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Should You Be Worried About AirBnB Style Food-Sharing Websites?

10:48 am

AirBnB Meal Sharing Websites

In this evolving digital age, a new method of sampling local cuisine and culture has emerged that challenges the traditional practices of restaurateurs and professional kitchen owners. We refer specifically to food-sharing sites such as VizEat, EatWith and Feastly, websites that offer tourists or curious patrons the opportunity to dine with locals and sample their take on cultural food firsthand. With this new form of ordering out growing rapidly with little sign of stopping, we have endeavoured to assess whether these new sites are a real threat to professional restaurants and what practical solutions we can provide to give you the edge.

A New Way of Eating Out

Firstly let’s examine the several advantages that this rapidly developing culinary division has, price being the immediate factor. With the majority of hosts on these sites being either amateur chefs or simply tenants with an enthusiasm for cooking, the price tag on a series of home cooked meals can sometimes equal less than half of what an equivalent meal would cost from a restaurant. Another characteristic that makes this new system so accessible to food-loving tourists is that there is no limitation in terms of location, with VizEat as an example featuring hosts in over fifty countries globally. A third factor is the charming appeal of attending a private meal – either alone or with new people – at a chefs’ home or private residence.

The Dilemma

For restaurant owners, there has been a rising global tension as to the threat these websites could pose to the traditional culinary industry, as well as debates over the legal restrictions and regulations for professional businesses that amateur and home chefs do not currently have to abide. Areas such as food hygiene, insurance, tax, and the legal distribution of alcohol have been called into question, with both food critics and politicians alike considering whether chefs hosted on these sites should be brought under current regulation, or if these laws should be adapted to accommodate this newly emerging model that conflicts with culinary constitutions of the past. There has already been debate in France, with restaurant owners urging a veto on meal-sharing websites that threaten the country’s currently delicate economy.

The Professional vs The Apprentice

Whilst AirBnB style restaurants have their benefits, how do they compare to a night out at a restaurant? Whilst a low price tag and an accessible venue certainly has its pull, these same factors can be complemented or already exist in certain places. Local pubs are a prime example, with public houses often considered as a go-to establishment for good, low-priced, local grub in British culture. Providing the meals are kept up to scratch, then half of the job is already done thanks to the social atmosphere and variety of drinks available to your guests.

On the other end of the scale, if you are running a high-end restaurant that offers the finest foods to tourists and locals alike, then what qualities can you highlight to combat the rising tide? Do meal-sharing hosts have the ability to match your food presentation? Do they have the knowledge and connections to sample the best local ingredients? Do they have access to the variety of specialist tools and seasonings that you do? No, so make sure you’re playing to your strengths and offering the best quality service and food that your customers want. On top of this, travelling tourists are likely to book through meal-sharing websites to get a glimpse of local culture through cuisine, or for more alternative takes on traditional meals. If you think your business is losing revenue through either of these areas then you could expand your menu further to incorporate both national favourites as well as quirky alternatives for those customer looking for something a little different.

Play To Your Strengths

From a conscious perspective it is best to think over which elements of your business keep the customers coming through the door and not into the next place along. Whether your advantage lies in your size, your specialty, your location or your reputation, how can you further build upon that? If you serve Italian food, you could consider a pizza stone, or provide a healthier alternative to pasta through a vegetable spiraliser.

Remember that a professional establishment will always have advantages over the amateur chef. Your kitchens are bigger, your machines are more powerful and efficient, and you and your staff are trained, skilled professionals who can provide a service that others aspire towards. If you feel that there is a gap to be filled in terms of cooking appliances, something special like a sous vide or a charcoal oven can add a distinct style to an already strong menu.

A Few Final Words

Just as with the food you create, the presentation and appearance of your staff and your business can be the deciding factor before a potential customer has even sat down. If you think your business is lacking ambience, enhance the interior atmosphere through some decorative lighting or some weather proof flood lamps for outdoors. There is always area for improvement, both inside and outside the kitchen, and small touches such as these, candles for your tables or ornate napkin holders can add the final touch to a great restaurant.

One final factor you could consider is how well established is your business and how strong your customer base is. If you wish to build a continued and lasting relationship with a wide range of customers, then marketing your business online or through social media could broadcast your culinary style to a previously unavailable audience.

There are a myriad of options to match the wants or budgetary restrictions you have, the only goal you have to reach is for you to create an experience that is truly unforgettable. Make your clients remember why eating out is an extraordinary experience, and the evolving trends of the culinary climate will not be able to touch you.


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