Trep Talk

The Founder of Dinner Lab On How to Manage the Unsexy Side of Rapid Expansion

Senior Entrepreneurship Writer at CNBC
5 min read

“It was madness. We couldn’t even create email addresses for people fast enough.”

Brian Bordainick remembers what it was like to go from a small basement operation to a rapidly growing, venture-backed business -- and it wasn’t always easy.

Bordainick started Dinner Lab, which hosts pop-up dinners in unique and underutilized spaces across the country, with $200 two years ago. Earlier this summer, the company raised a  $2.1 million investment from John Elstrott, chairman of Whole Foods. Today, it operates in nearly 20 cities in the U.S., has almost five dozen full-time employees and a few hundred part-timers.

Where the company is today is a far cry from where it began. “When we first started, we were actually cooking illegally out of a ground floor apartment in New Orleans, and that was our office. It was literally an apartment. I think the people above us were like, ‘What is going on down there? It smells like Thai food and then the next day it was Italian food and there are all these cars.’ I am pretty sure they thought we were a meth lab for a little bit,” says Bordainick.

But within a few months and some tweaks to its model, the ultra trendy, membership-only dinner experience was growing exponentially. Bordainick had to hire up really quickly. “It’s a really cool story to tell to say, ‘Hey, we hired someone every five days last year. But it also presented a number of challenges,” he says.

Bringing a new employee into a small, tight-knit startup can change up the staff dynamic, sometimes for the worse. Bordainick learned to be especially sensitive to make his existing employees feel valued and make sure new employees had very clear job descriptions.

Watch this video to learn about Dinner Lab’s journey and some of its founder’s best advice for fellow entrepreneurs.


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