With Christmas lights illuminating the backdrop Wednesday night, neighbors in the Aspen North Village of Lake Linganore could be found in Adam Bradley’s driveway sorting through a mountain of delivery food.
Golf carts were loaded up with paper bags and pizza boxes, ready to divvy up food around the village.
Wednesday was the second weekly “Aspen North Dinner Club,” which was launched by Bradley and his wife Samantha Bradley. Every Wednesday of December, the community orders out collectively from one restaurant to show their support during the coronavirus pandemic.
“I thought that I could rally enough people in our neighborhood to create a really dynamic and impactful opportunity for a restaurant,” Bradley said. “What if we did every week? What if we did it on a night when restaurants are relatively slower?”
Thirty-one households participated in the first night of the club, and 42 participated in the second. Adam Bradley estimates there are about 100 households in the neighborhood, which he says is fairly tight-knit. The village has a Facebook group, which is where Bradley first floated the idea.
Not only does the community all order from the same restaurant — they get the order delivered to one place. Then the neighbors, many riding golf carts, divide up the food and take it to their respective households.
“I think it was fun for the neighbors because their other neighbors were the ones delivering the food to them,” Bradley said.
This week, the club ordered from Laurenzio’s in Mount Airy. Bradley stressed the importance of partnering with the restaurant to discuss when the order needs to be in by and how they should order. Laurenzio’s also made a special menu for the Dinner Club to order from and included a $15 gift card with every family’s meal.
“You hope the thought of just doing a good deed would be enough to motivate neighbors to participate, but sometimes that’s not always the case,” Bradley said. “Sometimes being able to throw in a little extra ... is a big deal.”
Since posting about the club on Facebook last week, Bradley has been inundated with messages and comments from people who also want to start dining groups in their own communities.
He has a few pieces of advice, the most important being to really act as a partner with the restaurant. This makes ordering easier, since neighbors can call and specify they’re with the dinner club.
“That way the restaurant will gather all the orders, they’ll take all the orders, they’ll collect payment from each family when they take the order,” Bradley said.
He’s also received requests from restaurants wishing to be featured, but Bradley has decided to let the community vote on the next few restaurants.
“Just focus on the ones right where you live,” Bradley said. “I just hope that this gains momentum to really reach everybody throughout our entire region, that’d be super cool.”
Angela Laurenzio-Acuna, whose parents own the Mount Airy restaurant, said she was thrilled when Bradley reached out to her about the dinner club.
While getting the 42 families’ orders ready was a challenge, Laurenzio-Acuna said the staff was more than ready to handle it after all the stress 2020 has thrown at them.
“We’ve been very well trained in dealing with stress,” she said. “We’ve had to adjust.”
More than anything, she was grateful to the dinner club. One of her childhood friends lives in the neighborhood, as does her aunt, and they recommended Laurienzo’s.
“The community has shown up,” she said. “This is a perfect example.”