Local News

BBQ joint serves up gift cards to attract investors

Posted April 24, 2009 7:18 p.m. EDT

— The shaky economy almost cost two Chapel Hill restaurateurs a chance to expand, but customers looking for a tasty return on their investment are providing the needed capital.

The Barbecue Joint has operated on Weaver Dairy Road for seven years, but the co-owners would like to move to a larger location on South Elliott Road to accommodate the growing business.

The new building needs a major renovation, and co-owner Damon Lapas said he and his partner didn't have enough cash to undertake the move after two investors backed out because of the recession.

Instead of abandoning their planned expansion until the economy improved enough for the investors to return, Lapas said he and his partner came up with an offer for their customers to raise the money they needed.

"You write us a check for $1,000 and you get a gift card for $2,000," he said.

The card can be used to buy food, drinks or catering services – enough food for one meal a week for four years.

Phil Draper, a Barbecue Joint regular, said he went in with three friends to buy a gift card.

"We each – four of us – put up $250 apiece, and then we each have a gift card that has a $500 credit on it," Draper said. "I just think they deserve a chance of success in a different, better location than what they have."

Lapas said the idea has raised $50,000 in less than a month. He and his partner hope to raise another $50,000 to begin renovating the South Elliott Road building, he said.

"I feel like it's a good deal both ways – for the customers and for us," he said.