Always bear in mind that a supper club is generally held in the host’s home, so treat it as you would expect a guest visiting your own home to do.
Supper clubs are a great way to meet new people, to sample foods and cuisines about which the host will usually be both passionate and well informed. They differ from restaurants in many ways, and you will get the most out of your supper club experience if you approach it in the optimal frame of mind. Below are a few points to consider when attending a supper club.
A Supper Club is not a restaurant
Remember that you are in someone’s home, and not a commercial restaurant with an army of chefs and professional waiting staff. This has implications – you will probably need to keep your cutlery between courses, and the same wine glass throughout the meal. In addition, food may arrive at intervals so don’t expect each course to arrive for the whole table simultaneously, eat your food while it’s hot. In most supper clubs, there is set menu and you will get what you are given, so if you are picky, this is probably not the right dining experience for you. On the other hand, if you are open to novelty and surprise when dining, you’ll have a fantastic time.
Your waiter tonight is perhaps my best friend
Unlike in restaurants, it is very unlikely that you will be served by a professional waiter. People serving your food will probably be friends or relatives of your host, or volunteers who are highly qualified in their own professional sphere. I’ve had lawyers, bankers and doctors volunteer as serving staff in my supper club, so snapping your fingers, not thanking them for their help or treating them as if they were your servant will not go down too well. You should expect to behave towards those serving you as you would towards a friend or relative if you were invited to their dinner party. Don’t expect silver service - you will be expected to hand your plate for collection as well as reach out for your plate when it is offered to you.
Sharing a table – strangers today, friends tomorrow…
One of the greatest things about supper clubs is the social interaction and the opportunity to sit with and get to know new people. And this is what makes supper clubs so different to restaurants, where striking up a conversation with a nearby table would be considered rather eccentric. So come prepared and in the right frame of mind – if someone you have never met before offers you his or her hand and strikes up a conversation with you, it is ok.
You will get so much more out of the evening if you approach it in an open-minded way, and demonstrate curiosity about other diners. Many people have met future friends, partners and even spouses at supper clubs, so it’s in your interest to be super-friendly!
Do not cancel but if you have to, find a replacement!
Many supper clubs charge a deposit, partly in an attempt to reduce cancellations. Unlike restaurants, which are open to the general public and can sell food to others if a given guest does not turn up, supper clubs cannot open their doors to walk -in guests. You would be surprised to know how little money there is in cooking so cancellations hurt the host significantly. Hosts will have bought food and supplies in anticipation of your arrival and if you cancel, the food will go to waste. Furthermore, your non-attendance will leave gaps in the seating plan, which will detract from the experience of other guests. If you must cancel, try and find a replacement for your seat and inform your host as soon as possible. At my supper club, I expect diners to find replacements for their seats or honour their booking in full if a replacement is not found. I think this is fair play – since my events are fully booked I will probably have turned people away from the evening. Hosts may have a waiting list for the event and be able to help you find a replacement if the cancellation is not too last minute.
Supper clubs generally offer a set menu, so you eat what you are given. There are no choices between courses, so don’t ask for the fish option on the night! Food waste is unacceptable, so if you do not eat something like pork for instance because of religion reasons, do let your host know.
Tipping – paying fair
With such small margins in cooking, tipping is a significant element in the event’s cash takings. Whatever the advertised cost of the meal, your hosts will be anticipating a tip. If they have sous chefs, kitchen porters or waiting staff, they will probably be paid out of your tips, so it is uncharitable not to pay service unless you have had a truly dreadful experience.
The above points are just a few important things to bear in mind when attending any supper club. This is not a comprehensive list by any means or a rule book one should follow by the letter. Everyone wants to have a good time (and that includes the host!) so come prepared, be nice and considerate to others and I am sure you will have a fantastic time!