These Dining Gift Cards Increase in Value Over Time, so You'll Have More Money to Spend Once Restaurants and Bars Reopen (Video)

Invest in the future of your favorite restaurants and bars.

It’s hard to believe that less than six weeks ago, restaurants and bars across the country were operating business as usual. Now, the entire industry has been left dangling by a thread after the coronavirus pandemic forced dining and drinking establishments to close or, at best, limit service to takeout and delivery only. Since these businesses often operate within thin margins, many left to tread the current stormy waters are turning to the Dining Bond Initiative to help them stay afloat.

The Dining Bond Initiative is a new twist on old concepts. “[Selling dining bonds] is an easy way for restaurants to rebrand their existing gift card programs,” says Helen Patrikis, cofounder of the Dining Bond Initiative. “And it’s a way for people to invest in the future of their favorite restaurants.”

These gift certificates are designed to work like old bank bonds, and are guaranteed to increase in value over time. It’s a win-win: Restaurants, bars, and employees — some of the first and worst hit in the wake of the pandemic — get the money they need now, and you get to enjoy the spoils of your investment — plus interest— once they reopen.

Hole In The Wall NYC Restaurant
Courtesy of Hole In The Wall NYC

“The idea is to look at [dining bonds] as a way to contribute to some of the operating costs that a restaurant might have right now,” explained Patrikis. “It’s a way to support restaurants today, whether it’s paying a worker or some invoices that are past due. It’s really anything to help them get through these times.”

Patrikis and her cofounding partner, Steven Hall, help participants with tech needs and marketing guidance, but the actual rules and incentives of the bonds are set by the individual seller and can include anything from discounts, added value, or even special perks like happy hours or chef’s table dinners.

Need a few examples? Hole in the Wall, a cafe in New York City’s Financial District, is offering 25 percent off face value of their bonded gift certificates. In Los Angeles, the 1933 Group (home to city staples like the Formosa Cafe, Bigfoot Lodge, and Harlowe) is selling $80 bonds with a $100 redemption value.

Formosa Cafe in Los Angeles
Sue Hwang

Cash flow from bonds varies, though Hall says that most participants he’s spoken to have been able to inject $5,000 to $10,000 into their business through bond sales. Down in Atlanta, and still open for delivery and takeout, the gusto! group has been able to secure around $60,000 worth of bond sales in the last month or so — all of which goes toward paying its employees. “The gusto! dining bond initiative has been a critical piece of the overall puzzle for us hanging in there,” says gusto! creator Nate Hybl. “It’s one of the major buckets of us fighting and scraping and clawing to stay open.”

Currently, there are over 500 participating bars and restaurants globally, stretching from the United States and Italy to Africa and the Pacific Islands. The Dining Bond Initiative may be crucial in preserving local flavors.

Steven Hall also reminds us that restaurants are there when we need them. “They are incredibly philanthropic,” he said. “They’ve always been there when there’s a charity in need or a cause that needs to be supported.”

Now, they need us to show up for them.

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