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When home cooking takes on a new meaning…

The Guardian has just run an article, “Is it last orders for the restaurants?” It looks at the growing phenomenon of apps to eat out at private houses, whose cooks avoid the costs in running a restaurant and whose creations and overall experience are scored on a points system.

Among the apps are EatAbout, founded by two Swedes in London who say they want to “democratize eating out; or Israel’s EatWith, which already operates in 135 cities around the world, including 17 in Spain; VizEat, which offers home-eateries in more than 100 countries, or variations such as DishNextDoor, whereby chefs prepare your meal and you pick it up, or ChefXchange, whereby chefs come to your home and even wash the dishes.

The drive seems to come from the growing attention we pay to food, reflected by innumerable cookery competitions, celebrity chefs, and above all by the availability of apps able to help supply meet demand and that are then peer-reviewed.

It’s a new approach to eating out: you choose a city you might be visiting, or your home town for that matter, decide on the type of food you want to try, how much you want to spend and turn up at somebody’s home. The advantages are clear: from being able to bring your own wine, deciding on what you’re going to eat before you arrive, pay an agreed price and enjoy an exclusive culinary experience.

For the hosts, it’s an opportunity to put their culinary skills to the test without having to go to the expense of setting up a restaurant, very much along the lines of inviting friends over for dinner. And given that payment is through an app, for most people the experience is probably not dissimilar: you arrive, dine, say goodnight, and go home.

Issues like hygiene are taken care of via the app and its points system: if a place seems dirty, it will soon find itself out in the cold. Obviously, there are likely to be problems, as there are in restaurants. But given the growing popularity of eating out as an experience, the idea of a “secret” restaurant will be appealing to many people.

The Parisian restaurant association, reflecting the concerns of the hotel and taxi industries in the face of Uber and Airbnb, opposes the trend, seeing it as a threat. Last October, Didier Chenet, head of Synhorcat, Paris’ leading association of restaurants, told the BBC that the presence already of more than 3,000 people offering home dining throughout France and who don’t pay rent, taxes, labor costs, “and have no idea what to do in the event of an allergy or special needs,” is a “danger to an entire industry,” while calling for the authorities to take action to prevent the phenomenon spreading.

That said, there seems little the authorities can do, given that most people offering this kind of home dining experience are not professionals.

Yet another major industry now faces major disruption thanks to technology. Any thoughts on the matter?


(En español, aquí)