Popular Reading restaurant criticised for crowdfunding efforts amid cost of living crisis

A Reading restaurant that’s looking to move to a larger venue has been criticised for crowdfunding. This is despite the difficulty independent businesses are facing at the moment with regards to the cost of living crisis.

As inflation has risen, businesses have experienced increased supply, energy, and manufacturing costs. Small businesses have less capability to absorb such a financial hit, and even established businesses will find it difficult to deal with the inflation increase.

Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, has said that energy costs are likely to cause more harm to the hospitality industry than the pandemic if the government remains static in the weeks to come. With this in mind, many businesses have been hiking up their prices.

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In the case of Clay’s Hyderabadi Kitchen, which is looking to move to the former site of the Baron Cadogan pub in Caversham, price hikes have meant that the business has had to increase the amount of money it needs to raise. Currently, the owners are running their own crowdfunding system to help them raise all of the money needed to renovate and reopen their restaurant.

One of the owners, Nandana, recently penned a letter to those who have criticised the crowdfunder. A few people had asked why the company was asking for money during the cost of living crisis. Nandana has said that the crowdfunder is only for “people who can afford” it.

She began the letter by saying: “This is an open letter to sceptics of our crowdfunding.” She went on: “You could count the number we’ve seen on the fingers of one hand, but me being me, I’d still like to explain.”

The business owner then explained how crowdfunding works, and said that they’ve been using a reward-based fundraising style for their restaurant. If you give them some money, they will grant you a bespoke experience – for example.

Despite this, a few people had left comments asking why the business has been raising money considering the cost of living crisis. Of course, however, this crisis is affecting businesses too, as Nandana went on to explain.

She said: “Our total project cost has gone up too because of price increases in every single sector, it’s now over £600k. We’ve raised £65k through crowdfunding and, as for the rest, we’re putting everything we have and more into this because we believe in our project.”

Nandana went on: “We’re trying to build something in the community to benefit everyone – somewhere that generates jobs, somewhere to celebrate with family and friends and make memories, somewhere that will help put Reading and Caversham on the map.

“Somewhere where people can experience our food – and yes, we believe our food is an experience. As a country, we’re going through some of the most challenging times we’ve ever seen, and I promise we’re really mindful of that.

Clay's Kitchen has been raved about by Jay Rayner.
Clay’s Kitchen has been raved about by chef Jay Rayner
(Image: Matt Inward)

“We haven’t aggressively promoted our crowdfunding; we didn’t want to tempt you, guilt you or be in your face every day. Our crowdfunding is for the people out there who believe in us and trust us, who want to be part of our journey, who are sure they will visit us multiple times in the future and, crucially, can afford to back us.”

Nandana ended the letter by saying that she’s looking forward to when she’ll be able to open the restaurant and welcome customers back. She has also said that the “work is going well” to renovate the pub.

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