I love the idea of supper clubs and have been to some great ones but I wonder whether the original concept is getting lost in favour of making money. I don't have a great deal of disposable income and the cost of a meal at a supper club has gone up and up and so I rarely go any more.
Does anyone else agree or am I just a miserable old whatsit?
This is a good question Janet. When I first started I charged £10 a head. And lost money. Then I charged £15 a head and lost money, maybe broke even if I had lots of people. I then charged £25 a head and broke even, with a little bit on top.
Since 2011 I've been charging £40 a head which, at first glance, seems like a lot. I only make money from that, and when I say 'make money', I'm talking minimum hourly wage, if I have at least 15 people.
Why is this? It takes at least two days, normally more, to do a supper club. Shopping, preparing the food, usually 3 to 4 courses, from scratch, then cooking, then setting up the room, then serving, then clearing up, washing up, then laundry for all the linens, then ironing. If you count up every hour spent doing the supper club, you'd be hard pushed to do less than 20 hours, more like 30 or even more hours. The national minimum wage is: £6.50p an hour.
So for 20 hours work you should earn £130. Minimum. For a job that is actually quite high pressure. It's not like doing a dinner party, people are pissed off if they don't like the food, just like they are in a restaurant. After all, they are paying.
This doesnt take into account wear and tear on your kitchen/dining space/public liability insurance/gas/electricity/house insurance. Of course ingredients need to be paid for (and supper clubs, being run by foodies, tend to buy the very best ingredients, and don't get the bulk price discount that restaurants do). Also staff, waiting staff have to be paid.
From the customers point of view, a supper club is a whole evening as opposed to an hour or an hour and a half in a restaurant. They get to meet other people. The food is usually far more generous, in quantity and variety, than they would get in any restaurant. In fact the food cannot be compared with a restaurant. When I do a themed event, I serve up lots of creative dishes that a restaurant would never prepare, simply because it doesn't make commercial sense.
Hosts such as myself, usually give a free cocktail at the beginning too.
£40 or even £50 for an entire evenings entertainment where you get fed and watered isn't unreasonable. You'd pay more than that for the theatre. And a supper club is actually more similar to a theatrical experience than a restaurant.
It's about scale too. A restaurant turns tables (even quicker if everyone is sat on stools/doesn't have reservations) several times in a day. A supper club can't do that. A supper club can't sell on unused food/dishes/ingredients the next day either.
Of course this all depends on whether you are running a supper club as your job (which I am) or whether it's a little hobby you want to do every so often.
It'd be lovely to do cheaper evenings but in my case, I have to earn a living. The work is too hard, (as it is with all catering/restaurant work) to do it consistently, over a long period, and lose money.
The original concept, what was it in your opinion?
I get the feeling sometimes that guests think the original concept was for them to get a cheap meal at someones house because... hey it's someone's house and they don't need to make money. I get this assumption when people try to book hen parties or private dinners. Like I'm gonna be cheaper than a restaurant. No. I'm not. I'm probably more expensive. (Also restaurants don't make money on food, they make money on drink. Supper clubs can't do that, we don't have licensing to sell drink).
To me a supper club is a bespoke boutique experience, that's what you are paying for.
Firstly I would like to start by saying that I have really enjoyed the suppers I have been to. Hosts have been very welcoming, food usually lovely and it's been great to meet interesting new people. Secondly I understand that cooking for people demands immense amounts of time and energy. I cook lunch for 14 friends once a month and it takes at least two full days if not more, not including thinking time. As it's a chance for us to get together I only charge for the cost of food and I realise that this is totally different from a supper club.
My thoughts about the 'original concept' stem from the first few times I went to a supper club. (And no I wasn't looking for a cheap meal in someone else's house.) The hosts were charming and welcoming and had their own careers and interests and seemed (my mistake??) to be interested in sharing food and 'foodie' talk with other like-minded souls. Perhaps they were also investigating to see if they could run a food outlet.They only did a supper club occasionally and perhaps they didn't make much of a profit. It's this atmosphere that I think has been lost as hosts build up their businesses and consequently have to charge more.
Perhaps there's a need for an 'in between' sort of club where everyone takes it in turns to cook for others and takes the opportunity to share 'foodie' ideas. I can see all sorts of pitfalls however, but it might be fun!
So in conclusion I'm afraid I'm priced out of the market because whilst £40/£50 may be OK for some people for an evening out it's too much for me, except occasionally.
I think there are supper clubs like that Janet.
But one of my intentions when setting up this movement was to create lots of small businesses, especially for women. As a feminist, it's extremely important that women value what they do. That was where I was coming from.
There are other outfits like the Clandestine Cake club, but they are not businesses, the only person that makes money from it, from my understanding, is the woman that runs it.
The atmosphere is not lost because the host makes a small amount of money, in fact that is a motivating factor to continue.
At the beginning I did concessionary prices for unemployed people, but that was so abused that I stopped. I had people who paid concessions and then I'd find out they'd just flown in from Singapore or wherever!
But there are all sorts of supper clubs Janet at all sorts of prices.
I can't £40/£50 more than occasionally either. It's a special occasion.