Supper Club Etiquette

Do's and Don'ts for the supper club guest

© 2013   Edit from a blog created by msmarmitelover


1) Service: It's not a normal restaurant. Don't expect to have the same standard of service. If you need water and everybody is busy, feel free to get your own. If you drop your napkin, I suggest you pick it up yourself. Under no circumstances snap your fingers at the wait staff, they aren't your servants, they are probably friends or related to the host. The hostess may even have given birth to them.

2) Drink: Bring your own booze. Most supper clubs don't have an alcohol license. This is great for you as a guest: take the opportunity to pay what you'd normally spend in a conventional restaurant on the cheapest bottle of wine on the list (£10 to £15) on a very good bottle of wine with no mark up. Soft drinks: most supper club hosts do not have a large fridge containing a selection of soft drinks complete with price list, so if you have a soft drink you particularly like, do bring it along. Supper clubs tend to offer tap water rather than mineral water, so again, bring your own if you prefer that. Some supper clubs charge a corkage fee for wine to cover provision of glasses. (This may sound unfair but providing wine and water glasses for each guest and washing them up is one of the most costly and time consuming aspects of a supper club, especially when they don't earn money for drink). Do bring your own drink. If it's white wine or champagne, bring it ready chilled.The host/ess probably won't have room in his/her fridge.

3) Timing: Turn up on time. There isn't an army of sous chefs to whip you up a hot dinner if you arrive late. You wouldn't turn up to a friend's dinner very late would you? Conversely: do not arrive early. It puts the host/hostess in a difficult position. That last five minutes before showtime that you interrupted was probably their only opportunity to put on mascara, spray deodorant under their shirt to hide cooking smells, reapply lipstick.

4) Cancellations: do not cancel and if you must, do it at least 48 hours beforehand. The supper club host will already have bought the ingredients for your dinner. Unlike a conventional restaurant they cannot sell the food the next day. Profit margins are low so do be thoughtful. Do turn up. Even if you have paid in advance, this is an instance where you abide by dinner party manners rather than restaurant rules. It's rude if you don't. Hosts/hostesses will often delay the meal while waiting for you. It's unfair on the other guests too, creating gaps at tables.

5) Diet: Do not change your mind last minute and decide that you are a vegan, allergic to something quite basic like olive oil, or reveal that you are super allergic to nuts. Again dinners are planned, catered and prepared in advance. The host/hostess deserves notice about specialist diets.

6) Research: do read their blog/website/information given with the booking. Do not incessantly email the supper club host with lots of questions before the meal. They are unlikely to have a reservations clerk and this is time consuming and they will hate you even before they've met you. Do find out about them beforehand, especially if the supper club has been going for a while. Most supper clubs have a blog in which every aspect of setting up their supper club, preparing food, their personal life has been exhaustively chronicled. It's trying being asked the same questions every single event 'How did you start?' etc.

7) Tipping: You tip even an awful restaurant ten percent don't you? Why not a supper club? It makes all the hard work worth it. Alternatively a small gift is welcome, after all you are going to their home. Most supper club hosts are intensely interested in food and drink so if you make say, jam or liqueur then give a jar rather than a tip. One guest gave me a huge pack of vanilla beans, which was very much appreciated.

8) Entertainment: the 1920s booklet '1001 things everyone ought to know' in the Etiquette section states "If you can sing, recite, etc, it is your duty to perform should the hostess ask you. To refuse is not in the best taste". Hmm. Possibly. Do assess your own talent and entertainment ability honestly before embarking on a show. But on the other hand, even singing badly will give other guests something to talk about.

9) Conversation: the supper club is fantastic for networking, getting jobs, contacts and even romance but sadly there is always the risk that you end up sat next to a bore, which will ruin your supper club experience. It's rare that bores attend supper clubs however, people are self selecting, only the adventurous and curious tend to go. The disadvantage of a supper club as opposed to a cocktail party is that it's hard to move away from the bore. The advantage lies in that you have time to get to know other people and you are rarely in the position where, if stuck for something to say, you have to resort to the tactics advised by Dianne Darling of Effective Networking who suggests asking men "where did you get your tie?". 

10) Dress: I always ask guests to dress up. There are too few occasions in modern nightlife where we get the opportunity to get out the best suit, wear that sparkly dress and heels. You can do this seriously or ironically, the choice is yours. 

11) Privacy: Do be respectful of the fact that you are in your hosts private space. Don't make loud critical comments on their decor, children, cleanliness. Save that for the taxi home.

12) Complaints: very difficult territory here. You are that weird hybrid of 'paying' 'guest'. If you have a serious complaint, mention it to the server or host on the night when they have the opportunity of resolving your issue. Most host/esses will be mortified. If you fancy yourself as a blogger or reviewer, don't be smarmy on the night and then slag the supper club off in print the next day. You are not AA Gill, you are just being rude to a private individual who is doing their best.




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