Interested in trying out new foods and meeting new people in a casual and personal social atmosphere?
Carl LaFlamme, founder and CEO of DinDinParty.com, sees a marketplace ready to embrace a new approach to dining out and hosting events. That opportunity led LaFlamme and partner John Bacon to create the social dining platform DinDin Party.
“The actual ‘aha’ moment happened in 2016 on a podcast I co-hosted called Carl and Mike,” LaFlamme told Dallas Innovates. “In this particular episode we were talking about the sharing economy and how Airbnb was now valued higher than Hilton. During that conversation the idea of going to someone’s house for dinner popped up.”
HOW IT WORKS
The core concept behind DinDin Party is it’s a new way for people to connect said LaFlamme, bringing together people who love to cook and entertain with guests who love to eat and socialize.
Potential hosts apply with the company, and after approval can create a DinDin Party event with total creative control over the date, time, location, and price per guest along with the food, menu, and entertainment. Once a DinDin Party event is created it is posted to the website and advertised by the company.
Once a guest is approved and has paid for their seat at the event they are given the exact location.
The online platform allows potential guests to search for events. Once they find a DinDin Party event they like, the website visitors register as a guest and book their seats at the event. Hosts and guests are able to interact privately within the platform and event hosts have the final say on who can attend their event.
Once a guest is approved and has paid for their seat at the event they are given the exact location. Before approval, potential guests only know the neighborhood where the event is taking place. DinDin parties take place in people’s homes or at another designated space, and the company adds 20 percent to the price the hosts set per guest similar to a restaurant gratuity. Within a couple of days of the event’s completion the host receives their asking price for each guest and the company earns its 20 percent booking fee.
THE BUSINESS BEHIND THE PARTY
LaFlamme said restaurants, supper clubs, and pop-up dining experiences are all competition for DinDin Party, but its two most direct competitors are Feastly in the U.S. and Eat With internationally, both of which are well-funded, but not established in the Dallas area. He added both also cater to the high-end gourmet cuisine market and DinDin Party has a more broad appeal with its hosted events. Eat With is even more specialized targeting the traveler and tourist experience.
“My philosophy is competition is a good thing for us. One, because it will help create broader awareness and acceptance of the social dining concept. And two, because more often than not there’s an opportunity there for us to mutually benefit,” LaFlamme said. “For instance, Meetup could be considered an indirect competitor, but we are utilizing a Meetup as one channel to promote DinDin Party which benefits both companies.”
DinDin Party has already raised about $100,000 in a friends and family round.
He added that the company also sees its platform as an advertising venue for its supper club and pop-up dining experience competition.
LaFlamme and Bacon chose the Dallas area to launch DinDin Party because they both live here and understand the market, but he also said that Dallas is a popular city for eating out. Future growth is planned through gradually rolling out across major cities in Texas before expanding into the Southwest over a five-year plan, then the entire U.S., and eventually globally.
DinDin Party has already raised about $100,000 in a friends and family round. It’s used that money to speed up proof of concept to overcome the challenge of awareness and acceptance inherent in any new business idea along with testing marketing approaches to establish best practices it can apply later to expansion. LaFlamme said the next phase will be a seed round to facilitate expanding beyond the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
OPPORTUNITY MEETS ENTREPRENEUR
LaFlamme became an entrepreneur in the late 1990s with a web development company in the direct selling industry under his belt along with co-founding and selling Classiccar.com. His Midwest background and memories of family created a love for seeing and hearing people getting together and having a good time which led to an idea that “wouldn’t go away” and eventually became DinDin Party.
“There are a lot of people out there who love to cook — maybe even entertained the idea of opening a restaurant — but aren’t ready or able to take that step,” LaFlamme said. “And there are excellent chefs who would like the opportunity to showcase their culinary skills and creativity outside the confines of the menu of the restaurant where they work.”
He added: “On the guest side of the equation, I would personally love the opportunity to eat at the table of an undiscovered chef, or to dine and learn about other cultures, to meet and converse with new people, and to experience the creativity of a well-designed party. To meet new people, eat great food, learn new things, have interesting conversations over the intimacy of shared dining table, to me, and I believe to many others, that’s time well spent.”
“To meet new people, eat great food, learn new things, have interesting conversations over the intimacy of shared dining table … that’s time well spent.”
LaFlamme said DinDin Party addresses a number of unmet social needs such as how single adults now outnumber married adults and often eat alone and maybe don’t regularly enjoy a home-cooked meal, as well as the powerful human need for connection.
The DinDin Party social dining platform offers a way for hosts to join the gig economy while doing something they love — cooking for others and hosting events — and guests are provided a way to connect with new people and enjoy a night eating out.
“Today technology allows us to connect with almost anyone in the world, yet we don’t know our neighbor two houses down,” LaFlamme said.
DinDin Party is one tech platform working to fix that issue.