Social dining is a new innovation in social networking– it takes online relationships offline, over a meal. I love this idea. It’s a great way to meet new people if you’ve moved to a new city or simply wish to expand your social or professional network. It’s also a fun way to try new restaurants.
Here are two different models on the cutting edge
Grubwithus: Launched in 2010, the core philosophy at Grubwithus is that Social Dining can build friendships over great meals. Think OpenTable meets Groupon, but instead of booking your own table, you're booking an individual seat at a table with other social diners at a fixed price & menu. You'll eat good food, meet new friends, and instantly know more people. Grubwithus was started in Chicago by two post-college friends who have tried their hand at various start-ups.
Today it was announced in Tech Crunch that a group of prominent early-stage investors have decided they’d love to back Grubwithus. The service, which launched out of Y Combinator last year, has just raised a $1.6 million round. Who’s at the funding table? Andreessen Horowitz, First Round Capital, NEA, SV Angel, Ashton Kutcher, Guy Oseary, Vivi Nevo, Yuri Milner, Felix Shpilman, Maynard Webb, Matt Cutts, Elad Gil, Paul Buchheit, Alexis Ohanian, Start Fund, and Y Combinator.
The other Social Dining site is called Let’sLunch which was launched in January of this year. Its focus is much more about social business networking versus making friends and acquaintances. They have a built-in rating system for who you are as a key influencer based on peer ratings. As users improve their level, they gain more access to more connected people and opportunities. You pick the time and restaurant so it’s much more about the forming business connections (think match.com for business networking) than about enjoying a meal or making friends.
Have you tried any of these social dining sites? Are you game?