Untangling Etta’s $4 Million Sale to a Tech Company From Texas

Must read

It’s a new era at Etta Collective with co-founder David Pisor officially out of the once-mighty restaurant group. On Monday, April 15, a $4 million sale was finalized with Austin, Texas-based InKind buying Etta Collective’s assets.

Over in Bucktown, it’s business as usual for Etta’s staff. Earlier in 2024, Etta filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in multiple states punctuated by the abrupt closure of Etta’s River North location. Etta’s assets were sold in a private auction held on March 25. There was a chance Pisor could have remained in control with help from a “stalking horse bidder,” but InKind, a restaurant tech company, placed the winning bid. The sale was finalized on April 15.

Etta Collective formed after the disintegration of What If Syndicate, a group founded by Pisor and former partner James Lasky. The two engaged in a brutal legal slugfest before setting and splitting the company with Lasky and chef Danny Grant taking boisterous Gold Coast steakhouse Maple & Ash and Pisor taking Etta, Aya Pastry, and now-defunct Cafe Sophie in Gold Coast.

While Maple & Ash remains a tough table, Etta struggled to keep up with bills in the aftermath of the split, eventually resulting in the February bankruptcy filings.

Bankruptcies are complicated, and the Etta story has featured more than its share of twists and turns. Allow Eater Chicago to help explain.

What is InKind?

InKind is a tech company founded in 2017 by 41-year-old Johann Moonesinghe. A company rep notes that he’s invested in Uber, Twilio, and Allbirds. In 2015, Moonesinghe founded Prequel DC, another restaurant company that worked with D.C. chefs like Kevin Tien. It served as the foundation for InKind. It closed at the end of 2019 to allow Moonesinghe and partners Andrew Harris, Matt Saeta, and the late Raj Moonesinghe to focus on InKind.

They’ve since created a fundraising platform for independent restaurants nationwide and partnered with groups like the James Beard Foundation. Locally, InKind has worked with restaurants like Bloom Plant Based Kitchen, Avli, S.K.Y., Saigon Sisters, Rooh, and José Andrés’s restaurants. The company has about 1,700 member restaurants and says it’s on its way to raising $200 million for restaurants in 2024.

Customers pay a $9.99 subscription to earn 20 percent back on future meals at partner restaurants. This gives restaurants money up front without paying interest.

InKind has had some odd moments, like what went down a few days ago involving a shuttered Austin, Texas restaurant that reportedly owed the company $1.5 million, according to Eater Austin.

Restaurant ownership is new for Moonesinghe and InKind. Chicago chefs who worked with InKind and spoke with Eater were unaware the company was involved in ownership. In February, Moonesinghe opened the Guest House in Austin. In 2023, he opened another Austin restaurant, Ember Kitchen & Subterra.

How did InKind get involved with Etta?

InKind was one of Pisor’s investors. Bankruptcy filings showed Etta Collective owed $1.8 million to InKind. Moonesinghe tells the Tribune he paid Pisor even more, saying he wouldn’t have if he had known bankruptcy was in Etta’s future. Since the company already invested $1.8 million, it made sense for InKind to make a bid.

Why would InKind want to buy Etta?

Folks who participated in the auction saw a chance to buy low and take over a business that’s seen success with the ability to scale. The same thing that Pisor saw in opening Ettas in Culver City, California, and Scottsdale, Arizona. Bidders felt they could turn the three remaining restaurants around and that the 150 workers who have stuck around have demonstrated a loyalty that would be valuable in an attempt to open more restaurants around the country. Perhaps projects in Dallas and suburban Evanston could eventually be revived; Moonesinghe tells the Trib that InKind aims to grow the Etta brand nationally.

Etta River North, which suddenly closed in January, remains untouched. Peek through the windows and they look ready for dinner service. It wouldn’t take a massive effort to reopen. However, Moonesinghe is pumping the brakes on a revival, saying he’s still negotiating a lease deal.

What does this mean for Aya Pastry?

Acclaimed pastry chef Aya Fukai left her namesake bakery late in 2023, but Pisor operated the West Town sweet shop as if she was still there, but Fukai’s replacement has already left. Fukai says she’s owed $500,000 after she sold her stake for $700,000. She tells Eater her attorneys have failed to connect with InKind and concedes they have their hands full cleaning up the mess they’ve inherited.

Wintrust Bank is owed $3.1 million and will likely be paid in full, while others with unsecured debt will receive a portion of the $4 million purchase price, according to the Trib.

How will Etta be run differently with new ownership?

That’s the big question. Former employees had a laundry list of problems with Pisor’s leadership. Those who participated in the auction attempted to minimize those concerns, saying Etta was ripe for revival with proper management. Moonesinghe tells the Trib his team may tweak a few preparations as they prepare for national expansion but they’ll stabilize Chicago and Scottsdale before that.

Moonesinghe confirmed the winning bid in April, but did not grant an interview request or respond to questions sent by Eater.


1840 West North Avenue, , IL 60622 (312) 757-4444 Visit Website

Etta River North

700 N. Clark Street, Chicago, IL 60645 312-766-4444 Visit Website

Cafe Sophie

847 N. State Street, Chicago, IL (312) 262-7610 Visit Website

Aya Pastry

1332 West Grand Avenue, , IL 60642 (312) 846-6186 Visit Website

More articles

Latest article