Using The Power of Breaking Bread To Build New Business Relationships

Using The Power of Breaking Bread To Build New Business Relationships

About 10 years ago I started organizing Founder Dinners after reading a book called, Never Eat Alone written by an amazing individual, Keith Ferrazzi.

This book set my life on a different path.

Since then, I’ve organized over 300 meals, bringing together close to 1000 entrepreneurs and CEO’s, both at home and everywhere that I’ve traveled.

The power of bringing people together to break bread and have great conversation…

Recently somebody was asking me how I had been invited to spend a week with Richard Branson at his home in Switzerland. That was a bi-product of a dinner I had hosted 4 years prior.

I was organizing a dinner in San Francisco, and a friend of mine introduced me to this guy who had recently moved there – so I invited him to join us.

He just thought it was so special that someone he didn’t even know would invite him into his group of friends.

It turned out that he had such a great time and even ended up meeting people there that he started a company with.

4 years later, when he got invited to spend a week with Richard Branson, he recommended that I be invited too.

That week was probably one of the most magical experiences of my entrepreneurial journey to date.

This is the power of breaking bread and building relationships.

Here are 3 basic steps to curating these Founder Dinners:

Determine who to invite

My rule is that you want to create themes, or micro themes around the type of people you want to invite so they have like-minded interests. For example, the last thing you want to do is have an accountant there with a circus actor ☺

Bring founders and entrepreneurs who have like-minded interests, such as people who are in manufacturing, or dental, or financial technology. Find those CEO’s and reach out to them.

It might sound crazy and you might be wondering, “Why would I invite these people to dinner?”

You’ve got to understand that you are just like these people – you’re busy.

You’ve been heads down working, you haven’t been out of your office, you KNOW you should be meeting other entrepreneurs… and we all have to eat.

You can create that value for them.

Keep in mind that it’s a numbers game.

If you want to have 8 people at your dinner, you might have to invite 20.

Find a location

I always like to find a restaurant where I can have 6-8 people at a rectangular table.

This way everyone is close enough that there is one conversation. If you go more than 8 people, it usually creates 2 conversations – one at each end of the table – and it’s not a great experience.

The ninja move

You sit in the middle.

I call it being the conversation traffic cop.

When you’re sitting in the middle, you can guide the conversation.

You can also hear different things people are saying around the table, and kind of stop everybody if you hear something and want to introduce them to someone at the other end of the table that they haven’t talked to yet and would benefit from knowing.

It just creates a really great energy for you to sit at the center of the table and bring people together via the conversation.

That’s the high level framework of the setup.

Overview of a Great Founders Lunch

Who Pays?

My feeling is everyone goes dutch – people pay for their own meals.

Tell them that up front.

That way, there’s no sense of reciprocity or that they feel like you are doing this for a purpose.

“Plus-ing” People

I obviously know who these people are – but they may not know each other.

When everyone sits down – with you at the center position – ask each person to go around the table and do an introduction.

I always ask the guy who is like “Mr. Brag-adocious” to go first. You want to get that guy to go first because he will set the tone for everyone else.

Then, what I do is “plus” them.

As soon as somebody gives their intro, I always think about something that I love or find interesting about them and add that in.

Say, “Hey guys, he’s not going to tell you this, but he just ran an ultra-marathon.”

Add in some interesting point about their lives – plus them – and do that for every person at the table.

It’s also an exercise for you to do the research before the Dinner, so you actually know who’s sitting down.

Most importantly, it makes them feel super welcome and appreciated.

Another way you can do introductions is to have people name their proudest achievement – that gives them permission to brag a bit.

Especially where I come from in Canada, people can be so reserved and they don’t want to come across as bragging.

When you give them permission to brag, you will see them smile and then they will mention something, and it turns out somebody else has the same interest. It helps build rapport amongst the founders.

It’s a magical moment that you can create.

I find that hosting and creating these moments are one of the most important things that I do for my entrepreneurial career and I want to challenge you to do the same thing.

The trick is to find a restaurant and book it now – then you know you’ve got to fill it up and start curating the dinner because you’ve committed.

Think about 20 people with like-minded interests that you can reach out to and
invite them.

I want to challenge you right now to stop reading this blog and go book a restaurant so you can organize your own Founder Dinner!

Do it now 🙂

Please leave me a comment below letting me know what your biggest takeaway was from this post. Do you have any tips to share with others? What questions are still unanswered? Post below and I’ll reply inline.

P.S. If you’d like more personalized tips & strategies, subscribe to my personal newsletter where I share detailed approaches to growing your business. This is for growth minded entrepreneurs only.

  • Chris Spurvey

    excellent post Dan!! I am off to become a Circus Actor. 😉 Question… do you aim to find a location where it is half quite? Having participated in a few of these I do find it difficult in louder enviornments such as say… Jack Astors.

    • Dan Martell


      Great question and over the years I’ve had some crazy situations – like a month ago when a sushi place I picked turned into a college dance club at 8PM 🙂

      So here’s what I suggest
      – Do a “stop in” to checkout the place and ask staff about noise levels
      – Get a table that provides a great view with a bit of privacy
      – Don’t do more than 6 people for the dinner so the conversation can be heard by everyone
      – Stay away from chains, pubs, etc as they’re typically louder or have a lot of distractions.

      My goal for each dinner is 1) great people, 2) great food & 3) great conversations.

      Hope that helps.


      • Chris Spurvey

        Excellent insight. Thanks a million.

  • William Mougayar

    Note to self: organize such a dinner.
    totally due. thanks Dan.

    • Dan Martell

      Just book a restaurant for 2 weeks out and start recruiting 🙂

      Glad you enjoyed.


      • William Mougayar

        Just had a lateral thought- what are your thoughts on a long breakfast instead- say 8-9:30am?

        • Dan Martell

          I do breakfast in NYC + SF .. typically 8:30AM – 10AM .. almost acts as a first meeting for busy entrepreneurs.

          It’s almost a city thing … notice different cultural norms re: meals and times of day in each city. (ex: SF is super early 6PM dinners, where NYC is 8:30PM+)

  • Andrei Arkhanguelski

    Hi Dan, thanks for sharing your experience organizing such dinners. I’m definitely going to organize one soon.

  • Micheal McKinnon

    I’ve been thinking about creating a mastermind group in my local area. Coming across this post helped me realize this could be a first, highly organic step to letting the magic happen! (And not nearly as big a commitment up front.) Thanks so much for the practical tips. They’re really helpful, Dan.

    Additionally, I found this link (on your site!) when I came back to take notes on your wisdom. Found even more nuggets here:

    Love the phrase: “Serendipity comes at the intersection of people and
    conversations.” I believe I’ll get to experience this at my first event at the end of January.

  • Pedram Daraeizadeh

    This is powerful stuff. I so happy a year after watching this video I got to co-organize a founder dinner with Dan in Montreal. I love the concept and am going to organize more of these. Thanks for the inspiration @danmartell:disqus

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