This Food-Tech Startup's Secret Sauce: Employees First, Customers Second

Senior Entrepreneurship Writer at CNBC
5 min read

The marketing adage “the customer is always right” comes from the age-old lesson that businesses need to put their clients’ needs first in order to succeed.

But that’s not necessarily true, says Brian Bordainick, the founder of New Orleans-based pop-up meal experience startup Dinner Lab. “We take care of our staff first and then our guests second.”

Dinner Lab, launched in 2012, has up-and-coming chefs prepare and serve multi-course, elaborate meals in underutilized spaces to its membership-only guests. For every course, Dinner Lab guests are asked to give feedback on the food and its presentation in categories ranging from taste and creativity to the appropriateness of the drink pairing. Membership can range from $100 to $200 a year.

Currently, Dinner Lab operates in 19 cities and has a full-time staff of almost 60 employees. In each city, there are approximately 20 part-time front-of-house servers and bartenders. What started in a New Orleans basement apartment has grown so quickly in the past two years that, in June, Bordainick took on $2.1 million in venture capital.

“We try to make our employees, in their own market, feel as if they are running the show,” says Bordainick. And that’s clutch for Dinner Lab, whose pop-up business model can lend itself to unforeseen mistakes and problems. Dinner Lab employees need to have the internal drive to hustle, deal with hurdles and push the show forward, not wait to get marching orders from up their food chain. Employees “have the freedom and the flexibility to make decisions independently of the parent organization,” said Bordainick.

Check out the video to learn more about how Bordainick empowers his employees.

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