Guess Where We’re Going to Dinner?

By | June 11th, 2018

Old Town Club’s first “pop-up” dinner event was located within a grove of trees between the No. 1 and No. 3 fairways, with the pathway to the destination lit with tiki torches and luminaries.

Old Town Club created an intriguing dinner event that mirrors trendy “pop-up” retail shops and restaurants.

The element of surprise was on the menu for the Old Town Club in Winston-Salem, N.C., during a recent series of “pop-up” supper clubs. Inspired by the growing trend of setting up limited-run retail shops and dining experiences in unexpected locations across the country, the first event was held in April 2016.

“We loved the idea of a mystery where the members were just putting their faith in us to give them a great night, without knowing the details,” says Special Events Director Jeana McLean, who orchestrated the events with General Manager J. Josh Paris. “The tagline was ‘You won’t know where you will be, and you won’t know what you are eating.’”

To further boost members’ anticipation, the club shared some of the event’s preliminary details in its newsletter one month beforehand, followed by teasers in weekly e-mail blasts and Facebook posts. Tickets were $25 per member, with a maximum of 24 attendees so an intimate setting could be maintained.

THE GOAL: Showcase Old Town Club amenities not typically associated with food and beverage, and create an intriguing dinner event that mirrors trendy “pop-up” retail shops and restaurants.
THE PLAN: Set up a dinner event with a secret menu and location, teasing the details to members in the weeks leading up to it and guiding them to the secret dining location upon arrival.
THE PAYOFF: The sold-out event brought together groups that often don’t socialize, ranging in age from 30 to 80, and has spawned three additional events, with more planned.

To build up the mystery even further, members received follow-up e-mail reminders, and teaser photos of the coveted spot for the event and a napkin that provided a hint of the theme and décor were posted online. Once members confirmed their registration, they received an e-mail detailing the arrival time, proper attire and parking arrangements. Upon arrival, attendees were instructed to look for directional signs along a lighted path, which had been set up with tiki torches and luminaries.

Upon reaching their destination—a grove of trees between the No. 1 and No. 3 fairways—guests were greeted by twinkling bistro lights strung overhead and a long table outfitted in a peach, pink and gold springtime theme. Members then dined on a meal of grilled romaine salad, shellfish stew and roasted apricots, plated by the club’s chef.

While the first event sold out as expected, management was more surprised by the variety of the attendees. “It was not a ‘group’ event where you see all the same people who always hang out together,” notes McLean. “We hit a broad spectrum of members of all ages, from 30 to 80, and multiple social circles.”

Old Town Club, Winston-Salem, N.C.

Post-event feedback was overwhelmingly positive. “The members loved this event and spread their pictures all over social media,” enthuses McLean. “It really showcased our staff’s talents at setting up events and creating something new and innovative.”

The first pop-up supper club was such a hit that the club has since hosted three more: in July and September 2016, when members were transported via golf carts to Old Town’s new paddle tennis courts, and this past April, for an event that showcased the club’s new fitness center.

To not lose momentum, Old Town came up with a spinoff event while much of its facility was under construction last year. McLean describes the “Battle for the Balcony” as a group event “where members were asked to gather 12 friends together and the first two groups to commit were locked in. This was a big success during our renovations, when the balcony was THE spot to gather.”

Other “pop-up” supper events are now slated for this summer and fall.

INSTANT IDEAS

When the change of seasons brought a change of menus, The Madison (Wis.) Club held an end-of-summer tasting party on its patio with live music and outdoor seating. Those who attended the $25-per-person event were also asked to complete a survey and provide ratings for menu items that were sampled, with recommended beer and wine pairings for each dish…

One long, farmhouse-style table was used at Little Harbor Club’s Rosé on the Bay event.

To capitalize on one of its biggest assets—its waterfront location—the Little Harbor Club in Harbor Springs, Mich., created “Rosé on the Bay,” a dockside event to celebrate “the cool, crisp tastes of summer.” The dock was set with one long, farmhouse-style table, with high-top cocktail tables at the entrance. Members were met with passed hors d’oeuvres and poured wine selections prior to being seated to enjoy a menu of light and fresh seasonal items, with exclusive, large-format rosés provided by the club’s wine vendors. The “quintessential summer event,” originally conceived three years ago as an afternoon luncheon for women, has seen demand grow each year to where it is now couples-oriented and enjoyed by the entire membership, even if weather may cause a relocation to an indoor venue.

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