Founded in July 2014, VizEat has built a platform — or marketplace — that connects those seeking an authentic local dining experience with hosts who are willing to cook for and invite strangers into their homes. In a sense it’s similar to the early days of Airbnb in that the social aspect is part of the draw. A cultural exchange, if you will.
That, Jean-Michel Petit, co-founder and CEO of VizEat, tells me is seeing the platform being used not only by tourists who want to sample local life and food, but also local residents in multicultural cities who have begun taking to VizEat’s “immersive food experience”.
Most of the startup’s 20 staff are located in Paris, but VizEat also has offices in Spain and Italy. It says the new funding will be used to accelerate growth, including opening local offices and recruiting country managers in the U.K. and Germany.
VizEat is also trumpeting a recent hire: former Head of Mobile Acquisition Marketing of Meetic-Match Group Europe, Pierrine Griffiths, has joined the company’s management team.
But how big is collaborative gastronomy, I didn’t actually hear you ask. VizEat says it has grown from 50 hosts to more than 20,000 across 110 countries. Its authentic dining experience now also includes cooking classes and food tours with locals.
However, Petit is candid enough to concede that VizEat has potentially benefited from “last mover advantage” and that for others, such as Cookening, a French early pioneer in the space that VizEat acquired last year, the timing probably wasn’t quite right. He believes that VizEat’s model taps into a behavioural shift that is seeing travellers seek bespoke experiences and are moving away from off-the-shelf and all-inclusive holidays.
Another aspect to VizEat’s early signs of success is that the startup is playing nice and partnering with the travel industry, including marketing the service to business travellers not just tourists. This helps to counterbalance the seasonality of tourism, ensuring that hosts can continue inviting guests to their dinner table throughout the entire year.
In a statement, Petit adds: “For many holidaymakers, a VizEat food experience with locals is often the highlight of any trip. Because travellers don’t have to radically change their travel habits to enjoy these great experiences, VizEat has partnered with a range of hospitality providers, harmoniously aligning itself with the tourism industry. This new round of funding will allow us to boost our growth plans so that we can bring our ultimate local food experiences to more people, in even more countries.”