Events could be the next sector to get shaken up by the ‘sharing economy’. Should established players be quaking? We investigate

Words: Stuart Derrick

The sharing economy What does it mean for venues - catering

Dining websites and apps such as WeFiFo, Trybe, VizEat, Grub Club, TableCrowd and Nibblr have launched thick and fast over the past few years. Initially aiming to give consumers a new way to eat out and meet people, some have turned their attention to events.

Olivia Sibony, who co-founded Grub Club four years ago, says what started as a way of allowing amateur chefs to host supper clubs in their own homes is attracting interest for meetings and events. An inquiry by Google to host an event at St Pancras Clock Tower kicked things off. The tech giant wanted something out of the ordinary and, since then, Grub Club’s private events business has been growing quickly. ‘More companies started contacting us looking for something a bit different,’ she says. ‘We effectively create a restaurant for them for the night – venue, chef, sommelier, bar, music.’

Sibony says that Grub Club also works directly with brands, pulling together whole events, such as a warehouse launch party for video game Dishonored 2. It created Karnaca, the city in the game, at the venue, where guests were greeted by characters from the game, hunted down bone runes (Dishonored’s collectible currency) and dined on three themed courses. 

VizEat is another social dining platform making inroads. Set up in 2014 by Jean-Michel Petit, it has grown from 50 hosts to more than 22,000. It’s launching its own MICE service this summer, giving event organisers a chance to book private dinners at interesting venues, or arrange teambuilding food tours and cooking classes. ‘It’s quite different from a restaurant experience,’ says Petit. ‘People come back the next day with a different story to tell their colleagues. The dining table is the original social network and for businesses it offers a great opportunity for networking.’

Creatively oriented one-off events are one thing, but what about when the event is business critical? Can you afford to risk it on a chef or venue that may have little experience in corporate events? For those who are unsure, a more established caterer may be a better option. Not only do caterers such as Searcys or Fare of London have access to venues such as The Gherkin, St Paul’s, Ironmongers’ Hall and Woburn House, they have experience of providing large-scale catering for conferences, banquets and receptions.

A one-stop approach to creating small, budget-conscious events

The sharing economy What does it mean for venues - hiroes

Organisers of smaller-scale events can lack the knowledge and experience of more established event professionals, and their budgets are also tighter. Step forward Hiroes.

Co-founded by Raphaël Scemama and Salomé Houta (pictured right), the site is a one-stop shop for event organisers, automating venue finding and sourcing other skills such as catering, entertainment and photography. Many of them have passion rather than huge amounts of formal experience, admits Scemama, and prices reflect this.

‘It’s aimed at individuals organising parties, as well as small businesses who don’t have huge budgets. We’re starting to get a lot of start-ups using us for networking and entrepreneurial events. We hope that we can grow with them.’

Click here to find out what the sharing economy means for venues, and here to find out what it means for transport

This article was first published in SquareMeal Venues + Events, Spring/Summer 2017