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Travelers play with their smartphones and pay for their meals through mobile apps and servers take orders and reservations on iPads. The dining experience extends far beyond the actual meal and travelers interact with technology throughout the courses, from reading Yelp reviews to taking photos of their dishes. Restaurant dining, however, is only one of many layers that travelers want to peel away to interact with a destination’s food.
Many destinations’ push towards food tourism, and people’s growing ability to discover restaurants and make mobile dining reservations in general, have made restaurants one of the pinnacles of the travel experience. These five startups are following this trend and want to make it easy for travelers to reserve tables, pay for meals, discover the best dishes and find a neighbor with some recipes and stories to share.
Fly Concierge is an on-demand text message based concierge service for restaurant and bar recommendations and reservations. Offered on a $5 monthly subscription basis or $3 weekly enrollment, the startup has so far launched in New York City and also runs a weekly email newsletter for subscribers.
>>SkiftTake: Messaging is already the principal form of communication in many parts of the developing world and growing in the U.S., making Fly Concierge’s expansion prospects brighter as they can meet travelers as they perform a natural function already very much a part of their lives.
VizEat is a social dining mobile app in Europe connecting travelers and local hosts around authentic culinary experiences such as meals, cooking classes and food tours. It has about 20,000 hosts in 100 countries available on its app. It’s also acquired local meal booking app Cookening since it was founded in 2014.
>>SkiftTake: Companies like EatWith using a similar model to VizEat have had a lot of success with both travelers and locals booking private meals in people’s homes. But we have to ask: with a company like Airbnb becoming more popular with travelers and many hosts already cooking for travelers, will Airbnb go deeper into dining at some point?
Velocity is a dining reservations app features a locally curated selection of restaurants in New York City, London, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Miami. The 1,100-plus available restaurants include New York City’s Blue Hill and Toro restaurants and San Francisco’s Slanted Door and Cala restaurants.
>>SkiftTake: Affluent travelers will be drawn to something like this. Although OpenTable, for example, has also started curating restaurant lists from locals and includes thousands of other options on top of what Velocity currently offers.
Foodie&Tours is an online marketplace specializing in gastronomic tours and culinary experiences in Spain. The company offers walking food tours to enjoy wine and local product tastings, tapas sessions, cooking classes and culinary events.
>>SkiftTake: Foodie&Tours will need to think about scaling if it wants to really reach some potential but starting off in Spain as a food tour company isn’t bad idea given the country’s famed tapas and wine reputation.
RSVP creates lists of pop-up restaurants and events in cities around the world.
>>SkiftTake: Pop-ups are popular in many large, cosmopolitan cities and it’s time there was a common sense way to know about them so that travelers and locals can indulge in their culinary delights.
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