Dinner Lab Done Coast-to-Coast, Cleveland Too

Dinner Lab, which launched back in 2012 and expanded to more than 35 cities, added Cleveland to its roster of locations last summer. The roving food fest billed itself as an underground dinner club that united diners with emerging culinary talent in unexpected places.

The four-year-old startup unexpectedly ceased all operations as of today, according to an email sent to all members.

Here is the email message mailed out today:

Three-and-a half years ago a few of us came up with a novel idea; bring together random people, in an unconventional location, and give an up-and-coming chef a chance. The idea was meant to be pretty simple - give a newcomer, an underdog, someone that no one else believed in yet, a platform to showcase their culinary talent to the world. We have always wanted to be an organization that rolled the dice on people and innovative concepts before the rest of the world took them seriously.

We thought that the restaurant industry often took safe bets. We wanted to up the ante, and bet hard on experimentation, iteration, data, and the fact that there should be an open dialogue between diner and chef. We tried to blur the lines, push the envelope, and propel an industry that we loved forward. We did this not for the sake of being novel, but because we thought that guests should be a part of the culinary process; not as receivers of a finished product, but part of the development.

It is with a very heavy heart that we have to tell you, but effective immediately, Dinner Lab will be suspending operations and halting events.

We put every ounce of our energy into developing a product that you wanted to engage with regularly, but we weren't able to turn the corner on creating a profitable enough enterprise to support our ambitions. We have been fortunate to attend countless dinners in cities all over the United States, and engage with thousands of our diners, chefs, and staff who have worked tirelessly for us over the years. We are proud of the work that we have done, and am saddened by the fact that we no longer get to make our living on providing you all the experiences that we love so dearly. We have always considered ourselves to be part of the fortunate few that get to make their living on great food and drinks.

We have always believed in three very simple ingredients for the perfect night that we think are important to highlight:

People - One of the things that we’re the proudest of is the fact that so many of you have formed new friendships along different age, race, and cultural lines that don’t typically exist in the real world. For those of you that e-mailed us that you met your husband/wife, best friend, colleague, business partner, etc. at our events, it will be one of the memories that we will take with us for the rest our lives.

Places - So many of you opened your doors to us, and allowed our company and guests the opportunity to interact with your businesses and homes. You were able to imagine a different usage of your space, and invited 120 complete strangers into your world, and we were able to get a glimpse, and if only for a little bit, shift our perspective on what can/should happen where.

Chefs - So many of you poured your hearts and souls to our company and members and shared deeply personal, experimental, and progressive ideas with the world. Some of these ideas worked and others were huge learning experiences. For those of you that have moved on from our ranks and are opening new restaurants and running other organizations, we are proud to have touched your life in some way.

We hope that you all continue to break bread with random strangers, and thank you all deeply for being a part of something special.

Dinner Lab

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Douglas Trattner

For 20 years, Douglas Trattner has worked as a full-time freelance writer, editor and author. His work on Michael Symon's "Carnivore," "5 in 5" and “Fix it With Food” have earned him three New York Times Best-Selling Author honors, while his longstanding role as Scene dining editor garnered the award of “Best...
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