Dinner Lab, a pop-up restaurant concept, expands to Denver
Pop-up restaurants aren't new to Denver; they hit their peak of popularity in the dark days of the Great Recession, when one-night private-supper clubs in unusual locations were a feasible way for out-of-work chefs to bring in a few dollars while providing high-end cuisine to cash-strapped food lovers. While cash can still be hard to come by, over the past couple of years new restaurant openings have proceeded at a breathtaking pace. Cooks of all levels of skill and accomplishment barely have time to sharpen their knives, much less pull off invite-only dinners unlikely to build loyal customers or lead to higher-paying jobs. But New Orleans-based Dinner Lab thinks it has found a way to profit from the pop-up trend while also offering more benefits to up-and-coming cooks and chefs.
All photos provided by Dinner Lab
Started two years ago by CEO Brian Bordainick, the company offers an annual membership that gives members access to regularly scheduled dinner events, sometimes as many as three a week, depending on the market. And the company is now selling memberships in Denver, with its kick-off dinner event scheduled for September 26. For an annual membership fee of $125, members get access to regularly scheduled dinners for $65 per person per event. Members can purchase two tickets for an event and the cost includes tax and tip, so no additional money is exchanged at the dinners.
While the initial membership fee seems a little steep, Ken Macias, a manager of new market development for Dinner Lab, explains that the cost is essentially defrayed over the number of events a member attends in a year. Dinners include a half-hour cocktail reception with unlimited cocktails, beers or glasses of wine followed by a multi-course dinner paired with two to three additional drinks.
Here's how Macias outlines the four main elements of each dinner: the creative energy provided by an undiscovered chef; the ability for members to provide immediate feedback for each course and the overall experience; the unique locations and entertainment provided for events; and the social aspect that gives guests a chance to make new connections.
Dinner Lab gets its talent pool from each of its markets; about 50 percent of the chefs participating are local sous chefs and line cooks from area restaurants who are given the chance to create their own menus and tell their own stories through food. The other 50 percent are touring chefs who have received high scores from club members and who want to take their menus to new locations, as well as full-time chefs that Dinner Lab has hired based on their performance at previous dinners. Macias points out that while the meals don't feature celebrity chefs, many do come from well-known restaurants, including New York City's 11 Madison Park.
Keep reading more about pop-up restaurants from Dinner Lab...