Dinner Lab Uses Pop-Up Locations to Create Smarter Restaurants

dinner lab 2

Do you ever wish you could tell chefs what you really think about their food? Dinner Lab is a startup that aims to get diners to do just that.

And along with that, the chefs and restaurants that use Dinner Lab get valuable insights that they wouldn’t normally have access to without jumping right into business. CEO Brian Bordainick told CNBC:

“The industry right now is predicated on having a vision and then implementing it into a restaurant right off the bat. There’s no real market testing or getting feedback from people. What we want to do is take the idea of ‘this is what’s really creative’ and ‘this is what’s viable in the market’ and land somewhere right in the middle.”

Dinner Lab pairs up-and-coming chefs with 150 to 200 local members in pop-up locations throughout the country. The chefs serve five-course meals that the diners then analyze, discuss and grade. They score each dish on a scale from one to five, considering different categories such as taste and restaurant-worthiness.

The chefs can then take that information and use it to improve their dishes for their future restaurants or other venues.

Technology has highlighted the importance of market research in other industries. But at least until now, the restaurant industry didn’t have much of a way to do this. If chefs wanted to learn what people thought of their food, they’d have to start a restaurant and then ask their customers.

But the problem is that starting a restaurant can be a huge risk and investment. So if you start something based on a signature dish or idea, and then it doesn’t work, you’re out of luck.

In many industries, technology and data have provided ways for entrepreneurs to take some of the guesswork out of starting a business. Dinner Lab is continuing that trend for the restaurant industry. And Bordainick thinks this will lead to “smarter” restaurants down the line.

Image: Dinner Lab


Annie Pilon Annie Pilon is a Senior Staff Writer for Small Business Trends, covering entrepreneur profiles, interviews, feature stories, community news and in-depth, expert-based guides. When she’s not writing she can be found exploring all that her home state of Michigan has to offer.

4 Reactions
  1. This is a great idea. If I am going to think about the future of the food industry, I think that it will be heading towards this route. Being first will mean everything.

  2. Oh this sounds interesting and delicious! I wouldn’t say no to being one of the testers/tasters! Of course, it’s also a great way for chefs/restaurants to test things out. 🙂

  3. Using pop-ups as test lab is a good idea. There is a trend of pop-ups that grow into brick & mortar as well as food trucks that test the concept first.