Mondays are often quiet in the dining scene—unless you’re talking about the newest, hottest restaurants. A new members-only dining club out of New York aims to turn those evenings up. Tasting Collective—which has launched in cities like Austin, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Chicago, and, just recently, DC—takes over independent restaurants on evenings they’d otherwise be closed or slow, and fills them up with diners for six-course, $50 meals (not including tax, tip, and alcohol).
Founder Nat Gelb launched the membership program in New York in 2016 and has expanded it nationwide to seven cities with more than 4,000 members. Gelb says the program is built with both diners and chefs in mind. The restaurants take all profits from the events, held Sunday through Wednesday. Tasting Collective makes money from the annual membership dues, which vary by city (they start at $99 per year in DC).
“I wasn’t going to make money off the restaurants. The system is broken. Even restaurants that are awesome are closing,” says Gelb, who has a business background in subscription membership communities.
On the flip side, Tasting Collective promises members exposure to chefs and restaurants in a different light. So far in DC, dinners have been held at spots like Maketto, Whaley’s, Supra, and Gravitas. The family-style meals are typically shared among 50 and 100 diners, depending on the size of the restaurant. Chefs personally present dishes that are often a mix of crowd favorites from the regular menu and new items that they want feedback on. Diners play critic and fill out cards throughout the meal that rate each course on a scale of one to five, plus tasting notes, which are all given to the business. There’s a short Q&A around dessert.
“It’s the opposite of Yelp. It doesn’t live online and it’s geared towards constructive feedback,” says Gelb.
Members can bring guests—and in some cases, BYO wine—though the dining fee for outsiders is slightly higher ($75 per person). Apart from the events, members are given a card that grants them perks at restaurant partners (including those in other cities) such as a comped cocktail or dessert. Tasting Collective counts 450 dining spots in its nationwide consortium* so far.
“The nose-in-the-air supper club—in my mind, that’s gone,” says Gelb. “It’s really about bringing this experience to the masses, to share a passion for food and connection.”
Correction: This post originally said Tasting Club has 450 dining spots in its Washington consortium; that number applies to its national consortium.