Over the past three years, French startup VizEat has grown
into the largest online booking platform for locally hosted culinary
experiences, consisting of a network of more than 22,000 hosts in 110
VizEat launched as a booking app for travelers interested in
having interactions with locals that revolved around food.
It has grown into a global meal-sharing platform, where
guests can book a wide variety of culinary experiences, including a simple meal
in a host's home, an interactive market visit, a cooking class or an elaborate,
high-end feast prepared by an accomplished chef. Prices for these experiences
range from $10 to $165 per person.
And VizEat has begun to make those experiences available via
partnerships with tour operators and agents. Last month it forged a
relationship with U.S. tour conglomerate the Travel Corporation, and starting
this summer guests traveling with the Travel Corporation brands will have
access to experiences such as a pasta-making class in Rome, a market tour in
Barcelona and a wine and cheese tasting in Paris.
The Travel Corporation -- which includes Trafalgar, Insight
Vacations, Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection and Contiki -- is building
VizEat experiences into some of its itineraries, in which case the hosted meals
will be included. In addition, many of the dinners will be available as
optional excursions, typically in the $45 to $80 range.
VizEat had inked a deal with Virtuoso in May, making its
locally hosted dining encounters bookable by Virtuoso agents.
According to VizEat CEO Jean-Michel Petit, the food, while
important, is not the primary draw. What people are really looking for are
connections, he said.
"The table is a social network," Petit said. "At
the end of the day, it's a very human experience."
Similar to Airbnb, on VizEat both the hosts and the
consumers create online profiles, and both can be reviewed. Petit said that
travelers spend a lot of time looking at the hosts' profiles, presumably
looking not just for culinary experiences that seem intriguing but for hosts
who might have similar tastes or lifestyles.
"People spend more time on the profile than on the
food," said Petit, who said that the thinking is, "'I'm going to
spend three hours with these people.' We see families going with families, we
see young people with young people, vegans with vegans, kosher with kosher."
He also said that VizEat is not about replacing travelers'
desires to go out and experience restaurants. In fact, he said, one of the most
frequently asked questions hosts receive from their guests is what their
favorite local restaurants are.
The majority of VizEat's hosts are in Europe, but the
company is looking to grow its network worldwide, especially in Southeast Asia,
Latin America and urban destinations in the U.S.
The company has poured a lot of energy into its technology
so that, for instance, there are more instantly bookable options in the event
that time-strapped travelers can't wait for a response on a booking. It also
insures its customers and hosts for things such as food-related illness, injury
or loss of valuables
Petit said that VizEat plans to announce a steady flow of
partnerships with various factions of the travel industry, including hotels and
transportation companies. "The plan is really to become the definitive or
the dominant player in this area," he said.