Everyone can turn their home into a little private restaurant with EatWith, a new web-based service that enables people to rent our their kitchen table to strangers. EatWith gives travelers the opportunity to eat with a local in their homes and experience local culinary traditions. As the founders explain, “being a guest in someone’s home is a great way to get an authentic local perspective in a different city or country”. And that’s what every modern traveler wants, right?
EatWith is an interesting concept as it offers the first peer-to-peer alternative to a restaurant. Other online food sharing initiatives such as the Dutch Thuisafgehaald and the British Casserole focus on the left-overs of the private kitchen and offer people take-away meals. EatWith is different since it facilitates an alternative to the restaurant from a peer-to-peer point-of-view. Everyone can be a cook and everyone can be a client. In that sense EatWith could change the food business like Airbnb is changing the hotel world.
The home restaurants on EatWith advertise their meals for some 30 to 50 dollars. Although this doesn’t look particularly cheap if you travel with a backpacker’s budget, it actually is not expensive compared to restaurants offering the same menu. In addition the setting can be pretty special, which could vary from homemade paella from a backyard grill in Toledo to a nine-course meal at a family farm outside Florence. Most of the hosts at EatWith want to nurture their passion for cooking, show off their cooking skills and connect with people from around the globe. And that’s exactly what the website wants to offer — a network of people that “share their favorite dishes and unique cultural insights”.
The project’s cross-cultural ambition is very sympathetic but at the same time its weakness. Dining with strangers is a pretty intimate and extremely social. For all those not-so-social people it would be great to have the option to have dinner without the need to talk to the host for the whole night. Fixing this ‘problem’ would take away a barrier for lots of potential users. Airbnb, for instance, offers a ‘private room’ option, as well as an ‘entire apartment’ option, without any obligatory contact with the host. For now EatWith is available in (don’t ask me why) Israel, Spain and New York.