Get All Access for $5/mo

Dinner Lab Drops Its Membership Paywall as It Looks to Triple Attendance The fast-growing dinner party startup will no longer require an annual membership fee.

By Catherine Clifford

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

KatieBird Photography

Dinner Lab wants to make more room at the table -- and it's taking a big leap to get there.

The New Orleans-based startup, which arranges pop-up dinner parties in underutilized spaces across the country, announced today that it's dropping its annual membership fee. Previously, to attend a Dinner Lab event, a customer had to have an annual membership ($125 to $175 depending on the city) and then pay for the cost of the individual dinner (about $60 for food, booze, tax and tip). That meant that a person could spend as much as $230 to walk in the door that first time.

In removing its membership fee, Dinner Lab is hoping to significantly expand the number of customers it reaches. The company currently hosts between 25 and 30 dinner parties each week across the country. By the end of 2016, it wants to triple that number.

Image Credit: Brittany Purlee | Britography

"Obviously, membership fees are great for a business's bottom line because it is pretty free cash flow," says Brian Bordainick, Dinner Lab's founder and CEO. "Getting more people in the door is 100 percent the focus for us."

Related: This New Orleans Food-Tech Startup Is Turning the Tables on the Restaurant Industry

Still, the paid membership model is not completely going away. For $175 a year, a customer can now pay to be a Dinner Lab Select Member, which allows them to get advance notice of events, early access to sign-up and discounted ticket costs.

Having two levels of participation in the Dinner Lab community means that there can be both an open-door policy and a more exclusive category of Dinner Lab aficionados. The Dinner Lab Select Membership includes offers to events that the general public will not have access to, including chef demonstrations and classes, seasonal parties, happy hours and special wine dinners.

Image Credit: Debby Wolvos, Food Stylist: Sarah Seddon

But the real focus for Dinner Lab is getting people outside of its circle of evangelists to try the experience on for size. "All you have to do now is go to the website and click and you will be notified of those events and I think the product will speak for itself," says Bordainick.

As Dinner Lab throws open its doors, it is simultaneously doubling down on finding brand partnerships that enhance the dinner party experience, like local artisanal breweries and craft small-batch goods. The company has a healthy, growing corporate events business, but in an effort to keep the brand authentic and spontaneous, it's focusing on bringing customers new and unique experiences.

Related: Stress, Anxiety, Loneliness: How This Entrepreneur Lost Himself and Bounced Back Stronger

"We have reoriented our sales energy and team toward actually local sponsorships," he says. "Where before they were trying to find someone who could host 30 events and we were trying to lock down those deals, now what they are doing is they are trying to find cool breweries and they are trying to find cool spirit companies, cool micro-green producers, cool glassware companies, interesting artists."

Image Credit: Dinner Lab

Bordainick knows that keeping Dinner Lab fresh, exciting and underground-cool while growing it at a healthy clip is a delicate task. But he's determined to stick closely to the singular mission that set the company in motion in the first place.

"We need to stay true to who we are. And who we are is a bunch of weirdos that enjoy throwing dinner parties in random locations," says Bordainick. "My goal for our team, as our team has grown, is that if you tap any one of our employees on the shoulder and you say, "What's the focus?' They are like, "Throwing one hell of a party.'"

Related: Lessons from a Food-Tech Startup: Big Data Isn't Just a Buzzword -- It Can Be Your Secret Weapon
Catherine Clifford

Frequently covers crowdfunding, the sharing economy and social entrepreneurship.

Catherine Clifford is a senior writer at Previously, she was the small business reporter at CNNMoney and an assistant in the New York bureau for CNN. Catherine attended Columbia University where she earned a bachelor's degree. She lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. Email her at You can follow her on Twitter at @CatClifford.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

Editor's Pick

Business News

How to Be a Billionaire By 25, According to a College Dropout Turned CEO Worth $1.6 Billion

Austin Russell became the world's youngest self-made billionaire in 2020 at age 25.

Starting a Business

Your Business Will Never Succeed If You Overlook This Key Step

A comprehensive guide for startups to achieve and maintain product-market fit through thorough market research, iterative product development and strategic scaling while prioritizing customer feedback and agility.


Four Takeaways for the Franchise Industry From My Time at the Republican National Convention

Matt Haller, President and CEO of the IFA, says the stakes are high for franchisors and franchisees in the upcoming presidential election.

Business Ideas

63 Small Business Ideas to Start in 2024

We put together a list of the best, most profitable small business ideas for entrepreneurs to pursue in 2024.

Business News

How to Build a Successful Startup, According to an Investor Who Made Early Bets on Twitter, Lyft, and Twitch

He's found a few patterns after nearly two decades of investing in startups.

Science & Technology

No More ChatGPT? Here's Why Small Language Models Are Stealing the AI Spotlight

Entrepreneurs can leverage this growing tech to create innovative, efficient and targeted AI solutions.