Collaborative Gastronomy? Cookening Lets Tourists Dine In A Local’s Own Home

In years to come, when we look back, it’s only then that we’ll know if Collaborative Consumption really is a movement or if history deems it to be the hollow marketing term that it sometimes appears to be. But in the midst of things, it’s hard not to think that something pretty interesting is happening, specifically relating to the issue of trust. Airbnb and its European rival 9flats, for example, got users used to the idea of inviting strangers into their home. Meanwhile, Housebites enables people to sell home-cooked meals as an alternative to a take-out.

Launching today is Cookening, a new French startup co-founded by Cédric Giorgi (previously co-editor of TechCrunch France) that combines elements of both Airbnb and Housebites. Starting with France first, a country known for its gastronomy, it enables locals to be matched with foreigners — tourists in particular — so they can invite them into their homes to experience an authentic, in this case French, home dining experience.

The pain-point that Cookening is targeting is that when traveling it’s not always easy to meet local people and experience authentic food. “As a passionate cook, it is impossible to easily invite new and relevant people to share a home cooked meal,” Giorgi tells TechCrunch. “This is what Cookening wants to solve.”

Explore_mapHosts create a profile on Cookening, which includes a table page showing photos of their favourite home-cooked dishes, a preset menu/meal structure, and a price for the guests. The profile is manually vetted by Cookening. Non-locals then simply choose the host/table booking, and make contact. Like similar peer-to-peer marketplaces, payment is handled by Cookening in order to help establish and maintain trust between hosts and guests, and the host only receives payment the day after a successful meal. It’s also how the startup will make money, charging a 20% commission.

If it all sounds quite similar to an existing concept in France, known as “Table d’hôte”, where people host home cooked meals, that’s because it is. However, Giorgi says the practice was highly regulated. “We want to globalize and ease this concept so that everyone can experience the wonderful moment of sharing a meal with people you don’t know and that have different origins,” he says.

Another important element of the Cookening concept is that hosts dine with their guests. This adds further trust — both parties are in theory eating the same food — plus it’s as much a social as gastronomic experience, a cultural exchange, if you will.

To date, Cookening is bootstrapped but is looking to raise external funding. Alongside Giorgi, the startup’s other co-founder is Sébastien Guignot, previous head of development at French fintech startup Quanthouse that exited to Standard & Poor’s.

Meanwhile, Cookening’s potential competitors include Feastly in the U.S., which focuses on meals organised between locals, not locals and tourists specifically. Israel’s (and Disrupt NY nominee) EatWith is probably a closer competitor, but isn’t targeting France at the moment. There are also some local rivals in the “Table d’hôte” tradition, though Giorgi says they lack Cookening’s peer-to-peer model.