Virtuoso, a network of luxury travel agents, has joined forces with VizEat, a three-year-old startup that enables people to book cooking classes and dinners in the homes of strangers.
VizEat has been described as “the Airbnb of eating”, an app that allows amateur chefs to sell home-cooked meals, cooking classes, wine tastings and even food tours, much in the way hosts rent their apartments for short-term stays.
Instead of going to a restaurant, consumers can tap into the ever-expanding sharing economy, and enjoy a more personalised, unique and authentic dining experience, and – most importantly – a chance to make new friends.
With an upcoming trip to Amsterdam, for example, you have the choice of a “Vietnam meets Italy supper club with Emmanuel” for €47, an “Art studio supper of sea bass with Petra” for €41, and a “Seasonal homemade Dutch dinner with Anne Maike” for €39. Just like Airbnb, hosts have to be approved and diners leave public reviews. With a network of 22,000 hosts across 110 countries, VizEat advertises 5,000 culinary experiences ready for booking. VizEat demonstrates a great way to “live like a local” and taps into the “experiential” trend that has swept across the travel industry in recent times.
Competition comes from Feastly, which is only in US cities right now, and EatWith, which offers communal dining in more than 200 destinations. The key difference is that you can also book meals cooked by professional chefs, some of whom have Michelin stars, and use it as an opportunity to test out recipes.
Last September, VizEat raised €3.8 million in funding to expand its business with the launch of new partnerships and offices (it already has a foot in London, Paris and Barcelona).
Jean-Michel Petit, co-founder and CEO of VizEat says: “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.”In joining forces with Virtuoso, peer-to-peer dining experiences from VizEat can now be arranged by any of the network’s 15,200 travel advisors. In total, Virtuoso has a collection of 1,700 luxury hotels, resorts, cruise lines, airlines, tour operators and other suppliers in 140 countries. Its agencies sell more than US$21.2 billion annually, making the network the most significant player in luxury travel.
Cece Drummond, Virtuoso’s managing director of destinations and experiences, says: “Virtuoso is incredibly selective with the new partners it accepts, as they must share our commitment to exceptional client service and unparalleled offerings. VizEat’s innovative concept is a perfect fit with two trends Virtuoso has observed growing of late: culinary travel and the desire to enjoy authentic local experiences.
“VizEat provides the ability to bring destinations to life through food, allowing our advisors to design truly unique experiences that connect their clients to the local people and the culture on a different level.”
VizEat co-founder and CEO Jean-Michel Petit says, “We’re thrilled to partner with Virtuoso, a company which represents the very best in travel. It’s a great match for both of us: Virtuoso’s advisors use their global connections to plan the most memorable experiences for their clients and VizEat is aligned in this search for unforgettable and authentic moments.
By Jenny Southan