Shared Meals: Food in the Sharing Economy

Shared Meals: Food in the Sharing Economy

Food was meant to be shared.

The sharing community has been alive and well for the last two or three years, and seems to be only growing.  It broadly refers to various people sharing the talents, services, capabilities of a particular entrepreneur, who in turn farms out her services to cobble together a living.

Examples include small companies who use cars or bikes and cell phones to deliver food or other products for multiple restaurants.  It can also include chefs and everyday talented home cooks who share their kitchens with compatible foodies who share their cash in exchange.  It’s basically a matter of throwing a home-cooked meal for strangers who share it, and making money as though you were running a restaurant.

Meal sharing finds its market around travelers disenchanted with the selection of tourist-trap restaurants, college students needing a home-cooked meal, and foodies looking to talk food while they dine.  Meal sharing often begets a community, with the participants taking turns playing host.

As you’d expect, meal sharing is fueled by websites dedicated to the field.  One is called, intuitively enough, Meal Sharing, and it was started by an avid diner named Jay Savsani.  While on a vacation in Cambodia, Savsani lamented to the hotel concierge that he could really go for a home-cooked meal.  The professional sprang into action, putting together the right personnel to host what Savsani was looking for.

After a great meal with great conversation, Savsani went to work building the infrastructure to let others experience the same.  Like craigslist, it operates in various locales, presently in 450 cities.  One of its popular hosts is an elderly Chicago couple.  Savsani says his site likes to focus on home cooks rather than professional chefs.  Across food sharing communities, this varies.  Guest pay anywhere from $10 for a meal to $100.  Most available examples involve relatively high-end food, with no Hamburger Helper or greasy spoon fare to be found.

Other sites in the vein of Meal Sharing are Kitchit, Kitchen.ly, Cookening, and Kitchensurfing.  Of these, Kitchit probably caters most to the discriminating diner, vetting chefs and using reviews to guide hungry folks to the best destinations.

Not everyone can be a culinary whiz.  The sharing economy has you covered here, as well.  There are communities that bring together potential hosts with chefs.  The host or hostess is truly just that, the person who hosts the event rather than actually doing the cooking.  The chef is paid to come in and use your pots and pans and dazzle your guests.

While these shared meals do tend to pass (for now) the legality test, one can call into question food safety or hygiene issues.  One senses that so far, the honor of the people involved has held sway, with no official enforcement necessary to keep people motivated to put out high-quality, safe food for their cherished guests.   As is the case with many of the topics we cover, all you can do is watch and see how this unfolds.