Have a hankering for an authentic French meal served in the Paris home of a retired teacher and home chef? Like the idea of meeting a group of fellow travelers for a homemade dinner in someone’s family kitchen in Rome?
TripAdvisor is betting customers will. The Needham-based travel company has invested in San Francisco’s EatWith, a four-year-old social dining start-up that wants to become the Airbnb of food. The company did not disclose the size of the investment.
Starting this week, TripAdvisor will allow users in select cities to book a seat at the table of an EatWith host, often a local chef or home cook who will prepare a meal in a private setting for a group of people. The host posts a profile, menu, and cost per guest. Customers pay EatWith in advance of the meal, which can cost anywhere from $30 to more than $100 per guest.
EatWith said it offers an “easy way to access the underground food scene and connect with creative, open-minded and interesting people.”
For now, the “Dine with a Local Chef” option is tucked among many dining possibilities on the TripAdvisor website. The platform will be available in 10 cities, from Barcelona to New York to Sao Paulo, by the end of this week. A rollout in other cities, including Boston, is expected shortly.
TripAdvisor said it will also let customers review their EatWith dining experiences on its website. Founded primarily as a forum for traveler reviews, TripAdvisor has been aggressively expanding its services in recent years to include lodging, restaurant, and flight bookings, as well as things to do.
Earlier this year, some EatWith users criticized the service, saying it can be difficult to secure a reservation because events may be cancelled if a local chef doesn't get a critical mass of guests.
Adam Medros, a senior vice president of global product at TripAdvisor said EatWith has been working out the kinks. Bringing the idea to a wider audience on TripAdvisor will help “smooth out what might be some of those pockets of supply and demand,” he said.