In 2011, Guy Michlin and his family visited the Greek island of Crete. Like they do for every trip, Guy and his wife researched all the local restaurants, searching for authentic food and experiences. But their research failed them. Repeatedly they found themselves in tourist traps, eating the same grilled meat as other travelers.
“After four days on the Island I told my wife ‘no more souvlaki for me,’” Guy said.
Through a friend of a friend, Guy, his wife and one-year-old daughter scored an invite to dinner at the home of the Papadakis family in the suburbs of Heraklion, Crete’s biggest city.
Dinner wasn’t served until 10pm. The main course was a thick beef stew, complimented by ample rounds of ouzo. The meal was peppered with insider tips for the rest of their time on the island.
“This dinner turned out to be by far the highlight of our trip,” Guy said. “The overall experience was something my wife and I will never forget.”
Upon returning home to Israel, Guy started brainstorming on how he could help other travelers replicate his experience with the Papadakis family.
In January 2013, Guy and his team launched EatWith.com.
How EatWith Works
Here, travelers connect with locals who will cook them a meal and share wine, conversation and travel tips in exchange for a small fee.
Current offerings on the site include a $20 coconut lamb dinner in the home of a 30-year-old choral singer. For $19, you can take part in a challah baking workshop.
Guests sign up for an existing dinner or request one on a specific date. No need to tip. Drinks are usually included, though chefs say guests are welcome to supplement the wine supply.
Inspiration and Expansion
EatWith launched first in Spain and Israel. In April 2013 it expanded into New York. Guy said they have received host applications from more than 20 countries and plan to expand further.
“They built the host community from scratch and created a new market for a product that hardly existed before,” Guy said.
“EatWith faces similar challenges in terms of creating a new market for a service that hasn’t previously been available for the majority of people.”
It’s true. Search for “eat with locals” and you’ll find a few similar services. EatWith seems to have the most robust site and doesn’t require visitors to register before they can peruse the list of hosts.
Guy said he hasn’t discussed his business with the Papadakis family, but their hospitality has made its mark.
“In this trip I took to Greece we probably ate in 10 restaurants and I don’t remember even one of them. But I remember very vividly the dinner with the local family,” he said. “That’s what guests can expect on EatWith.”