Have you heard of GrubWithUs? I hadn’t until I read this Fast Company article. GrubWithUs is a social network that arranges dinners with strangers at restaurants. You pay everything in advance, show up, have a most delightful time while getting to know several new acquaintances.

I would have LOVED something like this when I was single. Not so much to meet guys, although that wouldn’t have hurt, but as an easy way to hang out with new people for a few hours around a dinner table. I love that type of thing, especially when food is involved.

We had Meetup groups in Sacramento that did something similar, but the dinners usually attracted too many people. After a while, all the faces became a big blur — too much networking, not enough real conversation.

One of the top reasons people join associations is to meet and develop relationships with peers or prospects. Associations facilitate this by hosting conferences, volunteer opportunities and other events. Why not try the GrubWithUs model — small dinners for six to eight people? Here are some ideas:

  • During conferences and other meetings, like many associations do.
  • By geographic area for local members.
  • By conversation or brainstorming topic — pay for someone’s dinner and ask them to report back on ideas shared — market research!
  • By professional niche or interest.

Don’t focus on excuses to not do it – handling payments, staff time — you can find ways to make it work if you really want to.

The accounting department may have to become more nimble to pay the restaurant in advance, but it’s the 21st century, the age of PayPal, debit cards and taking care of business.

You might have to rely on volunteers. Thank them by paying or subsidizing their check, or giving them a promo code for an event or product.

Not everyone can afford to attend your conference to meet other members, but they will surely appreciate you making the effort to organize or facilitate member meet-ups.

Associations social dining members