myself and my wife have been looking into crowdfunding for a good few months, but didn’t make a decision on when to go for it until recently,’ says Paul. ‘It’s something we’ve done a lot of research around, looking into other Kickstarters to see which rewards and price points are the most popular. We’ve put all our own savings into it as well as asking the public, so it’s definitely a gamble.’

Standing out from the crowd

The amount of people who have supported it has been great and some of the top chefs in the country have put their weight behind it as well, which is really flattering.

Paul Foster

These days there are quite a few crowdfunding platforms on the internet. Gofundme, Indiegogo and Seedrs all offer various benefits for projects. But Paul decided to go with Kickstarter, the most well known. ‘There are other sites like Indiegogo where you keep whatever you manage to raise but I think around nine out of ten projects don’t meet their target on there,’ he explains. ‘On Kickstarter you have that real ‘all or nothing’ feeling, which I think really spurs people on to get involved. I’m taking a massive risk as it is by leaving my job with an uncertain future if it doesn’t work out.’

This personal risk meant Paul certainly felt the pressure once he took the plunge and announced what he was doing. ‘Building up to actually launching the page was pretty crazy and once it was published there were a few minutes where nothing happened – it felt like hours passing,’ he says. ‘Then all of a sudden it all blew up and Twitter went crazy. The amount of people who have supported it has been great and some of the top chefs in the country have put their weight behind it as well, which is really flattering.’

Paul is using social media to get the word out about Salt, trying to spread the message as much as possible. ‘Twitter is definitely the main way we’re getting the word out,’ he tells us. ‘I use Facebook as well but that’s more of a personal thing so I don’t push it as hard on there – it’s more for friends and family. We’re also talking to people in the corporate world and launching rewards like cookery school days and chocolate masterclasses. It’s not the sort of market I’d normally approach but there’s so much opportunity in that area.

‘If we hit the target, then it’s all about securing a property – we’ve got our eye on a couple but the second we have the £100,000 in the bank we’re in a great position to negotiate. After that, it’s all hands on deck as we get everything ready for our planned opening date in July.’

UPDATE: Paul succeeded in reaching his target, making his dream a reality! We'll be following his journey over the next few months – keep posted for news on how his restaurant is shaping up.

Paul plating
Paul's modern British style has been lauded by critics for years