Monday, November 21, 2011

Plum Bar Sells Seats

By Jesse Hirsch
Mon, Nov 21, 2011 at 5:17 PM

Plum Bar, the newest leg of Daniel Patterson’s ballooning empire, opened on the auspicious day of 11-11-11, all but guaranteeing an inside track on success, happiness, and a lifetime of big tippers. But in case the luck of the elevens wasn’t enough, Patterson crafted a safety net.

In this new venture into microfinance, any Joe Schmo can buy a stake in Plum Bar for only $500. Dubbed “seatholders,” these plucky investors then get 20 percent off their Plum/Plum Bar bills for the rest of their lives. They also receive as-yet-unnamed special perks and event invitations (champagne room, pony rides, etc.).

Seatholders even get their own stately crest, with maxims like “Have a Sense of Propriety” and “Foster a Shared Ethos” encircling a chair silhouette. It resembles a Freemasons logo, or a vintage union labor poster.

The program is modeled after Scott Kester’s crowd-sourcing scheme to open The Elevens, a New York bar/restaurant that Patterson consulted on. Kester is looking to enlist two thousand seatholders in advance of his spring opening. It’s like Kickstarter with a million-dollar target.

Plum Bar’s goals are more modest. Patterson told me he’s looking for four to five hundred seatholders in the next couple of months; so far there are about thirty. He’s confident that once he starts “pounding the doors of all [his] restaurant friends,” the venture will snowball.

“In this economy even high-wealth investors are risk-averse,” Patterson said, “but our program makes the buy-in more attractive.”

The seatholder capital will be used to shore up Plum Bar’s financial base. More importantly, Patterson hopes it will encourage other restaurateurs to adopt the model. “Restaurant people can be very traditional, wary of change,” he said. “I’m hoping to produce a new paradigm here.”

Reach for the stars, you crazy dreamer.

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