Meal Sharing platforms are online and application-based platforms that allow users to sign up for homecooked meals at the home of a host. These platforms emerged primarily from 2010-2015, in the midst of the initial craze of sharing based platforms like Uber and Airbnb, yet have failed to pick up significant traction and public attention (NYtimes). Two of the most popular meal sharing platforms still in operation today, EatWith and Feastly, are available in a multitude of different cities and countries and received significant backing in the mid 2010s EatWith, originally known as VizEat, was named as one of the best applications by Apple in 2016 and 2017 and had a momentary partnership with Airbnb (Wytec, NYtimes). On the other hand, Feastly raised $1.25 million in funding in its early years and had high-level individuals involved with StubHub and eBay on their payroll (TechCrunch)
Feastly, EatWith, and most other meals share platforms available operate on a similar business plans, comparable to the business plans of other popular sharing-based platforms. Hosts that open their home to guests charge guests individually for a meal, while the platforms take a certain percentage of these hosts earnings. Operating though application and online interfaces, guests can sign up for a meal in the home of a host in advance. These meals have varying prices based on the intricacy of the preparations and the cost of the food for the host. Customers are solely charged for the meal, are not subject to an entrance fee, and do not have any sort of screening process to utilize the platform. However, hosts typically have some sort of vetting or approval process. Feastly mostly hires professional and restaurant chefs, while EatWith currently obliges hosts to prepare a “demo” meal for potential guests (NYtimes)
With a relatively simple business plans, these meal sharing platforms hold great appeal to customers. Meal share platforms deliver the experience associated with a homecooked meal to customers around the world and draw in customers from multiple fronts. These platforms present an incredible opportunity for travelers to experience a homecooked local meal in a foreign destination. Homemade meals embody a more personal experience and allow customers to dine and interact with the chef that prepared their food. Furthermore, it allows customers to eat more cultural or unique food that they would not be able to purchase in an actual restaurant (Eater). Given that customers will be typically sharing their meal with others, these platforms extend a new avenue for its customers to interact with their community and meet new people that they would not have been introduced to otherwise. Eating a homecooked meal is simply an experience that cannot be replicated by a restaurant.
In addition to the customers, meal share platforms hold a certain appeal for the hosts. These platforms allow chefs to experiment and channel their inner creativity in ways that are not allowed in their jobs in the food industry. Chefs are given the ability to cook in a less regulated environment in the convenience of their own kitchen (National Post). On the other hand, cooking fanatics that were not able to enter the culinary industry are now able to serve customers their personal, beloved dishes. Most importantly, these platforms allow hosts to earn money on the side cooking, an activity that they likely enjoy in the first place.
Despite the simplicity of the business plan and the constant demand of food, meal share platforms have faced a multitude of different problems and have not been adopted by the mainstream. In the center of these problems, lies the issue that it is far more difficult to attract customers to dine at a hosts’ house than it initially seems. Customer’s often must sign up for a dinner at a host’s home multiple days in advance and often have trouble finding available meals in certain areas. Customers may not be willing to commit or even want to commit to dining at a hosts’ home multiple days in advance if they have to ability to dine at variety of different restaurants at their convenience. As a result, many hosts are forced to cancel their meals due to low numbers of guests and are forced to charge higher prices for their meals. (Eater). Adding onto this, customers many customers question the sanitation and general cleanliness of eating at a host’s home (NYtimes) While restaurants are required to pass certain regulated health inspections, the notion of eating at a stranger’s house on a relatively new platform can pose a dangerous situation. Potential customers may also not trust a host preparing food in accordance to allergy restrictions. Legal regulations regarding the sanitation of these meals and these hosts kitchen may pose an even greater problem. With food being exchanged for cash and alcohol often being served, hosts’ kitchens are technically considered a food service establishment that require multiple inspections and permits (Eater, NYtimes).
On the other hand, these problems occurring in the meal sharing industry have possible, feasible solutions. Meal share platforms would need to raise funding and awareness surrounding their platforms initially. Meal share platforms have been around for multiple years, yet the general public is still widely unaware of their presence. Secondly, meal share platforms would need to increase their regulations and properly inspect the sanitation of these hosts’ kitchens. It would be wise for these meal share platforms to direct more resources towards this issue rather than searching for hosts. Meal share platforms may not have the funds to formally license host’s kitchens’; however, ensuring customers the hosts’ kitchens have been extensively inspected by the respective mealshare platforms, would increase the customer’s trust. With lower numbers of hosts, these hosts have the potential to become highly reviewed by other customers, possibly making the customer’s more comfortable dining in the host’s kitchen. It is more logistically sound for a customer to dine at hosts’ kitchen that they know is sanitary rather than having more hosts available to dine with. As another avenue to increase revenue and awareness, meal share platforms could attempt to collaborate with reputable and well-known restaurants (National Post). Many customers’ may feel more comfortable eating in the home of a chef’s whose restaurant they have previously dined at, and some may even rush to the opportunity of dining at the home of their favorite restaurant’s chef. Lastly, rather than expanding into an array of different cities, meal share platforms should focus on directing their resources to large culturally diverse cities. In these cities, meal share platforms would present an avenue for customers to experience different cultures and communities firsthand.
Regardless of these possible resolutions, there are other problems that meals share platforms may not be able to overcome. Meal share platforms have had difficulty holding onto hosts, given that many hosts move onto bigger culinary opportunities at larger established restaurants or even start their own restaurant. With hosts often having culinary backgrounds, it is natural for them to move back into the standard culinary business (Medium). Furthermore, meal share platforms may not ever be able to attract loyal consistent customers. With meal share platforms never quite taking off, it may be a sign that customer’s simply do not like the idea of dining at another’s home in the long term. Meal share platforms seem to primarily attract tourists or individuals interested in experiencing a certain cuisine; they do not seem to attract long-term habitual and casual users.
Meal share platforms seem like a great and easy idea on paper; however, they have not been properly executed. Meal share platforms need to establish the customer’s full trust, yet these platforms are likely not in positions to afford official and ideal health licensing at every host’s kitchen. Platform would need to develop a reputable and respected inspection process of hosts’ kitchens and ensure the hosts can accord with customer’s food allergies. Without massive funding and advertisement, meal share platforms may never take off. I would invest in meal share platforms only if these two things took place. Despite this, I find the idea of meal share platforms to be very interesting and creative and believe that they still have some potential. If these platforms were able to establish themselves in a handful of diverse cities that attract a wide variety of tourists, they could become successful in the future.
- Clifford, Stephanie. “Willing to Cook for Strangers, but Guests Are Harder to Find.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 5 May 2017, www.nytimes.com/2017/05/05/technology/airdine-social-dining-apps.html.
- Danovich, Tove. “Why No Dining App Is the ‘Airbnb of Food’ (Yet).” Eater, Eater, 31 Mar. 2016, www.eater.com/2016/3/31/11293260/airbnb-for-food-apps-eatwith-feastly.
- “Dining Platform VizEat Rebrands to Newly Acquired Eatwith.” WYSE Travel Confederation, 23 Jan. 2018, www.wysetc.org/2018/01/dining-platform-vizeat-rebrands-to-newly-acquired-eatwith/.
- Lawler, Ryan. “Feastly Launches An ‘Airbnb For Dinner’ Marketplace.” TechCrunch, TechCrunch, 21 Apr. 2014, techcrunch.com/2014/04/21/feastly/.
- Mike Antonhausen. “Three Reasons WhyYour Home Cooked Food Sharing Platform Won’t Take Off.” Medium, Medium, 10 Oct. 2016, medium.com/@misi/why-your-home-cooked-food-sharing-platform-wont-take-off-f7b4216489b0.
- Tucker, Rebecca. “How Online Meal-Sharing Platforms ‘Look at the Dining Room Table as the Original Social Network’.” National Post, 25 Jan. 2016, nationalpost.com/life/food/how-online-meal-sharing-platforms-look-at-the-dining-room-table-as-the-original-social-network.
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