Dinner Lab

Membership-based social dining experiment
Startup Cemetery
GENERAL INFORMATION
Category:
Food & Beverage
Country:
United States
Started:
2011
BUSINESS FAILURE
Outcome:
Shut Down
Cause:
Bad Business Model
Closed:
2016
FOUNDERS & EMPLOYEES
Number of Founders:
3
Name of Founders:
Brian Bordainick, Francisco Robert, Zach Kupperman
Number of Employees:
10-50
FUNDING
Number of Funding Rounds:
2
Total Funding Amount:
$9.1M
Number of Investors:
5

What was Dinner Lab?

Dinner Lab had an intriguing approach to the on-demand food market. What Dinner Lab offered was a culinary experience that would take diners away from the traditional dining experience and let them share new dishes with a group of strangers in unusual places. People could sign up for a membership plan and would receive an invitation, ideally 2 to 4 times a month, to take part of a unique experience enriched by exotic food and new people.

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Why did Dinner Lab fail and shut down?

The first problem Dinner Lab encountered had to do with the timing at which they offered the meals. Originally, the event would take place at midnight, but pretty soon the company team discovered people at 12:00 am of a weekend tended to be drunk and were both unreliable customers and not really enhancing the experience of the other participants. So, although the idea sounded adventurous and fun, it was impractical and people aren’t used to dine at midnight.

According to Dinner Lab CEO, the company was very challenging to manage as there always was a multitude of variables they had to keep up with, from the food served and its ingredients, to the location, diners registration and turnaround and the staff kept on changing.

Although most customers enjoyed the experience, people complained that there were never enough tickets and never enough events going on. In some cities, people who signed up for a membership which would include at least 2 events per month, ended up having only 1 event every 6 weeks while still having to pay a full subscription.

Dinner Lab blamed the difficulty of having more events on the dwindling running capital. They decided to hire contract workers instead of full-timers with the hope that would decrease the cost. Dinner Lab also tried to sell diners’ surveys to restaurants but without success. They finally found the model unsustainable and closed in 2016 after 5 years of operations.

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