In a few weeks, Dinner Lab — the pop-up members-only supper club now in ten cities — is launching something it calls the "programmable restaurant." It's a two-step process: part menu-crowdsourcing via data it will ask patrons to submit, part nationwide search for a chef to run the eventual restaurant where these things will be served.
Chief executive Brian Bordainick says that figuring out what works menu-wise is maybe the most daunting aspect of starting a restaurant, so the distributed approach to data is his Rosetta stone: "Anyone who thinks they have a handle on consumer behavior or taste ... is either way smarter than me if they actually do, or they're insane." The tryout process will pit ten chefs against each other, one per city, then narrow it down to an Iron Chef–style finale. Investors seem intrigued; so far, the company has raised about $2 million from guys like Whole Foods chair John Elstrott.