Today, it has been announced that what could be described as the Airbnb of dinner parties, WelcomeOver, has officially launched in Australia, bringing the country it’s very first community-driven dinner hosting service. Similar and successful services already exist around the world, and WelcomeOver seeks to mirror the unique technology, creating a platform to give everyone the opportunity to either host or attend a relaxed dinner party in a communal environment. We’ve officially reached the next evolution of the shared economy.
From today (20th April 2016) people across the country will be able to sign up (for free) to WelcomeOver, where hosts can create their own dining event, decide how much they want to charge per head, and open it up to hungry locals or visitors who are looking for something a bit different than your typical restaurant dining experience. More customised options for each proposed event include number of guests, cuisine type, if the event is aimed at people with a particular interest, diets, and even if the event is a singles night. In true Uber/Airbnb fashion, both guests and hosts can rate their experience and write a review after the event.
On the other side of the experience, guests looking for a dinner event can browse according to cuisine, location, price, interests, and even see who else is attending.
“We think WelcomeOver will be really useful for people to learn about local hidden secrets rather than sticking to the big establishements”, said co-founder Nelson Hialgo. “We also see benefits for people who may have just moved to a new area and want to meet neighbours or others in the local community”.
Talking to the AU review, another co-founder, Johan Schyberg explained that the WelcomeOver team first thought of launching the idea after seeing the existing overseas services, but with the difference being Australia itself. “We have been tailoring WelcomeOver to the Australian market,” said Schyberg. “Our main focus has been learning about Australians and how they consume and engage with the shared economy. For example, [Hidalgo] has been driving an Uber for several months now, talking to customers to find out what they think of the dinner hosting idea and gaining an understanding of how the idea would perform best in the local market”.
Already, the co-founders have been to the few events that are listed on WelcomeOver for it’s launch. “As a guest, I found it quite simple to choose the experience I wanted to take part in based on location and price,” said Schyberg. “I find that people are more social at someone’s house than at a restaurant which made this a memorable experience for me.”
The WelcomeOver team have vowed to work with hosts to fine tune and put finishing touches on their offered experiences before posting it to guests, ensuring the best possible events are listed. All hosts will have a police check completed prior to hosting an event, and communication between guests and hosts is managed through the website. WelcomeOver adds 20% commission on the price that has been decided by the host, including it in the price shown on the website. Payments are made securely through Paypal, where the host is paid electronically in one lump sum for all guests in attendance once the meal has been completed.
The start-up will first be launching in Sydney with plans to bring it to Melbourne and Canberra over the coming months. “We believe once people try our service, they will love it and keep coming back”, said Schyberg. “We will continuously be looking at the platform and developing it in response to customer feedback. Ongoing success will be based on the amount of hosts and guests that register, the amount of completed experiences, the number of returning customers, and the results from the rating system”.
For more information, or to register and starting hosting/browing, visit www.welcomeover.com.au.
See below for our full interview with Johan Schyberg.
Dinner hosting services have been established overseas in recent times. What have you learned from these business that has maybe inspired or informed the way WelcomeOver operates?
We first thought of launching the idea after seeing the services overseas, however we have been tailoring WelcomeOver to the Australian market. Whilst the concept is similar to overseas businesses, our main focus has been learning about Australians and how they consume and engage with the shared economy. For example, one of my co-founders, Nelson Hidalgo, has been driving an Uber for several months now, talking to customers to find out what they think of the dinner hosting idea and gaining an understanding of how the idea would perform best in the local market.
Ideally, where would you like to see WelcomeOver three months from now and what will be your metrics for success?
We would love for WelcomeOver to be a household name in three months. We are focusing on Sydney in the initial phase of the launch but over the next few months we are expecting Melbourne and Canberra to also embrace the new way of eating out. We believe once people try our service, they will love it and keep coming back. We will continuously be looking at the platform and developing it in response to customer feedback. Ongoing success will be based on the amount of hosts and guests that register, the amount of completed experiences, the number of returning customers and the results from the ratings system.
Why do you think it has taken some time for Australia to adapt a business like this?
The shared economy in Australia has only really started to boom over the past few years. We now have access to real-time digital technology, transforming traditional markets and effectively changing consumer habits. Also, for businesses such as WelcomeOver, trust is a core ingredient to its success. If you look at how Australians have embraced platforms like Uber and Airbnb, it is evident we are now starting to really adapt to a shared economy lifestyle.
How will the available dining experiences be curated? What does a host need to offer to be approved for listing?
All hosts can set up a free personalised account on WelcomeOver, giving them access to creating an event. Hosts set their price per head, cuisine, how many people can attend and if there are any other specifics, such as if it’s a singles or paleos night. WelcomeOver works with the hosts to finalise all details, ensuring the guest has the best possible experience. Prior to being listed hosts will also have a police check completed. WelcomeOver adds 20% commission on the price for each dinner, which is already included in the price shown on the website.
What will the payment process be like for the host?
The payment process is simple and efficient. The host is paid electronically in one lump sum for all guests in attendance once the meal has been completed.
Have you been to any of the current listings to test them? What’s that process like?
I have been to some of the events listed and I really enjoyed the whole experience, it was similar to a relaxed dinner party. Guests choose which experiences they wish to take part in, browsing by date, price or area and can view other people attending. There is a rating system for both parties to ensure a pleasant experience for all. As a guest, I found it quite simple to choose the experience I wanted to take part in based on location and price. I find that people are more social at someone’s house than at a restaurant which made this a memorable experience for me.
What made you want to start WelcomeOver and launch it in Australia?
After seeing a similar platform when travelling in Indonesia, I started to think that this model would work perfectly with an Australian audience with our love of food and openness to new experiences. Also, looking at how Australians are increasingly embracing platforms like Uber and Airbnb, where trust is similarly fundamental to success, we thought Australia would be the perfect market. We believe that a dinner party at someone’s home usually beats visiting the local restaurant, bringing like-minded people together for an enjoyable experience and so we wanted to bring a shared economy for dining to Australians, bringing people together one meal at a time.