Collaborative consumption has been a buzzword since Airbnb exploded in popularity alongside other services, such as Zipcar and Uber, that re-think the travel and transportation experience. This trend quickly extended to items of actual consumption, namely food.
EatWith is a relatively new player to the sector; the company provides a platform that connects travelers and locals to dining experiences put on by hosts in cities around the world.
EatWith has done an excellent job at bringing together a visual on how the social dining experience works. This is vital, as on-boarding new customers is not always easy, especially if you have to introduce travelers to a new concept.
Of course, much of the P2P economy and collaborative consumption workflow is now understand by many travelers, as evidenced by the growing popularity of services plying this segment. Nonetheless, the experience makes it more engaging and fun to participate in this burgeoning part of the travel scene.
EatWith offers a Vine visual of a dining experience, and co-founder Guy Michlin answers the Tnooz questionnaire below.
Tell us how you founded the company, why and what made you decide to jump in and create the business.
Back in 2010, while vacationing in Crete, I was invited to dine in the home of a local Greek family. The connection was made through a friend of a friend. They offered me tips on places to visit, told me about restaurants where the locals eat, and even gave me a bottle of local Cretan liquor as a gift. After four hours, it was time to say goodbye!
In all my years of travelling, connecting with the locals has always made my experiences more meaningful. The best way to break the tourist bubble and enrich your connection to a place is to interact with real people in their own private spaces.
After my evening with the Papadakis's, this is exactly what happened. I was inspired. When I returned home, I shared my experience with my business partner Shemer, and we began to envision a global community of passionate hosts and guests.
We imagined a website where users could discover charismatic cooks and delicious homemade cuisine around the world and then we made it happen, and that's how EatWith was born.
Please share your size of the team, names of founders, management roles and key personnel.
We are currently a team of 12 but growing fast with offices in Tel Aviv, Barcelona and New York.
Co-founder and CEO: Guy Michlin
Co-founder and CTO: Shemer Schwarz
VP Product: Maya Lerner
What are your Funding arrangements?
EatWith has received VC and angel funding
What's your estimation of the market size for EatWith?
We're creating a totally new dining category, Social Dining. The global dining market totals 2 trillion, what portion we'll be able to take? We'll have to wait and see but we're confident the potential is huge.
Who do you see as your competition?
“Food sharing” is becoming an increasingly popular concept. We're happy to see new players joining the category as it validates the concept and helps raise awareness.
Describe your revenue model and strategy for profitability?
Our business model is simple: we take approximately 13% commission from all EatWith bookings the guests pay which are made through our website.
What problem does the business solve?
Most world travellers don’t get a chance to meet the locals except maybe the taxi driver, the waiter in the restaurant, or other service providers. EatWith aims to change this by enabling travellers to meet and eat with the locals in their most intimate setting – their home dining table.
Travel is about experiencing a different culture. The vast majority of travellers will tell you, therefore, that they want to eat where the locals eat. And the locals, where do they eat? They eat at home
How did the initial idea evolve and were there changes/any pivots along the way in the early stages?
Initially, EatWith was targeted very much on the travel market but something surprising happened along the way: the locals started coming too.
We realized that in addition to offering an authentic home dining experience to world travellers, EatWith also enables adventurous locals to expand their food horizons, meet new people, and enjoy a totally new kind of dining experience.
Why should people or companies use the business
EatWith enables travellers and locals to enjoy authentic home-cooked cuisine, meet new people around the dinner table, and have a totally new kind of dining experience.
It’s simple: we are changing the world, by bringing people together. We help form friendships and real life connections around food, which is something that easily connects people.
What is the strategy for raising awareness and the customer/user acquisition (apart from PR)?
EatWith has a strong and growing community on social media: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc. We have over 70,000 followers on Facebook, from 50 different countries around the world.
We're also building relationships within the global Sharing Economy and have a dedicated core of EatWith community members who help spread the word about EatWith worldwide.
Where do you see the company in three years time and what specific challenges do you anticipate having to overcome?
The EatWith community is growing fast, (we’re now in 30 countries) so in three years’ time, we hope to have become a truly global company, offering local dining experiences to millions of travellers across the globe.
We receive hundreds of applications every day from passionate cooks keen to become EatWith hosts in their home towns so our main challenge is keeping pace with the growing demand for EatWith experiences on the ground as we scale up globally.
What is wrong with the travel, tourism and hospitality industry that requires another startup to help it out?
There are plenty of websites and apps to help out with price comparison and trip planning, but with regards to the sharing economy, we’re just getting started! Travellers have Airbnb for apartment rentals, and now they have EatWith, which is creating a brand new dining category: eating out in people’s homes around the world. Companies like EatWith offer a more personal and authentic alternative to the traditional ways of doing things and are changing the face of the global travel industry.
EatWith joins a growing stable of social sharing/social travel experience purveyors, such as WithLocals, KitchenSurfing, and Cookening (a comprehensive list exists here). This stable is shifting, however, just as new entrants arrive others go out of business - Kitchen.ly is no longer and Grubwithus has pivoted into a list creation service for mobile called Superb. So the ground is most definitely not stable here, and like other segments of P2P, a few titans will likely come out on top.
EatWith has significant traction that should help alleviate any specific concerns - the Facebook community alone is extremely valuable, as it offers regular engagement for the company's content. The ability to post meal pictures from all over the world emphasizes the value proposition, and should help the chicken/egg conundrum of having enough hosts to feed guest and guests to pay hosts.
The website is also attractive and easy-to-use, with a clear call-to-action that aids on-boarding of users new to the concept.
Finally, the company's location is actually ideal for a concept like this. Being based in Tel Aviv means that they are able to access the sizable markets of Asia, Europe and the Middle East easily. These are very popular travel destinations, while also featuring robust regional cuisines of their own that are perfect fits for the concept.
Potential partnerships with other P2P sharing companies might also help further establish the brand while providing steady access to customers - and a future suitor for acquisition should the company choose to go that route.
NB:Table of friends image courtesy Shutterstock.