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Opening Your Table to New Guests

Written by: OneTable Team
2022

Opening Your Table to New Guests

“I hosted a dinner open to the public and ended up meeting one of my best friends there. The very next week, she was inspired and hosted her own Shabbat dinner and invited me. I love that OneTable helped bring someone new into my life.”

—Diana Lizmi, Colorado host

Welcoming new people to your dinner is a beautiful way to build community and share the gift of Shabbat. Opening our homes to new guests is one of the greatest acts of kindness and compassion we can do. Hosts and guests have made lifelong connections through meeting at OneTable Shabbat dinners. Your hospitality can have an incredible impact on someone’s life — and yours too.

What’s a “Public” or “Public – Host Approval” Dinner?

With Public – Host Approval dinners, people seeking Shabbat dinner opportunities can request a seat at your table. The description is public, but your address is not. You will receive the name/email of those individuals, and only guests you approve will be given the full details about your dinner (time, address, etc.).

With Public dinners, anybody can see details and the location of your dinner and sign up to attend. This is best for public spaces and large community gatherings.

Check out these tips for radically welcoming new faces to your Shabbat dinners.

Post It

  1. Plan in advance

We recommend posting your dinner on the OneTable platform at least two weeks in advance to give potential guests a chance to find your dinner and commit to attending. Feel free to post your dinner link in local WhatsApp and Facebook groups to get the word out.

  1. Describe your dinner

Be creative with your images and catchy with your dinner title. Think about including dinner themes, specific age ranges, tags, and conversation topics in your description. Let guests know who your target audience is and what to expect.

When you post your dinner, include key info about your accessibility in space so everyone can be comfortable. Did you check off the wheelchair accessibility box? Are you all sitting at a table, fire pit, or on the floor? Get more accessibility hosting tips here.

  1. Use RSVP questions

Ask your guests intentional RSVP questions to find out if they have any additional needs that might need to be addressed, such as dietary restrictions or anything else that a host might need to know about. Select from any of our pre-written RSVP questions, or write your own!

  1. Update your host bio

New guests want to know who they are going to be meeting.

  1. Invite some friends

Host Approval dinners look exciting on the platform when a few guests have already RSVPed. Let your friends know there will be some new faces at your Shabbat, and ask for their help in making everyone feel welcome. They might even have ideas on who else to bring to expand the circle.

  1. Use your Field Manager as a resource

They’re at the center of the community in all of our regions. They’d be happy to connect you with people who are looking for open dinners near you.

 

Connect

A guest who you don’t know requests a seat at your table. Bravo! You’re practicing the deeply rooted Jewish value of hachnasat orchim, or “welcoming others.”

Should you accept their request? Send a quick email or message them through the OneTable platform to check in and introduce yourself. You’ll get a better idea of who will be joining you, and they will immediately feel welcome.

“Hey there, I see you requested a seat at my table next Friday! How did you hear about OneTable? What are you looking for in your Shabbat dinner experience?”

What if you don’t want to include someone who requests a seat? You are the best judge of who is a good fit for your dinner. But also, people don’t like to be left hanging. Accept or reject their request while they have enough time to make other Shabbat dinner plans.

 

Collaborate

Your guests want to be a part of the community you’re creating! Send a reminder email, including important details and maybe your phone number in case someone’s running late or lost. “I’m so excited to bring in the weekend and Shabbat with you all, the cheese board is going to be on point!” Remember to add the time, address, and your contact info.

Use the Collaborative Dinner feature to ask guests to contribute items or help out in other ways. Our go-to items for guests to bring are challah, wine, flowers, or dessert — you can never have enough, and these are simple things to grab on the way over.

Follow-Up

Pat yourself on the back. You did it. We’ve found that a quick post-dinner note works wonders, send along a recipe from the night if guests loved it, or share some photos. Encourage your guests to sign up as OneTable hosts themselves to pay it forward.

 

Pro Tips

  1. Leave something undone 

Oftentimes there’s one person who is right on time or early. Leave something undone for them, ask them to help fill the water cups, put out silverware, or mix the salad. Giving them something to do will make them feel immediately at home, and they will naturally help you welcome the next guests.

  1. The Chit-Chat 

Once your guest is through the door, offer them a drink, from water to a cocktail. It helps people feel at ease to have something in their hands. If you have appetizers out, all the better!

  1. A Seat at the Table 

Embrace the art of hospitality with intentional seating. Seat new guests next to old friends who are strong conversationalists. Create name cards for each person — a folded 3×5 card works.

  1. Break the Ice 

Check out our Shabbat guides for creative table topics.

  1. Join Together 

Ask your guests if any of them are interested in leading the rituals or adding a meditation of their own. Consider having extra tea lights available for anyone who wants to light their own candles.