In Cuba, they have a name for it: Paladares, privately owned small restaurants often inside the cook’s home. In America, Noah Karesh is calling it Feastly, a website in private beta that aims to be the Airbnb of shared, private dining. Next week Feastly extends its service to New York City after enabling 60 meals for 1,000 users in metro Washington, DC.
“The focus is to continue growing in US cities, and once there is enough growth, go abroad and be a part of American travel. We want to make it so you can find a home-cooked meal in any city in the world,” says Karesh.
Like most startups, Karesh got the idea for Feastly when wishing he had a similar service to find authentic Guatemalan food in Guatemala. He and his girlfriend were eventually befriended by a local 12-year-old boy, who took them into his family’s home. Private, in-home dining has been popular among hip tourists for some time, especially in countries such as Italy and Cuba. Karesh believes it’s an experience Americans need now more than ever.
“There are people who have 5,000 friends on Facebook, but they eat dinner alone. We want to reintroduce the dining table back to the social network,” says Karesh.
The widening shared economy has opened minds to Feastly’s concept, which brings together anywhere from 2 to 50 people in a private meal that averages $33. Recently, Feastly faciliated a meal inside an Airbnb home and transported guests to the meal using car service Uber and bike-sharing from Capital Rideshare.
Food and dining breed micro-entrepreneurship, often from chefs who are looking to open a restaurant one day, but need a place to first test ideas and build awareness. Karesh says he has a mac n’ cheese food truck using Feastly to test fine dining, nose-to-tail duck meals. At the other side of the spectrum, his co-founder Danny Harris’s mom hosted a traditional Libyan meal through Feastly.
“We consider ourselves eaters, not foodies,” says Karesh.
Feastly makes money by tacking on a service fee to the overall cost to the diner and taking a percentage of the overall revenue from the cook, who ends up with anywhere from 80-90 percent of the meal’s profits. Unlike restaurants, alcohol can’t boost profit margins. For legal issues, alcohol is BYOB, or cooks may provide it free of charge.
Social meals startup Grubwithus has a similar goal with a slightly different approach, combining MeetUp and group dining, predominantly at local restaurants that offer deals.
Grubwithus secured $1.6 million from Andreessen Horowitz and First Round Capital, and offers its service in Boston, Chicago, LA, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington DC.