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What Happens When: A Temporary Restaurant Installation's video poster

What Happens When is a temporary restaurant that will change theme every month for a run of 9 months in New York City. Read more

New York, NY Food
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pledged of $20,000 goal
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This project was successfully funded on April 6, 2011.

What Happens When is a temporary restaurant that will change theme every month for a run of 9 months in New York City.

New York, NY Food
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About this project What Happens When is a temporary restaurant installation that transforms every 30 days. It will live for 9 months in a reclaimed space in New York City and will change focus every month in order to explore what it means to feed people within the traditional constructs of dining, as well as creativity.


Welcome to What Happens When!

An inspirational experience created by a group creatives who have worked in and around the restaurant industry for the last 15 years.

We've created objects, graphics, menus, music, spaces and websites for chefs, hotels, sandwich shops and even the “occasional” rogue grandmother.

We've worked from big to small, from slick to crafty, and throughout it all kept a log of our favorite, wackiest, and most precious creative ideas that never got made. As creatives we love these special ideas. They are unique. They are innovative. They make us see the world in a new way. And we've always wanted to help them come to life.

So one day we sat down, over cups of eggnog (yes. eggnog.), and asked each other:

What happens when you actually get to make the restaurant you've always wanted to make?

What happens when you do it without the big investors, long leases and fancy furniture?

What happens when you begin from the most fundamental thing that ties us all together: sharing food?

And what happens when you get to do it over and over again? While sharing the process with the very people who come to your table?

That's how this project was born.

And here's how it works:


One abandoned restaurant + One Chef Two Designers One Composer One Photographer =


Here's what we'll make every month:

ONE COLLECTION A MONTH = Menu + Space Design + Soundscape + Photographs

Every month we will work collaboratively around a specific theme (see below) to transform both the space and the menu into a new dining experience. We’re calling each of these themes “Movements”. It’s a new way of interpreting the seasons that goes beyond just the food. Our Movements will touch on all 5 senses and create experiences that not only support but celebrate the menu.

ONE THEME A MONTH: Inspired by you

We've chosen to use Kickstarter as a means of supporting our project because we feel it parallels our own collaborative spirit. To further celebrate this ethos, we're asking that with every pledge (regardless of dollar amount) you send in a theme suggestion for one Movement of the restaurant that will take place between April and September 2011.

It can be anything–from a short story you wrote to a song you sang last week–but it should be based off of a meaningful personal food memory.

For example, your favorite meal could have taken place in your grandmothers kitchen. It might have been in Fall, with meatloaf and mashed potatoes. With the sound of leaves crackling outside. And a teapot boiling. It might have been the only time she told you about her dream of being a piano player.


Whatever it may be, write down all the details and send it to us at ideas(at) Then as a group, we'll then select a new theme every month and design an inspirational experience around it.

Our goal with this is not only to get us thinking outside of our own kitchen, but also to create an archive of collective food memories that speak to more than just us. All suggestions will exist online after the funding goal is reached and be anonymous.

Please note: this is not a requirement, merely a suggestion. You may pledge without sending a theme. WHAT WILL THIS PAY FOR?

9 months of:

Materials Every month we'll need to buy new materials to redesign the space, touch up paint, purchase curious objects to serve and eat off of, and much more.

Equipment and Guests We have some special guest artists and performers coming in and they'll need unique sound systems, lighting, and travel expenses covered.

Content Maintenance Maintaining a website, documenting each month through photographs and film, as well as sound recordings takes a lot of time and energy. We want to make sure we can compensate the people sitting at the computers and behind the cameras. They are our archivists for this project.

And at the end of all of this, we want to make a book, as document of What Happens When...


To give you an idea of our budget here's a sneak peek on Movement No. 1.

For the month of January we're inspired by the theme of Reflecting.

We've done it on a shoe string budget and spent $5,000 of our own money on the following materials: __________

Ladders and Houses As a representation of dreams and internal reflection, in the dining room we're building ladders into the ceiling and making "dining houses" to eat under.

This took 20 hours of design work and 10 hours of building.


Painting and Detailing To communicate the "work in progress" nature of this space, we're using the actual architectural plan of the space, as well as the reflected ceiling plan and all elevations and mapping them onto the wall as a 1:1 wall treatment.

Two people are painting the entire space. It will take them 3 days of hard work. It took 2 weeks to design.


Upholstery An ebay miracle! We managed to get a whole lot of Thonet chairs for $10/piece. Usually these classics are about $150 each (Thank you Texas!). We're painting and upholstering them ourselves.

This will take two designers 80 hours of work + paint and fabric costs. __________

A Ceiling System of Pendants In order to keep the space flexible we've designed a system of hooks and light pendants that allow us to move the lighting fixtures around the room and create new focused environments every month.


Dueling Bathrooms These are unlike any bathrooms you've every heard. They duel. Each bathroom projects a different composition. When in the hallway you hear both. When inside the bathroom, you only hear one side of the composition. Our composer, Micah, spent 2 weeks figuring this out and is wiring the entire system himself. (Including drilling up through the basement floor.)


Plus more...


The result is an amazing feeling of collaboration. And we want to keep working this way, while delivering high quality content we're proud of.

We trust we can keep growing this community to see What Happens When the inspiration grows beyond our own kitchen. And into yours.

We hope you'll join us for dinner.


Have a question? If the info above doesn't help, you can ask the project creator directly.

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  • You selected
    Pledge $5 or more

    169 backers

    Your name on the wall at What Happens When

  • You selected
    Pledge $25 or more

    174 backers

    Your name on the wall at What Happens When + 1 bottle handmade artisanal Fennel salt by Chef John Fraser

  • You selected
    Pledge $100 or more

    53 backers

    Your name on the wall at What Happens When + a packaged set of handmade artisanal salt trio by Chef John Fraser: Fennel, Chai Curry, Paprika Coffee

  • You selected
    Pledge $250 or more

    4 backers

    All of the above + the 'What Happens When Making' zine: a hand bound best-of photo collection (includes food photography and candid-behind-the-scenes-shots of the making of What Happens When)

  • You selected
    Pledge $500 or more

    7 backers

    All of the above + 3 printed menus from What Happens When with enclosed recipes of every dish from our kitchen (sent to you monthly)

  • You selected
    Pledge $1,000 or more

    0 backers

    All of the above + a 3 month selection of original soundscapes from What Happens When (delivered monthly in limited edition designed packaging)

  • You selected
    Pledge $2,500 or more

    1 backer

    All of the above + dinner for two from Chef John Fraser on the closing night of your choice at What Happens When (reward is transferable) + the What Happens When Anthology (a collection of photographs, drawings, anecdotes, and hidden recipes that document the 9 month installation)

Funding period

- (90 days)