Robin Wauters is the European Editor of The Next Web. He describes himself as a hopeless cyberflâneur, a lover of startups, his family a Robin Wauters is the European Editor of The Next Web. He describes himself as a hopeless cyberflâneur, a lover of startups, his family and Belgian beer. If you'd like to know more about Robin, head on over to robinwauters.com or follow him on Twitter.
I know, I know, the ‘Y is an Airbnb for X’ thing is a horse that’s been beaten to death already, and then some. Still, it happens to be an adequate way to describe Cookening, a brand new online marketplace for home-cooked meals that is making its debut today.
In essence, Cookening invites travellers to eat at local’s homes in the places they visit. The French startup is starting up in France (haha), targeting all foreigners who make their way to the République.
Kicking off with French hosts only (after six months of private alpha testing) makes sense for Paris-based Cookening though, as co-founder Cédric Giorgi explained to me.
After all, France is ranked as the top tourist destination in the world – ahead of the United States – and it is famous for its cuisine.
How does Cookening work?
Basically, Cookening enables people to invite travellers into their homes to share an authentic local meal, with a pinch of culture to boot.
For hosts, Cookening provides a way to establish an online profile and a ‘table’ page showing pictures of his or her favourite dishes, and set a contribution price for guests.
Cookening adds 20 percent on top of that price as a commission.
Foreigners (which can be vacationers but also expats or business travellers) can visit the Cookening marketplace to select a table and connect with hosts to set up a meeting for a joint meal.
Payment is made via Cookening, and hosts only receive the money the day after the shared meal. Giorgi didn’t spell out the reasons for this, but I assume it’s a good way to ensure a trustful relationship between the parties and also helps avoid some of the awkwardness associated with coughing up dough for a meal in someone’s home on the spot.
It’s worth noting that Cookening is far from the only startup trying to become the ‘Airbnb for local food experiences’. Indeed, there are quite a few moving into the same direction, in particular Kitchen.ly, Melba, HomeDine, Super Marmite, Spotsupper and NewGusto.
There’s even a – quite interesting – Quora thread on the topic: “Will “Airbnb for food” be a successful business model?”
That said, Cookening is one of the first to come out of Europe.
Anyway, Giorgi pitches the new venture thusly:
“The moment we spend eating a meal with others is, by essence, a moment of sharing. Cookening wants to amplify that moment by creating a new moment of sharing around gastronomy between foreigners.
With a jeopardized economy, but also social isolation that has increased in the last few years, people want to go back to simple and authentic experiences, to conviviality. Sharing a meal in a warm atmosphere with foreigners meets exactly this need.”
After France, Cookening aims to go global.
As a current expat in Spain and frequent business traveller, I honestly think this is a great idea, and not just for foodies.
In the same way Airbnb makes me book fewer hotels as time progresses, I can totally see myself using Cookening or similar services to share authentic meals with locals rather than dining at the first random restaurant around the corner on my own.
I can also totally see people who like cooking but often only prepare food for themselves for whatever reason, signing up as hosts to share meals with foreigners and exchange culture with others.
Sébastien Guignot, co-founder and CTO of Cookening, put it this way:
“While we want to make Cookening a major player in the collaborative economy space, our main objective is to facilitate meetings between people from different cultures, with love for good food as a binder.
We want to connect people around food.”
Seriously, would you agree Cookening is on to something here?
Image credit: Thinkstock
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