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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Never Eat Alone Again: Grubwithus Offers In-Person Social Networking over Dinner

Posted By on Thu, Jul 14, 2011 at 11:45 AM

GRUBWITHUS
  • Grubwithus

After college, making friends isn't so easy. Hanging around bars may get you a hot one-night stand, but it's unlikely you'll meet your future best buddy. As for friending on Facebook and other online sites -- come now, we know you don't have 683 real friends.

That's why Eddy Lu and Daishin Sugano started Grubwithus, which is sort of like Groupon meets Facebook over dinner.

In a nutshell: Grubwithus partners with a restaurant to set a menu and reserve a table or tables. You can sign up for a fixed price to dine communally and, hopefully, make new friends. "It's a way to expand your social network and create real-life friendships that are not online," director of development Tricia Sabido tells SF Weekly.

"Grubbers" at a meal
  • "Grubbers" at a meal

It sounds cool and potentially awkward, but Grubwithus has a well-thought-out model. The meals, which typically range between $20 and $40, are capped at 8 to 10 "grubbers," and always include appetizer and dessert. At the majority of meals, dishes are served family-style. This is intended to make the meal more social and has the added benefit of letting each grubber try a range of dishes, more than you'd ever order for yourself. Since you pay beforehand, there's no check-splitting awkwardness at the end of the meal.

The website is clean and easy to use. Before you sign up for a meal, you can check out both the menu and the profiles of those who have already signed up. Keeping in line with the company philosophy of real-life networking, you're not allowed to send messages to people you haven't dined with -- that is enabled only after you've had your first in-person encounter.

Grubwithus started in Chicago and has spread to seven other cities. It opened in San Francisco in February and currently has 3,500 users in the city. This week, a Friday dinner at North Beach's Firenze by Night Ristorante and Sunday brunch at SOMA's Delancey Street Restaurant have already sold out.

Next: It's fun, but do you actually make friends?

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Caroline Chen

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