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Social dining newest trend in growing sharing economy

04/30/2015 12:02 EDT | Updated 08/06/2015 05:59 EDT
Booking a table for two or more in the kitchen of a person you've never met might not be your usual plan for a dinner date, but a growing number of companies hope that the next time you eat out, it'll be at a stranger's house instead of a restaurant.

It's a new concept called social dining where you book a meal prepared by someone else and eat it in their home.

CBC On the Coast technology columnist Dan Misener says the experiences available through a number of websites are part of a larger trend in the new sharing economy.  

"There's one called Feastly. Another one called EatWith. Another one called Vizeat," said Misener. "All of them, helping people eat meals in other people's homes."

These companies have been around for awhile, but they are only now starting to scale up operations. 

"They've been doing a good job, but typically in a hyper local way, so a city or two for example," said April Rinne, who advises governments and private companies on the sharing company. "Now you start seeing international expansion." Now you're starting to see a network evolving."

Misener says trust is a huge component in this enterprise, but most companies have a pretty comprehensive vetting process cooks must go through before being listed on the website.

"There's a reputation system built in where you can leave ratings and reviews, similar to Airbnb and they offer an insurance program that can protect cooks in the case of food illness or property damage," said Misener.

Two of the biggest hurdles to expansion are health and safety concerns.

"These social dining services are not restaurants. They are technology companies. They put together digital networks of cooks and people who want to eat," said Misener. "As a consequence they put all of the responsibility with complying with local laws onto the cooks themselves."

At the moment social dining is still a niche industry, but Misener says you'll soon see them more frequently in Canada, if they they can navigate the legal and logistical challenges.

"These companies in the sharing economy often are moving faster than local regulators can keep up."

To hear the full interview, listen to the audio labelled Social networking meets social dining

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