What Is A Home-Based Underground Secret Supper Club & Is It Crime?


Keeping in mind that the legality of running a Secret Supper Club is a question that is still in flux, I have to say I’ve NEVER run am Underground Secret Supper Club. However, I do know people who have and in this article, we’ll dig into the details of starting a Secret Supper Club from home.

So, what is a Secret Supper Club? An Underground Secret Supper Club, also called a Secret Restaurant or Underground Restaurant, is a food service business where you not only prepare the food in your home but serve it in your home. In exchange for a wonderful meal in your home, your guests leave a “suggested donation” to cover your expenses and time.

Now let’s dig into the details of starting an Underground Restaurant from home.

Is Running A Secret Restaurant In Your Home Illegal?

When thinking about the legality of running an Underground Restaurant, you should think about the history of Home Sharing (e.g. Airbnb, VRBO, etc..). At one time, they were entirely illegal, however, over time it’s become more ‘legal’, but in many states and cities the status of such home-based businesses remains in flux.

Disclaimer – I’m not a lawyer, judge, or police officer. I am not providing legal advice. Instead, I’m just sharing my personal experience and that of people I know.

~Stacey

In most of the world, the idea of Secret Restaurants was born a few years after Home Sharing became a thing (which was with Airbnb in 2008).

While it’s true that Cuban’s begin starting “Casa Particulars” in 2001 { Learn More Here >> }, in the rest of the world it began in about 2010.

When Secret Restaurants started to become a real thing, it tried to follow the model of Home Sharing. With that, there were a number of websites and apps that mimicked what Airbnb and others were doing in the home-sharing business model.

While the home-sharing apps have thrived, even in the face of legal challenges, nearly all of the Secret Restaurant Apps have gone away.

But why?

First, I don’t believe that a lack of apps means that there is no (or even less) Secret Restaurants than there were in 2010.

I believe that the legal challenges to both home-based businesses are similar, but the difference is that home-sharing requires a lot more clients from out of town than a Secret Restaurant Requires.

With that simple truth, there wasn’t really a need for such apps.

So, Is Running A Secret Supper Club Illegal?

Honestly, Running A Secret Supper Club is probably illegal no matter where you live.

Nearly every state and/or city requires any business that offers food to the public to have some kind of food license. To get that food license, you’ll probably need to have a licensed commercial kitchen where you are preparing your meals.

While it’s possible to get a commercial kitchen in your home (we have one for our Meal Prep Delivery Business), it’s not inexpensive and probably doesn’t make sense for a startup home-based Secret Supper Club.

In addition, in nearly every city and state, any business that serves liquor needs a special (and not-inexpensive) liquor license. Even if an Underground Restaurant operates within a BYOB Model (Bring Your Own Bottle) requires some kind of liquor license in most localities.

But, just like home-sharing, it’s tricky.

Can you invite friends over for supper? Sure!

Can you ask them to toss in a few bucks to help cover the cost of food and booze? Sure!

Can your friends invite other friends to come to your amazing Super Club? Umm…maybe?

Can you put up flyers advertising your Super Club? That’s probably a bad idea that might bring you more attention than you want.

Should you run ads on Facebook, Google, or the local Radio? No. That will definitely get you the attention that you don’t want…what you are doing is way too much like a regular restaurant and that’s a fight you are going to lose.

In my official opinion, you should never do anything illegal. Never.

Should you have friends over for an amazing supper? Yes!

Should you ask for a suggested donation? That’s up to you.

What If Your Super Club Gets Busted?

Beats me. Every city is different, and charges always depend upon the passions of the District Attorney.

That said, I can’t find any cases of anyone actually being arrested or even fined significantly for running an Underground Supper Club from their home.

It seems that usually there is a strong and scary order to stop.

Once again, I’m no expert and I’m not offering any legal advice here. Do you own research and do what you think is best for you.

What Services Does An Underground Restaurant Club Offer?

At its core, a Secret Supper Club offers its guest food. What you’ll probably be surprised to know is that food is not the most important service offered by a Supper Club.

Instead, as a Supper Host, you’re offering an experience.

A great Secret Supper Club Host offers great food…at least good food…a unique menu, a nice atmosphere, but more importantly, they are offering a relaxed dining experience and really cool people that just might grow their circle of friends.

The secret sauce to offering a great Supper Club Experience is to have an eclectic group of interesting people, regardless of the size of the club.

Some Supper Clubs even have Super Club Rules, to make sure that the social part of the evening shines.

What Are Supper Club Rules?

Not all Secret Super Clubs have rules, but those that do have rules usually have the following rules:

  1. The First Rule of Supper Club is don’t talk about Supper Club.
  2. You can’t sit next to your date during dinner. One of the goals of Supper Club is to meet new people.
  3. You can only invite two people to Supper Club…your date and the most interesting person you know. And, remember, you can’t sit together.
  4. After dinner, there is often mingling and drinks…that’s when you get back with the people that you came with.
  5. You don’t talk about Supper Club!

How Do You Make Money With A Secret Restaurant Club?

Most people who run a Secret Supper Club ask for a suggested donation with a tip jar on the side.

The suggested donation should cover your expenses and your time to give you a nice hourly wage. Be sure to include your menu planning and shopping time with the food prep and serving time when deciding what your suggested donation is going to be.

If you provide an experience that can’t be matched in a traditional restaurant, you might be surprised how much those tips can add to your bottom line.

I’ve knowing owners of Underground Restaurants who made enough money hosting just two events a month to cover their rent or mortgage payment.

That don’t suck, but keep in mind that what you are doing is questionable legal.

Alternate Names For An Underground Restaurant

  • Secret Restaurant
  • Secret Supper Club
  • Supper Club
  • Private Supper Club
  • Private Restaurant
  • Underground Supper Club
  • Underground Secret Restaurant
  • House Restaurant
  • House Supper Club

Pros Of Starting A Supper Club

  • Pretty Low Overhead
  • No Marketing Stress
  • Is More Than Food – It’s Also Party Hosting
  • Is A Great Way To Practice Catering Or Running A Restaurant
  • So Much Fun!

Cons Of Starting A Supper Club

  • The Supper Club Laws Are In Flux
  • You Will Have People In Your Home
  • You Need To Be A Great Host
  • The Atmosphere Of You Supper Club Is Paramount
Cost To Startup (Scale: $ to $$$$$)$$
Full Income or Side HustleSide Hustle
Income Potential (Scale: $ to $$$$$)$$$
Profit Margin (Scale: 📈 to 📈📈📈📈📈)📈📈📈
Time To Build (Scale: ⏰ to ⏰⏰⏰⏰⏰)
Time To Run (Scale: ⏰ to ⏰⏰⏰⏰⏰)⏰⏰
Complexity to Run (Scale: 🤹 to 🤹🤹🤹🤹🤹)🤹🤹🤹
Employees RequiredNo
Underground Restaurant Business Model Characteristics

Cost To Start A Supper Club At Home

The costs to start a Supper Club from home is really pretty limited.

You’re probably not going to be putting in a commercial kitchen, but you might be doing some upgrades to your home to make it work better for a Private Supper Club Business.

Some things you might want to upgrade include:

  • Larger Dinning Table & More Chairs
  • Better Lighting
  • Artwork
  • Sound System For Music
  • Nice Plates, Serving Vessels, and Utensils

Is A Private Supper Club A Side-Hustle Or Full-Time Home-Based Job?

This can become a full-time gig, but most people who run a Secret Supper Club from their home do it as a side-hustle. After all, you don’t want a houseful of friends for supper every night!

If you decide to start a home food business like this, I’d encourage you to start small with a handful of close friends as guests and see where it goes from there.

Income Potential From A Home-Based Supper Club

This really depends on how many you can seat and how often you want to host a dinner party.

It also depends on what people in your community are used to paying for a nice dinner at a restaurant. They will pay just as much, or more, for a much better experience in a laid-back atmosphere where they don’t feel the need to vacate the table so the restaurant can turn the table.

If one of our talented chef friends invited us to their home for a Supper Club with a room full of interesting people, we’d not blink before donating $50 to $75 per person.

Now if you have six guests you can start with $300 to $450 in donations, with tips on top of that just a few of these a month can be paying your rent or mortgage!

Time To Build A Personal Supper Party Business From Home

This home-based food business is really pretty easy to start and build.

For the first dinner party, you just need a handful of friends who’d join you for an amazing supper. During that dinner, pitch them the idea of a Supper Club.

If you are serving good food and offering an amazing and fun experience, your next Supper Club Dinner Party will ‘sale out’ in no time.

How Much Time To Run A Business Like?

In the time leading up to an event, you’re going to have a few full days of work. Likewise, the day of your event is a full day of work, but hopefully it will also be lots of fun!

However, this business doesn’t really take any time between events.

You won’t be spending your time marketing.

And, unlike so many food businesses, you’re not trying to make some money every day, just a small pile of money each time you host a dinner party.

Complexity To Run An Underground Restaurant From Home

The biggest complexity is navigating the laws surrounding food service. Are you serving friends or running a business? That gets complex.

Otherwise, this isn’t a real complex way to make money from home with food. It’s just throwing amazing dinner parties!

Do You Need Employees For A Private Supper Club?

You don’t really need employees for a Private Supper Club, though some hosts hire a few servers to upgrade the entire experience.

I’d certainly start without any help, and see where this leads you.

So, Should You Start An Underground Restaurant?

Because of the potential regulatory confusion, you’ll have to think long and hard before you decide to start your own Private Supper Club.

At the very least, you should host an amazing Dinner Party for your coolest and most interesting friends and bounce the idea off of them.

Worse case scenario is that you’ll have a wonderful evening with cool friends. That’s a winning idea!

~Stacey

Stacey

With over 15 years of experience starting, running, and growing home-based food businesses, Stacey is the #1 home-based food business coach in America. Stacey is the author of the Advantage Meals: By The Numbers Book.

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