Metropolises are the most densely populated areas on our planet. You can now bring some familiar small-town feel to your city. One startup is bringing neighborhoods together – at the dinner table, one meal at a time.
Living in the city, we interact with people everyday – fellow commuters, colleagues, people on the street. But let’s be honest – how many of our daily acquaintances do we get to know well enough to have dinner with?
Sharing a meal can make friends of strangers – a message pushed by EatWith, a startup that lets people bond over dinner. “Our goal is to bring people together through food,” says Susan Kim, EatWith’s CEO. “Food is the ultimate universal language.”
Eating together: the original social network
EatWith was the brainchild of Guy Michlin and Shemer Schwarz. While Michlin was traveling through Greece, a serendipitous interaction with a local led to an invitation for dinner. Before he knew, Michlin found himself sharing a meal with a local family – in their home – where the food “bore no resemblance” to anything he’d eaten on his trip that far. The hospitality, authentic cuisine and cultural experience would prove unforgettable. In 2012, EatWith was born. Its mission? To bring people together, one meal at a time.
“Nothing brings people together as organically and naturally as food and breaking bread over a table,” says Kim. “Sharing a meal is a great way to explore new cultures in a more intimate way, while building connections with people you would never have had the chance to meet otherwise. The dining table is the original social network.”
EatWith launched in Tel Aviv, garnering an enthusiastic response from early adopters. And to prove that their concept wasn’t just relevant to Israel, the team also launched their offering in Barcelona. Fast forward four years: The company now operates in 200 cities and 50 countries across the world – from Lyon and Marrakesh to São Paulo and Tokyo.
Getting to the heart of a city’s food scene
At its core, EatWith is like Airbnb for food. If you’re visiting a city and want to eat authentic food and meet interesting locals, the platform can help. Simply visit the website, input the relevant details (date, price range, type of cuisine), browse the various options and book your seat.
Out of the platform’s 650 or so hosts worldwide, there’s a gamut of culinary experience – from home cooks to fine dining chefs. “We’ve got hosts that have worked in some of the finest Michelin-starred restaurants in the world, and we’ve also got hosts that are self-taught,” says Kim, who also serves her own brand of rustic Korean food for EatWith diners. “No matter what, however, they all share the same passion for cooking and entertaining.”
Creating a sense of community
“As locals living in a city, our EatWith hosts are often incredible sources of information,” continues Kim. “We have a host in San Francisco, for example, who takes his guests to the local pier to introduce them to incredible, sustainable seafood.”
Unlike Airbnb though, EatWith doesn’t just benefit travelers and tourists who are exploring new places. For city natives, EatWith can also help people who are feeling out of touch with their own neighborhoods.
As an urban dweller, you might live in a block of apartments, but go about your everyday life without knowing who lives on the other side of the walls around you. You’ll most likely never strike up a conversation with a stranger, which means you could be missing out on some potentially meaningful relationships.
This is where EatWith can help. “I typically have twelve guests in my studio apartment,” says Laura Rucker, a New York City-based user who hosts dinners from her intimate apartment in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn. “There are usually a few friends, people from the neighborhood, people from the city and international guests, too.”
Let the magic happen
An interior designer by day, Rucker discovered EatWith through Instagram nearly a year ago, and as a keen home cook decided to start hosting her own events through the platform. It was a chance to do something fun, and to meet new people in her city. With menus taking on a Mediterranean and Southern American slant – featuring dishes like braised pork shoulder with cheesy grits and apples, followed by bourbon pumpkin pie and ice cream – Rucker’s EatWith nights have not only improved her life in the city, but the lives of her guests too.
“I think people are looking for a sense of community, and EatWith is a place where we can create that community,” she explains. “Food is what brings people together initially, but it’s really so much more than that. I’ve gotten to know some neighbors that I would otherwise not have met. It’s pretty amazing.”
And when her dinners are winding up? “By the end of the evening, twelve strangers are laughing, telling stories and becoming friends,” says Rucker. “It’s magical.”
For more information, visit EatWith’s website.