An interesting story out of New York City the other day (CBS 2 Investigation: Underground — And Illegal — NYC Dinner Parties), where underground dinner parties or supper clubs have emerged to offer foodies, tourists and others a more unique and exclusive dining experience.
Through online networks of foodies and members-only websites, people are booking reservations and having meals in homes and secret, revolving locations, for meals prepared by people who love to cook. Some are professional chefs, whereas others are simply food lovers. And while New York was the subject of this CBS investigative report, these events take places in other countries and other cities in the US (see The Secret Supper Club in Denver. What is it? Where is it? And more.)
While the nature of the investigation focused on the fact that these secret dining hot spots are unregulated by the health department, and the owners run the risk of a $2,000 fine, I am more fascinated by the whole nature of people taking their business off-the-grid, in a way, and going underground.
Going underground with these personalized eateries allows the owners to experiment with different cooking styles and techniques (blow torches, nitrogen and yes – the article references that one cook uses a vacuum machine to prepare meals – yuck.). It also creates a bit of adventure and exclusivity and mystery.
This brings me to those specific qualities that I just mentioned: adventure, exclusivity and mystery. If you are running a consumer-facing business (B2C), you should ask yourself – how am I engaging my consumers? In a world where retailers are in constant “sales” mode, using an element of adventure, exclusivity and perhaps even mystery (Halloween is a month and a half away after all), could be a way to differentiate your business from everyone else.
Maybe there is a way to take an element of your business underground? If you sell tea, for example, you could follow the supper club model and have secret locations for tea tasting parties where special new teas are brought in for an unique subset of your customer base. You also could replicate this model for shoes, clothes, existing restaurants, wine tastings, beer tastings, education and more.
In an age where we are bombarded by an endless stream of the same media messages, sales techniques and chain stores that have sucked so much uniqueness from our daily lives, the idea of creating adventure and taking an element of our lives and business underground, could just be something that everyone needs.