December 21, 2018
Social Dining is a word, a neologism, which is becoming more and more popular in our lives. It is an easy and funny way to meet new people in the offline world.
According to Wikipedia, Social Dining is:
“a philosophy of using meals specifically as a means to connect with others: eat to socialize”Wikipedia
In the last years, due to the big influence of technology and Social Networks, this philosophy had become extremely popular and has been associated to the big movement of the sharing economy. All over the world, a lot of startups born with the aim to develop some new ideas based on it. As always, some are good, some others less, some will develop and survive, some (the most) will die. All these startups developed apps and websites whose aim is to promote socialization, mainly in the offline world (even if this is not generally true), using food as the means.
SocialTable – a good example of Social Dining
Today I want to speak about a new friend of mine and his idea. His name is Ben Stokes and the idea is the Company he founded: SocialTable.
SocialTable, as found in Ben’s LinkedIn profile, “is the new meeting place for people who love good food and good experiences“. As you can see, a good example of Social Dining.
Social Table is Ben’s first experience as a Startupper, but he has already worked in the Startup world in the past, so he well knows how it works and how to setup things correctly. He started this Company in summer of 2017 and the first events took place on January 2018. So, it is a very young Company but, as you will discover during our interview with him, it is a very fast growing startup.
Here’s the interview I had with him some days ago.
Davide: Hi Ben, nice to meet you. Today we want to speak about Social Dining. SocialTable, the Company you founded, is one of the main actors in this market, at least for what Australia is concerned of. So, would you like to tell us how this idea was born?
Ben: Nice to meet you Davide. Sure I’d like to; this is my story. I’ve been outside of my own Country, living in the US, for about three years. It was a great experience from a working point of view, but when I went back home to Sydney I found that a lot of my friends settled down and had kids. So I soon realized that the list of people I could call to go out has dramatically shortened. In the meanwhile, I realized that there should be a lot of other people in the same situation I was. What those people wanted was only to find other people in the ‘offline’ world. That’s what SocialTable does.
When and Where
Davide: Great idea. When did you start?
Ben: Well Davide, it all started with the first event of Social Dining taking place in January 2018: it was a “test dinner” with six new friends. They had never met before, dined well together and had fine food, good wine and laughed out loud. It was a great experience and the sign that we were on the right track. From then on, we started making us known on Facebook and Instagram and we began to organize more and more events.
Davide: So, this was the start. You told me you are based in Sydney. Are these events taking place only there?
Ben: No, actually we organize Social Dining events in Sydney, Melbourne and in other main cities of Australia, like Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide. We are partnering with a lot of Restaurants. Recently we had the opportunity to organize events also in New York City.
How it works
Davide: How does it work? I mean, let’s make an example about me. I’m travelling the world for work and normally when I’m new in town, I have to stay there only for few days; nevertheless I want to feel part of the local community. How can SocialTable help me?
Ben: Well, we wanted to take things easy, taking people online strictly for finding an event to attend for dinner. So you go online on our website, www.Socialtable.co, search for the event that suits you better, pay upfront and that’s all done. You then go the venue, meet new people and enjoy the experience. That’s all. One important aspect is the payment: to make things easy, we arrange for the payment directly on the website; in this way you can go to the restaurant and simply enjoy your meal, without any worries of splitting bills, because you’ve already paid for everything upfront.
Dimensions and Plans for the Future
Davide: Let’s give some numbers: can you give us some ideas of the dimensions of your Company?
Ben: Well, up to now, we are present in seven cities (one of which outside of Australia), we organized about 130 Social Dining events with more than 800 people have met together at our events.
Davide: Great start for less than one year from the very first event: congratulations. What about your plan for the future?
Ben: Thanks Davide. We have proved that our product is working fine in Australia; then, recently, we had the opportunity to expand to the US, in New York City. The US is our next destination, we think to move soon to San Francisco and Los Angeles. From here, plans are to move to London and finally into Asia.
Davide: who is your standard user?
Ben: Nice question. Well, actually we have two main groups of users:
- a first group of young professionals, with a full time job, between 25 and 35/40 years old. They are mainly single or people just moved from other cities or Countries who hardly know local people;
- the second group is made by older than 50s, generally with kids and recently divorced.
Both of them have in common the will to meet new people and that’s exactly what SocialTable gives them.
Davide: what can you tell us about the behaviour of your users? I mean: are they one-time users or do they return?
Ben: About 45% of our users are going to a second event and the 80% of them are going still further.
Davide: In your opinion, what are people searching for at these events?
Ben: Well, people are searching for meeting new people in the real “offline” world. At our events, these people find good food, good wine, nice experience, all in a safe environment. That’s why the idea works!
Before leaving, Ben wanted to make us a gift.
For each of you who will invite ten friends to join SocialTable (signing up into the site) he will offer a free meal at one of the event. To have this free meal, the ten invited people will have only to write First and Last name of the referrer in the registration form. That’s it!
Well, this was Ben Stokes and SocialTable, his idea of Social Eating.
At this link you can see a promotional video of SocialTable.
SocialTable is one of the most promising Company in the market of Social Dining. What is good in this project, I think, is having kept things easy and, most of all, the fact that it is answering a need of people: meet new people, in a safe way, in the offline world. Everyone has a lot (maybe hundreds) of friends in the online world; but, what happens into our offline world?… the real world.
Well, SocialTable is one of the possible answer. In fact, it gives us the opportunity to meet new people, in the real, offline world, and have fun.
So, what are your experiences of Social Dining? Is there someone of you who tried SocialTable? Would you like to share with us your experience?