Good Company & Good Food: Starting A Dinner Club
by Carren W. Joye

Dinner clubs, also known as supper clubs or gourmet clubs, can be so much fun! Not only do you spend a child-free evening with good friends, but you also get a great meal for less than it would cost to go out.

Consider these issues as you organize a dinner club with your friends:

  1. Agree on the purpose of the dinner club. Is it to spend time with friends or to try new gourmet foods? The objective will impact other aspects of your club.
  2. Invite your friends, but not all of them! The typical size is 8-12 members, or 4-6 couples. Keep in mind the size of your friends’ dining tables, and don’t exceed the seating space. Also, try to choose people who have similar food interests, cooking skill levels as well as some things in common so they will have something to talk about during the meals.
  3. Set a regular date in advance, such as the second Saturday of the month, and designate the hosts for each event. This way, all the couples will keep that night clear on their calendars, and they will know when it is their turn to host the club. Although most dinner clubs meet monthly, some clubs opt for bi-monthly or quarterly, depending on which schedule is more convenient for the members. 
  4. Decide how the menus will be planned. For example, some clubs plan each monthly meal in advance as a group, while others allow the host to plan the menu. Some clubs encourage new cuisines or gourmet ingredients; others prefer ethnic or seasonal themes.
  5. Decide how the meals will be executed. For example, some groups cook the entire meal together at the home of the host. In this case, plan for a long evening! Other clubs leave the host in charge of cooking the entire meal, which may place a burden on time and money for the host each month. In other clubs, each couple is responsible for one part of the meal, bringing pre-cooked dishes to the host’s home – one couple brings the appetizer, another brings the salad, the host provides the entrée, and another couple brings the dessert. Because each couple brings something to the club, no one is exhausted, costs are minimal and dinners are not competitively compared. In this case, you need to establish how many courses will be served and how they will rotate among the members.
  6.  Other considerations may come to mind that should be addressed at the beginning. Is budget a consideration? If so, determine the limit. Will alcoholic beverages be served? If so, you need to decide if everyone will contribute alcohol to each meal or take turns. Also, will the dinner club be formal or casual? Some clubs dress formally and serve food on fine china and crystal; other groups are more casual and relaxed. Still others let the host set the tone each month. Another issue to consider is children. Let everyone know from the beginning that children are not invited, so that each couple will plan for a babysitter that night. Some clubs get creative, however, and all the parents go in together on a sitter for the children, usually at one of the couples' homes -- but not at the home of the host.
  7. Finally, meet periodically at a local restaurant to determine if the group is happy with how things are going and if any changes need to be made. Use this time to plan and schedule the next set of club dates, hosts and themes. 

Kick off the first dinner at your home. Remember candles and music to go with the wonderful aromas from the food. It will be the start of many months, or even years, of good company and great food!

Carren W. Joye is the author of A Stay-at-Home Mom's Complete Guide to Playgroups (ISBN 0-595-14684-8; $13.95). A homeschooling mom of four children, she has founded five successful playgroups and helped start countless other playgroups around the world. Visit her web site at http://www.OnlinePlaygroup.com for more information about playgroups.

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