Dinner Lab Dies At The Table

Dinner Lab CEO & Founder Brian Bordainick
April 14, 2016

In an email with the subject "Thank," Dinner Lab - the membership-based, traveling pop-up dinner company - announced that it will no longer stay in operation. The New Orlean's based company launched in San Diego in October 2014. 
A sign of early trouble, Dinner Lab laid off most of their staff back in December 2015 as it attempted to alter its business models to find a more sustainable operation. After exchanging emails and having a telephone conversation with the seemingly aloof CEO and founder Brian Bordainick the week prior to the layoff, we reached out to the Bordainick numerous times for comment and received no response.

Dinner Lab was officially founded in August 2012 and went on to raise approximately $9.1 million in venture financing from several investors, including John B. Elstrott, the chairman of Whole Foods Market. There is no word yet on whether any refunds will be issued for active annual memberships in the now-defunct supper club company.

Below is the text from the email send out by Dinner Lab announcing their shutdown:

Three-and-a half years ago a few of us came up with a novel idea; bring together random people, in an unconventional location, and give an up-and-coming chef a chance. The idea was meant to be pretty simple - give a newcomer, an underdog, someone that no one else believed in yet, a platform to showcase their culinary talent to the world. We have always wanted to be an organization that rolled the dice on people and innovative concepts before the rest of the world took them seriously.

We thought that the restaurant industry often took safe bets. We wanted to up the ante, and bet hard on experimentation, iteration, data, and the fact that there should be an open dialogue between diner and chef. We tried to blur the lines, push the envelope, and propel an industry that we loved forward. We did this not for the sake of being novel, but because we thought that guests should be a part of the culinary process; not as receivers of a finished product, but part of the development.

It is with a very heavy heart that we have to tell you, but effective immediately, Dinner Lab will be suspending operations and halting events.

We put every ounce of our energy into developing a product that you wanted to engage with regularly, but we weren't able to turn the corner on creating a profitable enough enterprise to support our ambitions. We have been fortunate to attend countless dinners in cities all over the United States, and engage with thousands of our diners, chefs, and staff who have worked tirelessly for us over the years. We are proud of the work that we have done, and am saddened by the fact that we no longer get to make our living on providing you all the experiences that we love so dearly. We have always considered ourselves to be part of the fortunate few that get to make their living on great food and drinks.

We have always believed in three very simple ingredients for the perfect night:

People - One of the things that we’re the proudest of is the fact that so many of you have formed new friendships along different age, race, and cultural lines that don’t typically exist in the real world. For those of you that e-mailed us that you met your husband/wife, best friend, colleague, business partner, etc. at our events, it will be one of the memories that we will take with us for the rest our lives.

Places - So many of you opened your doors to us, and allowed our company and guests the opportunity to interact with your businesses and homes. You were able to imagine a different usage of your space, and invited 120 complete strangers into your world, and we were able to get a glimpse, and if only for a little bit, shift our perspective on what can/should happen where.

Chefs - So many of you poured your hearts and souls into our company and members and shared deeply personal, experimental, and progressive ideas with the world. Some of these ideas worked and others were huge learning experiences. For those of you that have moved on from our ranks and are opening new restaurants and running other organizations, we are proud to have touched your life in some way.

We hope that you all continue to break bread with random strangers, and thank you all deeply for being a part of something special.

Dinner Lab