Fancy a good meal and a great company? There must be a platform which provide you just that.
This was the question which bothered National University of Singapore’s current undergraduate Rinita Vanjre as well as Inez Wihardjo when they were overseas at Stockholm undergoing an entrepreneurial internship programme.
“It was our end-of-year holiday, and we were wandering the streets of Paris, wanting to have a good Christmas dinner. To our naivety, we realized that most of the restaurants close down on Christmas day. It was a cold winter, and we were hungry, and was trying to find any place where we can have a good meal. We were unsuccessful.” Inez recalled.
“From afar however, we can hear happy families, enjoying their Christmas dinner, filled with joy and laughter. How we wished we could have home-cooked meal at that very point. There and then, the idea of BonAppetour came about,” Inez told Vulcan Post.
BonAppetour is a simple platform that connects travelers with local hosts who love to invite guests over to their homes to join them for a unique dining experience. For travellers, you get to experience authentic home-made food in homes of the hosts, learning more about the culture of travel destination and meeting new people. For the hosts, you can monetize your cooking skills and at the same time sharing your home culture with travellers around the world.
Other than Inez and Rinita who handle business operations and business development respectively, Giovanni Casinelli is also part of the team. He handles web development for BonAppetour which is currently live in a variety of cities around the world. Thanks to Giovanni too, guests can now choose from a range of dining experiences, from a rooftop barberque in Rome to an authentic Chinese Pen Cai in Singapore.
Users can reserve a meal at the host’s place and communicate food preferences or other dining arrangements using an in-built messaging system. The reviews made by the BonAppetour team as well as previous guests will give guests an idea of the kind of dining experience to expect.
BonAppetour won the pitch at Startup Weekend Milan
The idea for BonAppetour had its roots in Paris even since the bad experience during Christmas.
“After our bad Xmas experience in Paris, we thought through the idea of BonAppetour further and decided we should bring it forward- one way or the other. We are often on the lookout for entrepreneurial events that we can join when we were overseas at Stockholm, one of it being the Startup Weekend series,” Inez recalled.
Without any high expectation, Inez and Rinita flew to Milan for the 54 hour hackathon event. Despite the event being organized in Italian, BonAppetour cofounder Rinita went ahead and introduced the idea for BonAppetour in English.
“To our surprise, we received quite a number of votes, and got shortlisted as one of the top 12 ideas to be worked upon during the 54 hours hackathon. A number of programmers and business developers joined our team. So throughout the 54 hour hackathon, we thought through all aspects of BonAppetour, starting from the business model, marketing strategy and also came up with a prototype of the website. We were humbled and excited that BonAppetour was chosen as the winning idea of Startup Weekend Milan.”
That was when Rinita and Inez both met Giovanni, whom complimented the team perfectly since they were originally lacking someone with a programming background. Ever since then, he moved to Stockholm, and now moved to Singapore to pursue the idea of BonAppetour further and turn it to an actual startup.
Miracle does happen to those who believe
Recalling the early stages of BonAppetour, Inez told Vulcan Post that there were a lot of non-believers. In the pre release stage, as the team do not have any functional website, it was hard to convince people to dine a the home of a local and enjoy the fancy BonAppetour experience the team had originally envisioned.
“People often dismissed us as crazy.”
The team resorted to wandering around all possible places they can think of to find guests. Finding hosts were relatively easier in Italy as opposed to finding guests.
“It was almost midnight, one day before a BonAppetour dinner was scheduled. Our host was already excited to host anybody, even if it was a single guest. All tired, we were ready to throw in the towel, and just cancel the BonAppetour dinner. However, to our surprise, the next day, we received so many RSVPs and booking requests. 15 guests had the chance to dine like Romans, on a rooftop, while the sun sets in the back drop. These guests ranges from from local Italians who wanted to try something different, to tourists from Australia, France, UK and US! Either the flyers that we distributed worked, or it was a miracle that happened overnight!” Inez shared with Vulcan Post.
Growth and development so far
Since its official launch in February 2013, the team has had over 100 meals so far, in Singapore as well as several different cities across Europe. Happy guests whom had positive experiences with their BonAppetour hosts in turn volunteered to be hosts in their own home country. Word of mouth was the primary method the BonAppetour community grew. Currently, there are over 200 homecooks available to host travellers on BonAppetour.
The BonAppetour team is currently in talks with a number of potential partners that they seek to collaborate with in order to bring in more guests onto its platform. When that is sorted, BonAppetour plans to charge a 15% booking fee to the guests. On top of that, the team may also be exploring the possibility of creating special premium accounts for our hosts, whereby these premium account hosts will be featured in BonAppetour’s marketing channels, and receive special perks.
Vulcan Post also asked BonAppetour what they were working on now. In line with the holiday season, the team is focused on arranging BonAppetour dinners and catering to the booking requests they have been receiving.
“We are hoping that many people can have the chance to try out something different this vacation, which is to dine at a local’s home. So for Vulcan Post readers who are travelling this vacation, we have a special Christmas gift for you: you can enjoy 20% off with the following promo code: VulcanDiners13. Valid till 31st of Jan 2014.”
So there we go, a special treat from the BonAppetour team to you. So do check out the website and if you are looking to enjoy a good meal in a local’s place, BonAppetour might just be able to give you what you are looking for in this Christmas.
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