A north-east barbecue restaurant is launching a six-week crowdfunding campaign to develop an outdoor seating area at its current premises and secure a second.
The team at Meat Monsters in Ellon, headed by Alistair Hagen, is hoping to raise £45,000 (or a stretch target of £75,000) by the time the campaign concludes at the end of October or early November.
Initially setting a target of £35,000, Alistair decided to increase the goal after it has received a “surreal” response in its preview stages.
He is asking donations be made in tiers. These tiers include £25, £50, £100, £250, £500 and £1,000. And those making donations will be gifted rewards in return.
For example, members of the public making a £25 donation will receive a 5% off voucher to use online or at Meat Monsters (against any food order or event booking) and be able to find out about special bookable events before anyone else along with many other perks.
Alistair plans to use the sum to build an outdoor seating area at the business’ HQ, based in the town’s Balmacassie Commercial Centre, and secure a second premises.
Success before launch
“For instance, we had planned to make five ‘top tier’ £1K awards available, but even though we’re yet to launch the campaign formally, we’ve actually secured eight in total before even hitting the start button!”
Alistair decided to launch the campaign as the past 14 months, which have proved increasingly difficult for hospitality as a whole, have left him eager to expand the business.
It is now ranked in the top 10% of recommended places to eat worldwide, according to Tripadvisor.
“I love the crowdfunding approach,” he added. “I’ve invested in crowdfunding campaigns myself and the concept of targeting local communities to help grow local businesses using rewards and incentives speaks directly to the ethos of ‘support local’.
“Our smokehouse was built with the capacity to service at least one or two other locations and we committed to an indoor and outdoor space much larger than our initial needs.
“After a very tough 14 months, we’ve managed to survive so now it’s time to thrive.”
All or nothing
Meat Monsters, which was incorporated in December 2017 and started trading fully in early 2019, is set within a large 540-square metre workshop.
Putting coronavirus restrictions aside, the venue can seat up to 60 customers in the main smokehouse dining area and a further 15-18 in a separate private party space.
In the two years since opening, the team has taken more than 12,000 orders for food and produce online – for collection and home delivery in the immediate Ellon area – and thousands of orders face to face in the smokehouse.
The business offers food masterclasses too.
Alistair has decided to choose the “all or nothing” crowdfunding model. He continued: “This means we either hit our £35K and secure the investment (plus any stretch investment) or get nothing.
“Failure to secure the funding would be a big blow to our morale, plans and frankly the business. We believe in what we are doing though and based on the response so far, we have to believe we will be successful.
“On that basis, our first step will be to finalise our location plans for the second Meat Monsters premises and start working on the deployment.
“Counterintuitively, our stretch project (an outdoor eating and teaching space at Meat Monsters in Ellon) is likely to be more expensive than our new premises. Why? Because we have been working on an extremely innovative approach to establishing our new premises.
“I can’t say much more than that right now because it would be relatively unique. Here’s hoping we hit the target and get to share the plan!”
Why outdoor seating?
Speaking about why he is determined to introduce an outdoor area to their current premises, Alistair says “real barbecue is cooked and eaten outside”.
“It was always our goal to make this happen,” he added. “Developing a bespoke all weather outdoor space will let us take our home smoking masterclasses to the next level. We can eat, teach and enjoy barbecue all year round (but in comfort).
“Subject to appropriate planning we hope to roughly double our seating capacity and offer enhanced parking facilities too.”
It doesn’t make sense for our new location to be much more than 15 minutes away from Ellon to ensure maximum efficiency in terms of distributing our freshly smoked meat.”
The business owner plans to set up dedicated fire pit areas and spaces available to hire for DIY eating, using pre-prepared combinations of Meat Monsters’ raw produce that is ready to cook and use.
As for opening a second branch, this has been on Alistair’s to-do list since the business’ launch. He added: “Our kitchen design has room for additional smokers, specifically to allow us to increase what we produce and support at least one other location.
“We’ve got a pretty unique approach for this and until we get this buttoned down we have to stay tight-lipped. What we can say is that it doesn’t make sense for our new location to be much more than 15 minutes away from Ellon to ensure maximum efficiency in terms of distributing our freshly smoked meat.
“It will scream Meat Monsters. We love our logos, colour scheme and brand.”
The barbecue restaurant is currently open from 4.30-7.40pm on Wednesdays, 4.30-8pm on Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays, and 4-8pm on Fridays.