BonAppetour Interview: Dining with Locals Through the Sharing Economy

BonAppetour is a peer to peer meal sharing service founded in 2013 that facilitates in-home food experiences for travelers. Locals can make some extra money offering home cooked meals, introducing travelers to specialties from their culture. I have written a lot about peer to peer meal sharing and sharing economy food services, and I like BonAppetour for its focus on travelers and the well vetted offerings.

The site is currently in English, Spanish, French and Italian and they have offerings on six continents. Travelers browse the offerings and reviews on the BonAppetour website and then contact home chefs when they find a meal they want to book. A few weeks ago I interviewed Rinita Vanjre, one of the co-founders of BonAppetour. 

ShareTraveler: There are a number of peer to peer meal sharing services out there, how does BonAppetour distinguish itself?

Rinita: As compared to other similar platforms, we believe that we value the interaction between the locals and guests more, and so our booking process enables guests to dine in smaller group sizes, compared to a larger, supper club format. Further, we curate our dining experiences by working closely with our hosts, such that the guest can expect to experience another part of the city’s culture through another of the host’s passions – be it art, music or film through an add-on activity.

ST: Tell me about one of your favorite user success stories.

Rinita: There are several, and choosing among them is not easy. One of my favorite is when a guest  was making a trip to Italy with his friend who was in the final stages of cancer, and he actually booked BonAppetour experiences, which they enjoyed very much. It felt good to have helped create an experience that made someone’s final trip a highlight of their journey.

ST: How many hosts do you currently have?

Rinita: We now have more than 500 hosts in 80+ cities around the world.

ST: How did you manage to sign up so many home chefs all around the world in just a few years since BonAppetour’s launch?

Rinita: Well, the concept is definitely very interesting to hosts who are keen on showcasing their cooking skills and are passionate about the culinary arts. Word of mouth has been very effective in getting more people to sign up as hosts. We also work closely with local ambassadors in key countries to push forth the search for qualified BonAppetour hosts.

When we first got this idea two years ago we were thinking it would be great if we could have hosts everywhere. We thought that maybe we just need a couple of hosts in each city around the world and that would satisfy all travelers. But along the way we realized that people are looking for different types of experiences ….the menu matters, the ambiance matters, the price matters. Then we realized that it’s important to have a good variety of hosts in each city and so that’s when we changed our strategy of expansion and made it city by city growth. In each city we try to recruit enough hosts to get a good variety of experiences and listings.

ST: Do you do anything to vet people who sign up to host meals or do you leave that to customer reviews?

Rinita: We have ambassadors from around the world who sign up to be “food testers” and critics of host’s dining experience in their home-city. However, the review system by customers is a great way to ensure that hosts are always putting forth quality experiences in order to get more bookings – this is common in most sharing economy platforms.

ST: Where did you get the initial funding for BonAppetour?

Rinita: Right now we are under a government grant from Singapore. They are quite supportive of startups. We have to co-match the funding they give us. We are planning to start raising funds from October onwards. With money to play with we can harness more results in a shorter time. Especially in this network where it’s all about volume.

ST: What is your next expansion goal for the company? Are you targeting specific cities?

Rinita: Yes, we are planning to get a larger pool of hosts in France and Spain, the countries in Europe with a strong gastronomical culture.

ST: Where do you hope to see BonAppetour in five years?

Rinita: We have always aimed to be a global platform where every traveler is able to get a taste of local culture by being invited to a home through BonAppetour. However, today, we see that there is huge potential for this concept of social dining to be extended to other aspects of life, other than travel – where even locals and expats can start attending BonAppetour dining experiences together with their friends and loved ones to celebrate special occasions or simply just casual gatherings or even to meet new people.