Dinner Lab: Upscale, Folksy, Pop-up Dining

by John Gifford - March 24th, 2015
Dinner Lab   Image Credit: Rieux Photo

Dinner Lab Image Credit: Rieux Photo

Because Dinner Lab is announcing its entry into the Indianapolis Market today (see details below), we’re sharing some background on their upscale, folksy, pop-up restaurant model.

When Brian Bordainick, CEO of Dinner Lab, was living in New Orleans and found himself missing good ethnic food, and good late night dining, he filled the void himself, initially serving midnight Thai and Indian meals. Subsequent meals were diverse in both people and food, and it planted the seed for what Dinner Lab has become.

After nine months of these occasional dinner parties, the model evolved of opening up a membership, hosting dinners more frequently, and incorporating feedback.

In these pop-up events (restaurants appearing Brigadoon-like on a given day and then gone the next), chefs are provided a creative platform to prototype new dishes and ideas. Guests provide detailed feedback to help them iterate and grow.

As a company, they operate as a subscription service where people pay up front for access to their calendar. They aren’t trying to be exclusive or anything like that, but this is how they subsidize the cost of dinners, hire people, rent a kitchen, etc. Guests then pay for each dinner and have access to not only events in the local market, but in every other city (30 before Indianapolis) that Dinner Lab operates.

What differentiates Dinner Lab from other eating experiences is their constantly swapping chefs, locations and menu themes/cuisines. Chefs use Dinner Lab to experiment on new recipes and get feedback from diners – think of it as a foodie focus group. Diners can attend events in any of their 30 markets, which as Bordainick says, “is a great perk while traveling for work, or just planning a weekend trip around an event.”

Brian Bordainick, CEO of Dinner Lab

Brian Bordainick, CEO of Dinner Lab

Bordainick characterizes his customers as “adventurous diners who want to have a little fun and try something new. Diners who enjoy the fact that these chefs are trying something new and not every dish is going to be a home run, but that they can use the feedback cards to give their feedback.”

According to their CEO, the excellent chefs and staff of Dinner Lab result from a great HR team. “On the chef side, we have a curation team that works with prospective chefs, looks at their menu and helps them develop it to make sure it is as successful as possible. All of our teams go through an extensive training that lasts a few weeks to get them up to speed before sending them off to run events on their own.

We have a very work hard, play hard culture. We all have enough work for 4 people, but we make sure to have fun every now and then. After all, we’re in the business of food and booze!”

A new niche that Dinner Lab is adding is a private events arm, Dinner Lab catering, that can take care of the food and beverage for any event – wedding, corporate events, etc.

Bordainick’s wish, after you’ve experienced one of their unique pop-up dining experiences, is that you’d say, “Wow – I’ve been living in Indianapolis for my entire life and I never knew about this space! The food was so inventive – I didn’t think the flavors would work together but they really did. I can’t wait for the next one!”

Here is a One Page Summary of Dinner Lab, as well as other cities where it currently operates:
Dinner Lab One Pager

Here is an extended history of Dinner Lab:
Dinner Lab History

For more information, email Edie Feinstein: efeinstein@dinnerlab.com

Details for Indianapolis Dinner Lab

Indianapolis membership will be going live at dinnerlab.com on Tuesday 3/24.

$125 per person gets access to the calendar for the year not only in Indianapolis but in all of our markets across the country (currently 30). Each member can purchase up to four tickets to each event.

Once the membership is purchased, people will immediately be able to buy tickets for the launch event which is planned for July 17th with Chef Danny Stoller.

About the dinner:

A celebration of all things PNW (Pacific Northwest for the geographically challenged)

Chef Danny Stoller

Last places lived
Seattle, Boston, Olympia (WA)
Learning Institutions
Northeastern University, Seattle Culinary Academy
Last 5 places/restaurants worked
Revel, Tilth, LUC, Ray’s Boathouse, Black Bottle
Current gig
Dinner Lab

Charred corn consomme
hush puppy | lime creme fraiche | beech mushroom

Trumpet Mushroom Flan
carrot & apple slaw | kettle corn | pea shoots

Cured Trout Salad
mizuna pesto | roasted beet cake | celery root puree | hazelnuts

Grilled Leg of Lamb
white beans & tomato confit | red eye colatura

Carrot Sponge Cake
dulce de leche sorbet | celery heart | olive oil

Location: TBA 24 hours prior to the event.

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