What is a supper club?
Supper clubs were originally popular in the 1930’s and -40’s. Lately, the movement is taking on a new form as underground restaurants, or “closed door restaurants” are popping up out of people’s homes. A supper club can be a traditional dining establishment that also acts as a social club. They are a lot of fun—there are usually live entertainment and art involved. Supper club dinners can be hosted in non-traditional venues such as an art gallery or empty storefronts. You can host dinners in your home as well, depending how many people you can fit around a table and if you are comfortable having that many people over. Supper clubs are great ways to make some extra pocket money or see what is feels like to run your own restaurant. If you like hosting supper clubs and think you may want to open your own restaurant one day, you can use this experience to build up your company brand and following which you can leverage when you open your own physical location.
Want to be a restauranteur? Or host a pop-up dinner?
If you want to turn your love for cooking and entertaining into a business venture, this is a good place to start. Do you like to cook? Do you love hosting parties? Are you interested in opening a business built on your passions but not sure where to start? Try hosting a supper club! My cultural + social enterprise, Cafe Con Leche, hosts a once a month Puerto Rican supper club called Sobremesa. Beyond being a source of revenue, I love hosting Sobremesa because it gives me a chance to curate a fun time for guests while also sharing my most favorite Puerto Rican dishes. For my events I partnered with local Pittsburgh gallery, Most Wanted Fine Art, to host my events. These events bring a new clientele to the gallery. For each dinner we invite a local Latino artist to showcase their art. It’s an exclusive opportunity to learn about the artist’s creative process and gain a deeper understanding of their work. The events come to life with live music and dance during the pre-dinner cocktail hour as well as after dinner.
Tip: Cooking and hosting a large amount of people, especially more than five, can be stressful. Before you start selling tickets for your supper club, host some test dinners for family and friends. That will give you a chance to try out recipes, practice how the dinner service will flow, and get important feedback on how you can ensure a quality dining experience.
Before you start, answer these questions:
1. How many supper clubs do you want to host?
Is this a one-time thing? Hosting a series of dinners? Once a month? Is this the first step to opening your own restaurant? Just some extra pocket money?
2. What is the “theme” of your dinners?
What kind of food will you be cooking? Will you be providing entertainment? What kind? What other creative ideas do you have?
3. How will you market your events?
This will also largely depend on who your audience is, but no matter who that is, word of mouth is the best form of advertisement. Create a buzz leading up to your event through blogs, social media, and giveaways; send a press release to the local news outlets; offer local food bloggers and other influencers a free ticket.
4. How will you sell your tickets?
I use ShowClix. You can also accept personal checks, cash or cards the day of the event.
5. In order to make a profit, what is your ticket price?
Create an event budget. In addition to the food cost, make sure you consider transportation, plates/cutlery/napkins, performances and any additional cooking equipment you will need to purchase for the dinner.
Once you have the vision you can begin to test your concept with family and friends, set the menu(s), launch ticket sales, and begin marketing your dinner through social media and other networks in order to generate that buzz and sell those tickets. Advertise heavily in your personal networks since word of mouth is the most powerful advertising tool. Depending on how big you want to get, consider launching a one-page website that has all the information about your supper club as well as a link for people to buy tickets.
Have patience. You are starting something new and it takes time to build a loyal following. Good luck!
–Tara Sherry-Torres is a Pittsburgh-based creative entrepreneur. Visit her Latino culture media site, Cafe Con Leche, to learn how she highlights authentic Latino culture using art + food.
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