Carla Hall had two conditions for opening her first restaurant: The menu had to be Nashville hot chicken and the money had to be crowdsourced.
The co-host of ABC's daytime food fest "The Chew" says it took years for friends and family to convince her to open her own eatery — "Restaurants are like a money pit," she says. "There's nothing glamorous about it." — but once she'd committed she knew she'd only be happy doing it in a way that kept her in control.
In late September she launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $250,000 toward the opening of Carla Hall's Southern Kitchen by summer 2015 in Midtown Manhattan. The campaign ended Wednesday with 1,550 people pledging a total of $264,703 in exchange for everything from getting their names on a brick in the wall ($25 pledge) to hanging with Hall for a day in the kitchen ($10,000).
"I could have gone with hedge fund guys, but I wanted to be in control," she said in a telephone interview Wednesday. "You give up control for that money."
On the advice of restaurateur and fellow "Chew" co-host Mario Batali, Hall will keep the menu narrow and close to her heart. "It had to be Nashville hot chicken and Southern sides," Hall said of that city's signature fried chicken that's bathed in a fiery sauce. "I just kept thinking about the Sunday suppers at my grandmother's house."
Hall says other private investors, as well as a business partner, will help raise a total of several million dollars for the restaurant.
"It's like you're not in it by yourself," she says of using Kickstarter. "It's one thing to have partners, but it's another thing to have affirmation by the community that 'Yes, we want this thing.'"