If you’re new to a city or just looking to find some interesting people to chat with, a new service that’s coming to Seattle on June 8th might be worth putting on your social calendar. It’s called Grubwithus. And, like the names suggests, it is a social networking service of sorts which brings people together around good food at local restaurants.
Co-founders Eddy Lu and Daishin Sugano came up with the idea after moving to Chicago. Like other transplants, they struggled to find friends.
“We tried making friends at the bars/clubs but it’s easier to ask a girl out on a date than to ask her to be your friend,” Lu tells GeekWire. ”It’s even more awkward when you’re trying to ask a guy at a bar to be your friend.”
After trying to find friends at various meetups, Lu said they came up with the idea of creating an online service where people meet at local restaurants in a casual setting for family-style meals.
Users of the service pay for their meals in advance, and promise to adhere to some basic etiquette (no cell phone use during dinner and no chatter of politics or religion). Typically, the meals last about two hours and include between eight and 10 people.
At this point, Grubwithus is available in Chicago, San Fran, New York, D.C. and L.A. But the upcoming Seattle and Boston launches will be an important test as the company tries to grow its national footprint.
The typical user of the service is somebody who is new to a city, a business travelers or singles who prefer meeting people in larger groups rather than a one-on-one date.
Seattle is a city of transplants and it’s notorious as a place where it’s a bit tough to meet new people, so maybe, just maybe Grubwithus can help bust down some barriers.
It also sounds perfect for overworked computer geeks looking for a coding break.
The idea is not entirely new. You may recall that Seattle developer Brian Dorsey developed a similar concept called NoonHat, which brought people together over lunch. “The problem is, we are not talking to each other,” said Dorsey in describing the service in an Ignite Talk a few years ago.
But while NoonHat was a fun side project for Dorsey, Grubwithus is trying to make a serious business around connecting people over dinner. The company employs eight people and has raised $1.6 million to date from some big-name backers, including Andreessen Horowitz, First Round Capital, NEA, actor Ashton Kutcher and others.