Dubbed the AirBnB for the hungry, VizEat is the latest in community sharing, which following the success of AirBnB and Uber has become one of the biggest trends of recent years. I think the best way to describe it is Come Dine with Me without the hope of ever winning £1000.
VizEat, a European startup that operates a “social dining platform” to enable travellers to dine in a local’s home, has recently raised €3.8 million in new funding. The round was led by various, mostly unnamed, investors and also includes current backer Eurovestech.
Founded in July 2014, VizEat is a website that connects those seeking an authentic local dining experience with hosts who are willing to cook for and invite strangers into their homes.
The inspiration for VizEat, came to co-founder Camille Rumani when she was traveling in Beijing in 2013 and was invited to spend Chinese New Year with a colleague and her family.
“It was the first time that I could experience Chinese culture from the inside and ask all of the questions that came to my mind about the dishes and about Chinese culture,” the 26-year-old says.
After returning home to Paris, Rumani says she met Jean-Michel Petit, 53, — her future VizEat partner — who had a similar experience in Peru.
While eating Indian food on the Amantani Island of Lake Titicaca, Petit says he realized that “the table is a place of sharing and fun,”according to VizEat’s website.
Jean-Michel Petit says that the platform is being used not only by tourists who want to sample local life and food, but also local residents in multicultural cities who have begun taking to VizEat’s “immersive food experience”.
Having grown from 50 hosts to more than 20,000 across 110 countries. Its authentic dining experience now also includes cooking classes and food tours with locals.
Business travellers have turned out to be a surprise user group, according to Jean-Michel. “Travelling to another city or country can be a lonely experience; social dining helps overcome that,” he notes.
Could VizEat not only be a dining experience/adventure but also a way to overcome the social barriers that technology has put in place? With fewer people meeting new friends offline could this be the perfect combatant for a 21st century affliction? For non-native living in a city, it can be the perfect way to expand their own social network which can be difficult for some outside of work.
However VizEat has found some opposition in France; echoing the angry response of Paris cab drivers to Uber, French restaurateurs are calling for restrictions on meal-sharing websites. The main Paris restaurateurs’ union Synhorcat has appealed to the French government to take steps to curb the phenomenon, arguing that bistros and brasseries risk being put out of business.
Synhorcat’s president Didier Chenet ascertains “There are people out there offering a service which is identical to restaurants: a choice of starters, main courses, desserts, wine, the works. But they pay no rent, no staff, no taxes – it is completely illegal,” says Chenet.
“And if you want to set up a real restaurant, you need qualifications: how to deal with allergens; how to deal with alcohol. Do these people realise that if a customer drink-drives after a meal, they – the chefs – are partly responsible?
Today many restaurants in France are on a knife-edge because of the economic crisis. Losing just half a dozen customers can spell disaster.”
(Note from the writer: There has been an update from the French equivalent of the HMRC which has put the restaurant association fears to rest. From now, all sharing economy revenues: Airbnb, HomeAway, etc – are taxable from the first Euro. There are however two exceptions: ridesharing (Blablacar) and what they call “co-cooking” aka VizEat. Moreover, they stated that in the latter case, you don’t even have to declare this revenue in tax returns. This decision is extremely important to VizEat because it shows that the government has decided, after a careful study, that all the restaurants objections were irrelevant to VizEat and it will continue uncompromised by the fears from the restaurant association )
We will have to see how successful VizEat is in the UK and other countries as it expands. How would you feel about visiting strangers homes to eat and vice versa? Let us know in the comments.