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Food & Wine

Quick Tips to Starting a Dinner Club

About four years ago my husband and I moved from sunny Miami to season-filled Memphis and so the search for new friends began. Miami’s culture-filled, energetic, cocktail-sharing environment had welcomed us with open arms with martini happy hours, Venezuelan weddings and Colombian surprise birthday parties … sigh.

We felt a little bit out of our element in Memphis.  Meeting people as an adult requires a person to be so energetic and seemingly interesting and persistent and brave, and… listen, it all starts to seem like a whole lot of work. And isn’t this process supposed to be fun and social and energizing?

That’s when I had an epiphany: it’s so easy to get behind an invitation that involves food and drinks and sitting around a table. When I started talking to local Memphians about all the restaurants I wanted to try, their faces lit up.

Enter the birth of Dinner Club.

It’s been about three years and I’m here to tell you I’ve learned so much about my new town and how to be fearless in my quest to meet new people. If you’re intrigued, I’d love to share more about how you can start your own Dinner Club.

Find your people.

I try to remember not everyone I befriend needs to be just like me (duh). But I did narrow my group down to women only and consider personalities for the initial invite list to take into account conversation and common interests. DO encourage the people you invite to invite their people too.

Brunch Dinner Club

Just pick a place!

I know this sounds obvious, but in the beginning I wavered so much on whether or not people would show up based on the place. I polled people, I researched the newest restaurants in the area, and I over-analyzed the location. The thing is, people will migrate towards the food, drinks, people and conversation. Just be sure the place accommodates your group size and the price point doesn’t break the bank for the majority of the group. Most of the girls that come to our dinner club don’t have a difficult time sharing ideas on where to head next. Although we have met at some of the girls houses in special instances, the majority of the time we get out and try new places, which means cleaning and cooking doesn’t have to be a requirement.

Celtic Crossing, Veggie Omelet


Dinner Club doesn’t have to be JUST dinner.

Our dinner club has done brunch, a barn party with chili and games, and we’ve even got a coffee meetup and a park pot-luck on the books. We’ve organized exchanges for some of our meet-ups too including books, nail polish, scarves, alcohol, and beauty products, which makes for fund conversation. If your goal is to meet new people and try new places, then almost anything is game. Plus, mixing up the times and days of the week gives everyone a chance to join.

Bonfire Party, (left) Nikkole, (right) Kate

Be adventurous.

Try new things.  Share your food and encourage others to do the same. The beauty of forming a group around food is that people are inspired to try new things, plus bringing the cost down per person by sharing plates makes people want to cartwheel to the cash register.

Be realistic.

If you truly want to meet new people and get a group of individuals together that make for good conversation, then you have to consider you’ll be catering to a wide range of ages, career types, marital and child status’. What I am saying is, interesting people are busy, so consider putting something on the books every 2-3 months  IN ADVANCE and go from there. It does seem to be hard to get our group together once a month, but every 2-3 months is a more reasonable time frame.

Now I’m going to say something to all of you neurotic schedule planners that are appalled that a person would possibly cancel last minute (me, me, me!) – GET OVER IT, things come up. The more understanding you are to cancellations, the more comfortable people feel about being a part of your group.

Stoney River, Blondie Dessert

Be a concierge.

We tried rotating the organization of each meet up (each member scheduling a different restaurant) and it failed miserably. Just assume the role (with input from the group of course) and move on.

Being a concierge can become second nature with these tools and ideas.

  • Google Doodle can provide date options you can send out to the group which makes selecting the most popular date pain-free.
  • Check out Open Table or Yelp to take on the burden of making a reservation
  • Research things like whether there is a corkage fee and share important information you’d want to know like the link to the menu, location address, and parking whenever possible. I say whenever possible because you may be attending these restaurants for the first time too!
  • Start a Facebook group to invite members, set up events, reminders, and privately share pictures with your club. It also allows members the functionality to invite other people. We started with an email chain, but the Facebook group works much better.
  • Be the photographer.
  • Know the general area where your members live. Take this into consideration as much as you can when you set up your meet-ups  and recommend carpooling options for further locations.
  • Make it your own.

Catherine & Mary’s Restaurant, Drink: Sweet Melissa


I’ve had so much fun making Memphis home one meal-at-a-time with these crazy, amazing, interesting women I get to meet up with and talk with over food on a regular basis. There are many more fun ideas we’ve yet to plan.

What kind of groups do you participate in with your friends; I’d love to hear!

PS: Check out my Yelp account to see some of the places we’ve visited, pictures of some of our meals, and my reviews.

Barn Party, Bonfire S’mores (left) Ashley, (right) Carrie