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Ahead of the EyeforTravel European Summit, where one of its founders will be speaking, Sally White took a look at the Paris firm that has foodies salivating

The media is absolutely no problem for Vizeat - it doesn’t even bother with a PR! Finding time to talk to it is another matter. Life it seems is just too frenetic for Paris-based co-founders Jean-Michael Petit, who will be speaking at the upcoming EyeforTravel European Summit, and Camille Rumani. None of which is surprising when just about every food blog and major western newspaper has written it up!

Even more, in February Tim Cook (THE Tim Cook of Apple) called in on them in Paris for lunch! Vizeat was one of the top three Apple apps of 2016.

Vizeat has been described as ‘the Airbnb of food’ and an ‘international dining club’. It is a platform for ‘social dining’, enabling locals or travellers to dine in a home. It connects those seeking an authentic local dining experience with hosts who are willing to cook for and invite strangers.

Vizeat was one of the top three Apple apps of 2016

Having started only three years ago it now has over 110,000 members and 22,000 hosts in 110 countries. Its website and apps are now available in a variety of languages including English, French, Italian, Spanish, German and Chinese.

The founders are Jean-Michel Petit and his cousin Camille Rumani. His background is described as a techie one, working in Europe and the US, and then for 14 years in venture capital. She had rarely met Petit, but did so on returning home after working in Beijing. Their ideas jelled.

According to Petit, the idea was born when sharing an Indian meal in Peru with locals on Lake Titicaca. For Rumani inspiration struck in her time in Beijing where she was invited to spend Chinese New Year and other meals with friendly families. Soon they were piloting the concept among friends.

Rapid growth

Initial funding for their start-up back in early 2014 came in a €1-million seed corn round led by UK-based venture capital firm Eurovestech, Petit’s former employer. The following year they took a bigger step with the purchase of another French company in the field, early pioneer Cookening. Thus it “became European leader in the growing culinary experience sharing space”.

These days, while most of its 20-plus staff still work in France, it has been opening offices in other countries, Spain, Italy, and then Germany and they are now advertising in the UK for a country manager.

Last year, rapid growth enabled Vizeat to raise further funding for global expansion, including into the UK.  It also strengthened management with the appointment of Pierrine Griffiths, former head of mobile acquisition marketing at Meetic-Match Group Europe, as new chief marketing officer. 

In a statement last year Petit said: “Vizeat has partnered with a range of hospitality providers, harmoniously aligning itself with the tourism industry. This new round of funding will allow us to boost our growth plans so that we can bring our ultimate local food experiences to more people, in even more countries.”

You can find it on TripAdvisor, plus it has a very strong presence on Facebook and YouTube. Vizeat also acts as a marketplace for cooking classes and food tours and can cater for events. It partners in major cities with MICE agencies and events organisers. Even back in 2015 it could host over 1,000 out-0f-town Airbnb hosts for dinner at 170 homes.   

Burning issues

Of course, the media has been able to find opposition to the Vizeat phenonenum. According to stories aired by the aseanbreakingnews.com, Paris restaurants have been saying it will damage their business. Especially, it says, as some of the home caterers are chefs who can thus meet the customer directly.

Apparently, the main Paris restaurateurs’ union, Synhorcat appealed to the French government to take steps to stop it. The union estimated, said aseanbreakingnews.com, that there were 3,000 home-chefs in France, enough to form a sizeable black economy. Then there was the dreaded threat, it added, of hygiene and safety!!!

.....it taps into the behaviour shifts and that people are seeking bespoke events

“It is completely illegal,” Synhorcat’s president Didier Chenet was quoted as saying, thus providing more excellent publicity for Vizeat.

For foodies and food bloggers, however, it seems to be the best thing ever!

The site’s very clear description of how it works shows Vizeat has thought of the problems, stating that it provides insurance against food poisoning or damage. Hosts, who have been vetted, post what they are offering and guests respond by booking and paying online. The hosts receive payment 48 hours later, and the site revenue is a percentage of the bill. 

For travellers, Petit believes that Vizeat’s success is that it taps into the behaviour shifts and that people are seeking bespoke events.  

Rumani’s read is that it is not just the food but the people connection too. “We hear it all the time - we came as strangers and left like were at home with old friends...”

EyeforTravel Europe 2017

May 2017, London

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