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Are you a foodie looking for a way to make a bit of extra cash on the side? Do you like meeting new people? Well, the good news is there are many ways to turn your favourite hobby into a thriving business! One of the most exciting to pop up onto our radar recently, is to start a supper club of your own.
With their roots in the cabaret culture of the 1930s and ’40s, supper clubs are experiencing a revival as affordable alternatives to fancy restaurants and opportunities for diners to connect more authentically.
Read on for the MoneyMagpie guide to starting your own supper club from home
dining in the dark with the secret society reviews
Secret Dining Society
Basically, a supper club – also know as an underground- or secret restaurant – is an eatery that you set up in your home.
You cook for as many guests as arrive and, traditionally, they leave you a ‘suggested donation’ to cover your costs and – maybe – make a bit of money. It’s a bit like Come Dine with Me on a larger scale, but without the film crew or sarcastic voiceover.
If you haven’t come across them before, there’s a clue in the name – they’re ‘secret’ and ‘underground’.
This is partly because supper clubs started off as a cheap way to dine out in the recession, but also because there are a number of rules and technicalities around commercial food preparation in a domestic kitchen, which supper clubs help you bypass.
WHAT ARE THE RULES?
The rules are – in short – rather complicated, all hinging on how long you’re running your supper club for and whether it’s casual or formal.
SHOULD I REGISTER MY SUPPER CLUB?
The law says that you don’t need to register as a ‘food premises’ if you run your business for less than five days in five consecutive weeks.
So, if you throw four supper club evenings over a period of two months, you don’t need to register with your local council.
If, however, you are hosting two supper club nights a week you should get in touch with your local council to ask for a food premises registration form.
Registering your kitchen is free so there’s no reason to not do it!
Should you have to register, you’ll need to fill in a short form giving the following details:
- the business’ name
- where it is registered
- the name of the proprietor and manager
- what your business handles.
Some people don’t register their food business because they don’t know they have to, they think they can ‘do it later’ or actively decide that registering would spoil the underground, ‘edgy’ feel of the restaurant in their living room.
Some secret supper club restaurateurs get around the problem by telling guests to burst into a rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ should they receive an unexpected visit from food safety officers.
While this definitely evokes the excitement of a 1920s speakeasy, here at MoneyMagpie we advise you to rather register if you are required to.
If in doubt, always check. Better safe than sorry!
Whether you need to register your supper club or not, visit the Food Standards Agency website for useful tips and information. They’ve got links to different Food Safety Acts as well as a downloadable guide to starting up a food business.
HOW TO START A SUPPER CLUB
Up until now, the supper club business has been, well, secretive. And in many cases it still remains this way.
Individual front room restaurateurs typically publicise their undertakings through personal websites, social media sites -like Facebook and Twitter – and, of course, word-of-mouth. They normally take bookings over over email and payment (or ‘donations’) can either be made on the night or through websites using a secure system.
If you like organising your own business from start to finish, this is still a perfectly good method of setting up a supper club.
FOOD SHARING WEBSITES
However, if you’re feeling a little unsure about all the admin related to dedicated websites, social media presences and payment systems, you may want to test the waters by using a ‘food sharing’ site to start off with:
Here are a few popular options:
- EatWith – a website offering users an easy way to access the underground food scene and connect with creative, open-minded and interesting people.
- BonAppetour – a community marketplace that connects travellers with local home chefs for a unique home-dining experience, anywhere around the world.
- VizEat – also geared specifically toward travellers, the site helps foodies share a meal or experience a cooking class with a local host.
- Feastly – a home for unique dining events with chefs who possess exceptional culinary talents – whether they’re a great home cook or Michelin starred. The site has not launched in the UK yet, but it’s worth keeping an eye on for the future.
HOW MUCH COULD I MAKE?
It really depends.
Established secret supper clubs can charge between £30 and £50 a head, while well-known chefs could charge even more.
A good example of this is chef Nuno Mendez’s The Loft Project. Between June 2009 and October 2011, Mendez opened his East London apartment to diners, charging £100 per head for a 12 course tasting menu.
Generally speaking, however, you’ll have to take the following into account:
- How many people are coming: obviously, the more people you’re catering for, the more money you can make.
- What you’re cooking: will you serve a set meal or will there be options for guests to pick from? Is wine included? Remember that vegetarian and vegan dishes are usually cheaper than a prime steak centre piece.
- Your unique selling point: are you famous for your adventurous dishes and unique cooking style? Or is your traditional fare the talk of the town? Some restaurateurs offer themed nights, while others pride themselves on an entirely organic, responsibly-sourced menu. Whatever you offer that no-one else can, make the most of it to get people talking!
- How good you are: simple but true. People will come back for seconds, thirds and beyond if you’re a good cook. If you’re a professional chef, this might not be such a big factor. If, however, you’re an enthusiastic amateur it’s a good idea to start off with something tried and tested. Remember those cookery shows where simple but good food wins out over experimental dishes. This is especially important if you’re working on a ‘donations’ basis where people pay what they think the meal is worth.
- Your profit margin – this is the bit that many keen cooks forget. It’s one thing to provide fabulous meals in a great setting but if you spend all the money on the food and accessories you will have no profit and it just becomes a hobby rather than a business. Be careful what you spend on and how large your portions are. If necessary, go and see some restaurateurs (ideally not in your area – don’t let them know you’re competition) and ask them how they make their money.
So, making money from your supper club depends largely on what you make of it and how businesslike you are.
On a small scale, it’s unlikely to make you a fortune but could be a good way of meeting people while making a little extra cash. If you’re more dedicated however, you could be onto a good earner.
portland secret dining society guide
BEST SITES LIKE ALIEXPRESS FOR ONLINE SHOPPING
AliExpress is a massively popular Chinese online retail service owned by Alibaba Group. It was launched in 2010 and hasn’t stopped its journey to becoming the ‘biggest online marketplace of the world‘ ever-since. AliExpress stands toe-to-toe even with Amazon in terms of buyers worldwide. It offers wholesale goods at direct-to-consumer prices from Chinese sellers.
It also works as a great dropshipping model for a lot of e-commerce entrepreneurs. Along with a lot of good sides, AliExpress has some cons as well. The biggest problem is the shipping time of AliExpress orders, which is pretty long considering the goods come from China. Also, some orders can be very expensive after shipping charges and taxes.
So, it is a good thing to have some AliExpress alternatives whenever you don’t like its services. That’s why we are telling you about 21 best sites like AliExpress. Some of these websites offer cheaper prices and faster shipping on certain products. And, you can also use them to maintain a nice profit margin for your dropshipping business.
LightInTheBox is the perfect AliExpress alternative as it is also a Chinese e-Store. It sells hot and trending products across the globe. Their products range from phone and electronics to fashion, jewelry, shoes, bags, and many other items. You can find almost anything here at a very cheap price.
The delivery time of LightInTheBox is also similar to AliExpress as their warehouses are located only in China. But, you may get a faster shipping time due to having fewer orders to ship. You can pay for your orders with PayPal, Western Union, or your credit card.
Wish is a widely popular online marketplace where you can buy almost anything. From clothing to footwear, electronics, healthcare items, and many more things, you can get them all for an incredibly cheap price. They are also known to offer great deals and coupons to their new customers.
Their shipping time is also faster than AliExpress as their products come from sellers located in small countries. Wish also provides an advanced rating system that is very helpful for both the consumers as well as sellers. It helps promote good ones.
Overstock is a US-based online marketplace. It makes profit by selling wholesale products at a highly cheap price tag. A major portion of their stock is comprised of overstock from the major retailers or their seconds. You can find some really amusing deals here. The shipping time will also be lower as compared to the Chinese marketplaces. You can get your items within a week.
The product range of Overstock is incredible. You can find everything such as clothing, decor, kitchen appliances, and many more items. You can even find furniture and other big home items. So, you can use to fill your house with great stuff at a reduced price.
DealeXtreme, more popularly known as DX, is an amazing online marketplace. The website works in a very similar manner as ‘Wish’ and sells cheap products coming directly from sellers. It has partnered with many small businesses and sells its products to a wide base of audience.
The shipping time is a problem with DX also because their warehouses are located in China. Apart from this, you can get some really worthy deals on DX. You should always keep an eye on their clearance sales for the best prices.
Gearbest is the perfect AliExpress alternative if you are looking to shop for the latest gadgets or electronic devices. It works with over 5000 Chinese brands and top suppliers to deliver the best products. It has products from top Chinese companies such as Xiaomi, Huawei, Lenovo, and many others. But, it isn’t just an electronic store.
You can also find a massive range of other products as well. The prices available on GearBest are reduced, and you can even reduce them with the available coupons. They also have warehouses in multiple countries. So, you can get faster shipping from the local warehouse.
BangGood is another Chinese e-commerce platform that provides worldwide shipping of cheap goods. You can find almost anything on this website, from clothing to electronics, and even home items. The prices available are marked down from their original prices. You can also get amazing deals during special clearance sales.
BangGood provides a free $20 coupon to every new user. The shipping time for BangGood orders is faster than AliExpress for certain products. However, the regular shipping time is similar.
ChinaBrands is a widely popular Chinese e-Store where you can buy products at wholesale prices. You can find almost anything on this website at a highly affordable price. Their shipping prices are also low but you will get a long shipping time. It is the perfect website for buyers who want the lowest prices but can wait for their orders for at least a month.
Most of the ChinaBrands sellers run their factories from China, and their warehouses are located there only. This is the reason for the considerably long shipping time.
Bonanza is a unique American online marketplace where you can find a great range of products. They have over 20 million items from more than 50,000 sellers. It is a growing e-commerce store where even you can sell your items. It is a preferred platform by more than 20,000 entrepreneurial sellers. You can find some really amazing handcrafted items and collectibles here.
For people looking to shop regular items, this store may disappoint you a little. The prices of some items may be a little higher than some Chinese stores. But, the quality provided will be worth it.
21 ALIEXPRESS ALTERNATIVE STORES
Here are 21 AliExpress Alternatives that you can use to shop online.
- DealXtreme (DX)
- American Greenwood
AliExpress is amazing but it is always good to have options when you are shopping. So, these are the 21 best sites like AliExpress. If you ever feel like you should look somewhere else, these are some stores that you should visit. You can also use these for your dropshipping business if you are an aspiring entrepreneur. Make sure you have a solid plan before beginning.