Let’s face it (no pun intended) meeting new people on the Internet has become easier than ever before with sites like HowAboutWe, encouraging potential lovers to come together in the name of shared interests. But what about good old-fashioned friendship?
Welcome to Grubwithus, a new Y Combinator-backed startup created by longtime friends Eddy Lu and Daishin Sugano. After moving to Chicago to expand their cream puff business, the pair realized how difficult starting over in new city with no friends was. Sure, there were bars with their dark, loud and not-so cheap drink atmosphere, but those provided little or no conversation or opportunity to meet new folks. As food lovers, they decided what better way to meet the kind of people they were not meeting, by hosting dinners at restaurants they would eat at anyway.
Based in Chicago and San Francisco, Grubwithus builds friendships over good food at quality restaurants, offering prix-fix family-style dining to its community. The premise invites both couples and single folks alike to meet people in their neighborhood while eating great food. Interested members reserve a seat at the limited-capacity dinner table and pay for everything (meal, tax and gratuity) in advance. The service has an OpenTable-like offering but instead of booking one table, members book an individual seat at a table with other social diners.
The founders collaborate with restaurants in organizing and planning the meal. Sugano explains how the Grubwithus model differs from Groupon’s, which he believes vets those who are only interested in a cheap meal. He explains why restaurants appreciate the Grubwithus concept:
“Restaurants,” he says, “love us because we bring in new customers and not Groupon cheapskates.”
We love this startup idea because it brings social back to its intended meaning.