After hosting 42 Community Dining events since April of 2015 and accumulating an e-mail list of 1,118 people, almost all of whom I’ve met, I’ve decided to take a step back and reflect on how I can continue to build authentic community.  Many of these events have had multiple components including unique and interesting guests, speakers, themes, topics, and venues as well as private chefs and have highlighted the farms from which the menu items were sourced.  Not knowing precisely what criteria guests have used to decide to attend past events, I have simply tried to create the best and most memorable experiences for every guest that they could not obtain anywhere else.

 

 

Yet these kinds of highly curated experiences carry significant costs, which have prevented many people from attending.  I’ve also received feedback on what works best for people’s schedules that have often conflicted with the date and time of past events.  For this reason, I will now focus on simpler and more affordable events taking place at people’s homes without compromising on the integrity of the food sourcing and the quality of the guest experience.

 

 

Because these events will be smaller and require less planning, I will be able to organize more of them (I’m aiming for at least 20 in the next year and would like that number to continue to increase) and soon offer a membership package that will cost around $9 or $10 per month or $100 per year and give members:

1.  Access to these private home-based dinners that engage us in the means by which we fuel ourselves
2.  Access to a private member portal where members can create profiles, communicate with each other outside of social media, and express their dietary preferences and availability so that events can be more highly customized for their needs
3.  Discounts on all Community Dining events
4.  Possible discounts on other products and services

Guests will have the opportunity to attend two private home-based dinners before joining.  Are these benefits worth the cost?  What other benefits would you like to have?  I would love to hear your feedback!

I will still organize larger Community Dining events at unique pop-up spaces and restaurants for both members and non-members – just not as many.  I believe that increasing the quantity and diversity of the service offering will provide significant value to members who seek authentic social experiences over thoughtfully sourced shared meals in a comfortable setting where they can meet other interesting people who each share the same enthusiasm for Community Dining.  For those who haven’t read my blog post on Communities vs. Networks, feel free to check it out, as this post helps clearly articulate the meaning of community:

http://communitydining.com/blog/communities-vs-networks/

So here’s where I need all of your help.  In order to continue to provide value to members, I need to find people who want to host events (these could be breakfasts, lunches, or dinners) at their homes.  Ideally, it would be great for hosts to commit to hosting regularly at a set date and time such as the first Wednesday evening of every month, but hosting sporadically is ok too.  Hosts will have discretion regarding the cost and number of guests, but I’m looking to limit the cost to about $30 to $35 per person for 6 to 10 people to keep the meals affordable and intimate.  And while hosts are certainly welcome to cook, Kitchfix is a great caterer that hosts can use.  Here is more information Kitchfix’s dedication to food quality and transparency:

http://communitydining.com/blog/entrepreneurship-promotes-transparency/

And if hosts need guidance on where to buy the ingredients, I can provide my extensive list of over 200 Midwestern farms as well as grocery and specialty stores, bakeries, and grocery/meal delivery services that source from farms that focus on sustainability.

Several people have already expressed interest, so please let me know if hosting appeals to you and/or if you know someone who would be interested!