Don’t Judge a Group by Its’ Dinner
  • May 8, 2024
  • The Group
  • Media

Don’t Judge a Group by Its’ Dinner

A guest blog by Nicolas, a Full Member of The Group.

My wife and I just attended the Lowcountry Lifestyle Weekend in Charleston. When meeting some of the sixty guests, I heard a few times from those attending (this being their first weekend event with The Group) about the disparity in the experience between their initial Just for a Dinner event and the Charleston weekend event. 

It’s not the first time we’ve heard this; we’ve also met others in the lifestyle who attended a dinner some years ago and “weren’t that impressed” and, therefore, never moved forward in their membership in The Group.

My wife and I have been to three of The Group’s weekend events and thirteen—yes, thirteen —Just for Dinner evenings, so we definitely understand why the disparity exists. So, I asked the founders of The Group, George and Ann, if I could write an article about my own experiences and take a stab at explaining why this perceived disparity exists.

Or to put it another way – explain why you shouldn’t “judge a group by its’ dinner”.

It simply comes down to two things:  expectation and purpose.

Expectations of Just for Dinner

We’ve met plenty of couples who weren’t sure what to expect with their first Just for Dinner (we weren’t). The excitement of a new lifestyle opportunity that isn’t the same old thing can easily cause expectations to get out of hand. 

Let’s start by the Group’s choice of restaurant. Based on The Group’s promotion as a private high-end lifestyle event, I think it’s perfectly reasonable to expect a near–perfect dinner experience; the food, wine, service, etc. should all be close to (or at) Michelin star quality.  

Now, probably a handful of you are reading this and have already attended a Just for Dinner evening but didn’t find it up to par.  I’m actually not going to fault you.  But remember, no one can bat a thousand – in fact, of the thirteen dinners we had, twelve were excellent, and one particular dinner was so less than perfect I would probably not return there personally ever (it was a steakhouse in New York City – the filet was massively undercooked. The head waiter rushed to fix it, and eventually, you end up with this great medium filet, but to get there, the outside is a hockey puck.  There was more, but at that point, yeah… I was just done).  

But in the bigger picture, you take twelve out of thirteen stellar dinners and then three great weekend events and you quickly realize, sometimes even The Group chooses a place that’s having a really off night. 

So, with the choice of restaurant out of the way, let’s talk about attendees’ expectations of Just for Dinner. The punch line here is sometimes people forget the name of the event they’re attending!

I remember we attended a dinner where one of the wives looked especially nervous. George went over and asked her if she was ok.  She admitted her nervousness, to which he replied, “Well, have you ever had dinner before?” She was confused by the response (as we all would to such a seemingly unrelated question) and replied, “Of course I have.” George reassured her, saying, “That’s all we’re doing here tonight; just enjoying dinner together.” After that, she was at ease the rest of the night.

If you visit one of the many Just for Dinner city pages that list the upcoming dinners in and around a given major city, there’s a section entitled “What is Just for Dinner?,” which spells out pretty clearly what your expectation for Just for Dinner’s should be:

Just for Dinner is a lifestyle event sponsored by The Group to create an opportunity for professionals in the lifestyle to meet in a more discreet and elegant setting. 

Just for Dinner is a lifestyle experience for those tired of the noisy (and cliquey) clubs, the house parties, and the dreaded “meet and greets” to instead spend an evening with other well-educated, well-traveled professionals in the lifestyle. There’s time before, during, and afterward to engage with others – with the emphasis on being there for dinner and nothing else. 

That should be your expectation. 

The Purpose of Just for Dinner

Circling back to the Just for Dinner city pages’ “What is Just for Dinner?” definition, there’s one last piece of critical detail to cover:

It also serves as the first step in becoming a member of The Group, which provides its members with access to private events, parties, and getaways throughout the world. 

Think about the end goal of why you’re attending Just for Dinner in the first place: you want to belong to a private lifestyle group. But do you really want to be stuck hanging out with a bunch of self-centered jerks who would like to flaunt how rich they are, who don’t engage in interesting conversation, and who get so drunk they’re of no use to anyone? Of course not. You want to meet attractive, like-minded professional people with whom you have something in common and who are fun to be with… in the hopes that later in the evening, they’re “fun to be with” (did you see what I did there???!?).

The beauty of The Group is that it is literally a curated group of individuals in the lifestyle who “make the list” by first attending Just for Dinner and personally meeting either George or Ann.

You may wonder, what’s the magical litmus test for becoming a member of The Group? For the individual or couple wanting to join (putting aside a desire for a more upscale lifestyle experience), it’s relatively simple in my mind: they need to look like their pictures, not be jerks or drunks, and are engaging people we’d all want to hang out with. 

To create this curated group of individuals in the lifestyle, someone has to travel the country on an endless loop and perform a vetting process to eliminate all the jerks, drunks, and those misrepresenting themselves. That’s what Just for Dinner is for. 

In other words, the purpose of Just for Dinner is to interview you.

Through personal interaction throughout the evening, George and Ann use their 19+ years of hosting these lifestyle events to decide who’s in… and who’s out. I should note that it’s not unheard of that you could be invited to a weekend event after attending your first Just for Dinner evening, and not a single other couple was

To put it bluntly, not everyone gets in. 

Judging the Group: Dinners vs. Events

Let’s return to this article’s premise: folks judging The Group by a Just for Dinner evening. I can tell you with an extremely high degree of certainty there’s a massive disparity between the experience you’ll have at Just for Dinner and that of a Weekend Event – so much so that you shouldn’t be judging The Group by your Just for Dinner evening.

Consider the disparities from a few perspectives:

  • Attendees – It’s likely that at your dinner, no one in attendance is a Full Member of The Group; like you, they are all new and all want to join The Group. At a weekend event, you’re surrounded by vetted like-minded couples and individuals, creating a unique guestlist that only includes the best of those who’ve attended a Just for Dinner evening.
  • Number – In the end, we’re all trying to make new friends and new experiences. We’ve been to dinners with only 4 couples (including us) and dinners with 16 couples.  Most have been around 8 to 12 couples and one or two single women. In contrast, at the weekend events, we’ve seen a much larger gathering of singles, couples (and yes, throuples) – as many as 80 people at the events we’ve attended – which has proven time and time again to be a large enough group to find some folks you vibe and enjoy the weekend with. We’ve also attended a members-only raft-up of mega yachts in Miami last year – there were around 150 members in attendance. (There were so many stunning yachts that the Coast Guard came along and asked that we split off the “smaller” boats.)
  • Duration – Just for Dinner lasts a few hours in one evening; probably not long enough to make any real lasting connections.  The Group’s weekend events allow members to attend for three to five days, providing ample time to meet and get to know others attending. Allow me to insert here that the instinct of new members is to attend for just a day or two to “audit” the weekend. That’s a big mistake. It’s equivalent to showing up 4th quarter of the big game and not feeling part of the excitement that has been building before you arrived. Everyone else has had two days to get acquainted and you’re walking in blind. If you are new to The Group and you have the opportunity to attend a weekend event, arrive as early as possible. When you do, you will realize that most of the Full Members have learned to arrive on Wednesday to make the most of the experience.
  • Venue – While the dinner itself is often held at James Beard-winning or Michelin star-rated restaurants, there are plenty of cities where dinners need to be held instead in what is instead one of the best that the particular city offers. Each of the thirteen diners my wife and I have attended, all but one were upscale restaurants, the menu hand-selected, the wine list sommelier-prepared, etc. But, at a weekend event, The Group chooses a city based on its ability to deliver the finest accommodations, restaurants, Grammy-winning entertainment, etc. – all adding up to a 5-star weekend event.
  • Playtime – Remember that nervous wife? She was anxious because she wasn’t sure what the play expectation was. In the case of Just for Dinner, the expectation should be none (hint: it’s right there in the title of the evening – you’re meeting just for dinner!) In the case of the weekend events, attendees take advantage of the longer duration and the many opportunities to meet and get to know other members and “make the most” of their time together as each member sees fit. 

Then How Should You “Judge” The Group?

Nearly every member at some point was a dinner guest wondering, “Do I want to join this group or not?” And since I’ve (hopefully) eliminated Just for Dinner as a means of judging the merits of being a member of The Group, it stands to reason I need to give you something to evaluate whether membership should interest you.

Here’s how my wife and I determined our participation in The Group.

  1. We talked to George and Ann… a lot. You should ask questions (don’t just eat at the dinner, take advantage of the two of them and find out everything you want about The Group!). 
  2. We looked at their previous events. There’s a list going back nearly two decades! Look at where they went, watch the videos (when available), and get a sense of what a weekend event is like. 
  3. We looked at The App. Once approved post-dinner, you will receive access to The Group’s private app, which contains upcoming dinners and events with details not shared on the public-facing website. 
  4. We asked, “What’s next?” When we joined, The Group had not yet acquired its yacht (we’ve since chartered the yacht a couple of times). There’s also a resort in the works, additional lifestyle events coming soon for wives specifically, and more coming from The Group. 

It’s been four years since we joined—four years that have included plenty of trips to new cities, along with great new friendships, experiences, and memories. None of this would have happened had we “judged a group by its dinner.”