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A trend to watch carefully is being called "Eat With Strangers Apps," or "EWSAs."
In this era of shared everything, which have grown quickly into huge businesses with very high financial valuations, shared rides from Uber and Lyft, and shared overnight stays from AirBNB, might indicate that sharing food might just be the next logical trend, or fad.
I say fad as it is not a new idea. It started about five years ago with companies like GrubWithUs, Kitchenly, Grouper, EatWith, HomeDine, Leftover Swap, and others. GrubWithUs went out of business in 2013, even though they raised more than $6 million in venture funding. HomeDine and Kitchenly are out of business as well.
The way these work are pretty simple. A wannabe chef, or home cook puts together a culinary inspired menu – usually themed – and sets the price. Could be $50 or more for the meal and experience. Reports from sources like Eater highlight that too often, these dinners are cancelled at the last minute due to poor attendance – after all would you want to go eat food prepared by someone you don’t know, at a location that you don’t know, with a bunch of strangers?
Sure, you might be able to meet some new adventurous foodie friends, or discover a unique one of a kind meal that you can’t find in a traditional restaurant.
But call me over cautious, as I also wonder about the food safety issues that this kind of dining seems ripe to produce. After all, these home-based locations are not regulated by the Health Department, or even inspected or have a permit to swerve food. It's also doubtful that any of them has insurance to cover accidents or food poisoning. Health Departments consider "any meal prepared in exchange for cash to be a food service establishment,” which requires all the same permitting as a restaurant.
Millennials love food adventures, so why not take this concept to grocerants? Once a month, have a set special dinner at a set price, for a limited amount of diners – say 20 – bring in an almost famous chef to prepare a themed ethnic unique meal. Publicize it on interest-specific sites like Meetup, Eventbrite or specific Facebook groups that exist to make new friends. And of course, have the diners rate the experience and post it on your grocerants Yelp and Facebook pages.
The reality is that people like people, and people like food and where better to bring it all together than in your grocerant?