Vouchers Help Fund New Restaurant

Chef and restaurateur Gareth “Gaz” Smith has raised €400,000 of the €1.6 million start-up cost of his newest venture by forward-selling vouchers to a select group of 40 of his regulars, who have each paid €10,000 for exclusive access to the project.

Gareth Smith operates Michael’s Seafood Restaurant and Little Mike’s in Mount Merrion, Dublin. His newest venue in Blackrock, Big Mike’s, is scheduled to open towards the end of September.

The restaurateur has funded the project with his savings, sponsorship deals and a €500,000 bank loan, but found himself still short of capital. After dismissing the idea of taking on a financial investor who might push him to open before he was ready, he settled on the idea of an elite form of crowd funding and devised the vouchers club scheme, which he has christened "Friends With Benefits".

Individuals who join the scheme pay the €10,000 and receive a book of vouchers for this sum, with each voucher worth €250 valid for five years across all his venues. Members are also guaranteed priority treatment at his restaurants, with personalised knives and decanters on a members’ wall, and a personal meeting with the proprietor to discuss their options.

Most of those who have signed up have been restaurant regulars and locals and 75% are women.