Back in April, New Orleans-based start-up Dinner Lab— a members-only, roving supper club that in 3.5-years-time managed to expand to almost 30 cities across the country and attain 150,000+ members— abruptly shut down. The business's failure was blamed on the loss of an investor, but this week Dinner Lab founder and CEO Brian Bordainick sheds a little more light on how his team blew through $10 million in start-up money in this pretty-tame Forbes Q&A.
While the business model relied on steep membership costs to subsidize overhead, Bordainick claims that each event "was like going through a restaurant opening every single time" due to all the new venues, permits and problems, and that by early 2016 the company was "bleeding cash" when they lost that major investor.
On top of that, Bordainick says "the food venture ecosystem was collapsing" the whole time and that Dinner Lab kept screwing up:
There were a lot of variables that were difficult to manage. We had an ever-changing landscape of staff, sourcing ingredients and everything else.
The company also became obsessed with collecting data about food trends in hopes of selling it to restaurants, which never happened. In late 2015, the company dropped its steep membership fee, purchased San Francisco-based roving tasting club Dish Crawl, and laid off 30 employees, none of which Forbes asks about.
While Bordainick says that his investors have been "as supportive as humanly possible" about losing $10 million, the Q&A fails to address how or if Dinner Lab is planning to refund customers with memberships or tickets to canceled events who have been flooding its social media accounts.