If you think about it, a dinner club is not much different than a bridge club, a needlepoint club, or a bowling club. Each of those clubs revolves around a group of people who enjoy a similar pastime, and food is usually involved in some capacity. Dinner clubs simply revolve around people who primarily enjoy food and good company. So all that's really required to start a dinner club is a group of people who are willing to regularly gather for conversation, entertainment, and, of course, dinner (or some variation thereof). If you need some ideas to get your efforts underway for your own dinner club, these five tips are for you:
Set a regular date that's easy to remember. Starting a dinner club means meeting regularly—whether it's monthly, bi-monthly, or even quarterly. Pick a night that works for everyone on your guest list—say the first Thursday of every month—and then set it in stone so it becomes a regular feature on people's calendars. Set your schedule far in advance (for the year if possible), with designated hosts for each event.
When determining your guest list, start small. As you start to assemble your participants for the dinner club, be realistic. It's unlikely that most of the people on your list can host a dinner party for 75. Unless you and your friends live in mansions, your dining rooms, dining room tables, and china sets probably accommodate 12–16 people at the most, so keep your group to that size or smaller when you're getting started. Besides, hosting a grand event for a large number of people may intimidate some of your dinner club members into simply bowing out if it becomes too much of a burden.
Think about how your group will "mix." We all have fabulous friends, but if you're choosing among them for the most logical eight to join your dinner club, think about their backgrounds, how they interact, if they get along, and if they have anything in common to discuss over a lengthy dinner and evening of conversation. Also, be sensitive to those in your group who are married, single, or have children. Just as a single friend may not want to join you, your spouse, and three of your closest couple-friends for dinner each month, a married couple with children may feel out of place among a table full of childless single people.
Set the tone for the dinner club by kicking things off at your house. Offer to start the dinner club by hosting the first event at your home. Plan for an evening that is comprised of much more than just food. Besides an amazing menu of your choice, plan for ambiance. Your dinner plans can be formal or informal—let the only rule be that there are no rules. If you're going formal, set your table with your finest china, silver, and glassware, and create or buy a stunning centerpiece that compliments the formality of your meal. Use menu cards to announce the meal, placecards to seat your guests, and your finest linens at each place setting. Have background music playing when your guests arrive, and plenty of candles scattered throughout the living and dining areas. Finally, send each guest home with a small favor—a chocolate, knick-knack, or small plant to remind them of the evening.
Be creative as your dinner club builds momentum. As things get rolling and your dinner club participants start to get the hang of it, encourage your group to think outside the box. Have your guests choose and focus on a theme for their event—from Asian Fusion or Italian to Hawaiian Luau or Vegetarian. Suggest that your participants share their recipes by having recipe cards printed for each guest to take home at the end of the evening.
And here's one final thought: As you near the holidays, when everyone is busy, plan for a traveling dinner club, where each person plays the host for a portion of the meal. Start with appetizers and cocktails at one home; then travel to the next home for salads; move on to another home for the entrée; and, finally, travel to the last home for dessert and coffee. This makes it less burdensome on any one host to provide an entire meal, and you'll get to see the holiday decorations at each home. Or, if your group just doesn't have it in them to plan and throw yet another holiday gathering, choose that month to meet at a restaurant and let someone else do all the work.