“I want to be able to host events that feed your soul and are geared towards making friends”, Club Sup founder Sophie McIntyre tells Broadsheet. “Not events that you just go to, where people sit on their phones.”

The former fashion buyer founded Club Sup – a series of dinner parties where guest are encouraged to attend solo and mingle with new people – back in March 2021.

“The club”, as McIntyre calls it, takes place at restaurants around Melbourne and Sydney, with regular pop-ups at Cam’s Kiosk in Abbotsford and Theeca in Darlinghurst.

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“People come looking for connections”, says McIntyre. “We’ve had romantic relationships, work relationships and friendships all come from the club.”

She says she’s planning to expand the Club Sup offering to include “events that are more than just supper” – although food will always have its place. This weekend, the club is hosting its first book swap, where attendees can exchange their favourite summer reads, and pop-ups are planned beyond the club’s usual haunts, at Pipis Kiosk in Albert Park and McMullin & Co Furniture Showroom in Marrickville, Sydney.

We chatted with McIntyre about how Club Sup works, why more people are ditching the apps and looking to connect in person, and what’s next for the series.

How has the Club Sup concept evolved since you first started in 2021?
The club started with six of my friends … [everyone] had to bring a friend no one else knew to supper. I started by cooking out of random galleries in my neighbourhood [Fitzroy], and then in three months we were getting strangers to join us.

Sadly we were in and out of lockdowns throughout most of 2021, which made it so hard to host, but I did my best! We’ve had to change the format since we started, because honestly councils make it so hard to do this type of pop-up. We were forced to move into restaurants, which I am grateful for.

How does a typical Club Sup event go?
When you arrive at the club, there’s 30 minutes of mingle time (in case you are late or need 10 minutes to psych yourself up before coming in).

Then everyone sits down. We have designated seats so you’ve got a chance to meet someone new. A designated space also means if you’re late, you don’t feel like you’re being tacked onto the end and you’re on the outer for the whole night. Then literally all you have to do is eat.

What do you think about when curating the event and trying to set a good mood?
Keeping the tablescape super simple and clean is so important to let the food and wine shine. If there’s too much, it’s just too stuffy and it puts everyone off. I am a share-plate girl forever. I like the idea of everyone at the club looking after one another and asking questions like “Have you got enough potatoes?”

And I never have the big light on – it’s always candlelight or little lamps to create soft, dim light.

What do you say to people who might be nervous to attend one of your events solo?
You aren’t the only one who is nervous – I am too! It’s been nearly three years and there’s not a single event that I don’t get nervous for. But everyone is there to meet you, and vice versa. It’s actually way easier than you would think.

It seems like there’s been a swing against dating and friend apps, and people are looking for meaningful in-person connection. Why do you think that is?
Because [using apps] actually fucking sucks. [British author] Dolly Alderton’s [2021 debut] Ghosts was the final nail in the coffin for me and encouraged me to start the club. The whole book is about how in dating culture we are so cruel to one another and we just disappear from each other’s lives because we can’t summon the courage to have hard conversations.

We conduct whole lives online that are often not close to our real ones, and meeting IRL you have no choice other than to be real.

What’s next for the club?
On Saturday we are doing our first book swap (from next year, we’ll do it seasonally – spring, summer, autumn, winter) at A-N Studio downstairs. That location will be our home for these little events. We’re planning our Christmas party there, as well as a Christmas cookie swap, which I am so excited for. We have two suppers left at Cam’s for this year, then we’ll be back from February next year.