At PlateCulture, a meal is more than just food
By Gabey Goh June 5, 2013
- Startup seeks to connect travelling foodies with local cuisine and hospitality
- After a closed trial, platform now open to the public with over 100 hosts
QUITE fittingly, it was over a plate of food and an exchange of travel experiences between Reda Stare (pic, left) and Audra Pakalnyte (right) that sparked an idea for PlateCulture.
PlateCulture is a community marketplace that connects foodies and passionate cooks with people who love eating authentic home-cooked meals, especially while travelling.
Co-founders Pakalnyte and Stare are both avid travellers and foodies, and have a strong passion for discovering the world through its kitchens.
Both agreed that the most memorable experience is when one goes off the beaten track and heads to city suburbs, meets local people and enjoys authentic local cuisine at someone’s house.
In an email interview with Digital News Asia (DNA), Pakalnyte shared that it was a recent trip to Thailand which sparked the initial inspiration. For many visitors, knowledge about Thai cuisine extends to only a few dishes such as pad thai noodles or tom yum soup, but there is a lot more to the cuisine which deserves exploring.
“We had the privilege of dining at a house with the locals where what was served was a plethora of dishes that you don’t see in menus at restaurants. And it’s not only about the food; having that deeper exposure is like feeding a hungry soul,” she said.
“You meet new people and learn about their everyday lives, traditions, sorrows and joys. We thought, isn’t this brilliant – the breakdown of cultural barriers through authentic culinary experience and meaningful conversations?” she said.
Filling up the plate
PlateCulture’s proposition is much like Airbnb, an online service that provides a platform for individuals to rent unoccupied living space and other short-term lodging to guests.
Another Malaysian startup, HungryHippie, also has a similar premise of connecting travelling foodies with knowledgeable locals, but the difference is that while HungryHippie is focused on eating out, PlateCulture is all about eating in.
“It is like Airbnb but just for food. Hungry travellers or adventurous locals can choose and book meal experiences through our platform. Hosts can do what they like the most – show off their cooking skills and get some get extra money,” Pakalnyte said.
A closed, invite-only version of the online platform which first launched in April has garnered over 100 registered members to date.
Pakalnyte said that the main focus initially was to collect a sizeable pool of hosts, with each potential candidate being vetted (meeting, tasting their food and establishing a personal connection) by the PlateCulture team before being accepted.
A public version of the platform was launched early this month and is now open for all to try.
“We’ve made it easy for users. Whenever you are craving a new experience, open up PlateCulture.com, browse kitchens that are available, check their availability for your selected date and book it with only two clicks,” Pakalnyte said.
Only once the host accepts a booking, will users receive the exact address of the location and directions on how to reach the place.
Passing the plate
According to Pakalnyte, resent research about travelling trends showed that 78% of Gen-Y are looking for a more individual and authentic experience and want to learn new things while travelling.
“We took this opportunity to redefine urban travelling and put one more new and unique thing on the ‘To Do’ list when in a new city,” she said.
Pakalnyte observed that from recent experiences, it is interesting not only for the travellers but for the locals as well who are bored of casual restaurant experiences and want to spice up their daily routine with a hearty home-cooked meal or celebrate a special occasion by having a five-course meal in a very intimate environment.
The goal is to make PlateCulture a unique place where one can find the food from all over the world, with Kuala Lumpur the first spot with its plethora of cuisines that originate not just from Malaysia but other cultures as well, such as Mauritian, Thai and even Lithuanian.
There are four people in the PlateCulture team at the moment, in addition to a pool of freelancers, and the venture is currently self-funded.
“We hold all main expertise such as product development, UX (user experience) and design, marketing, finance, human resource and community engagement in-house,” Pakalnyte said.
Key goals for the next 12 months from the technology side is to release a new version of the website and develop a mobile application; and on the business side, to scale up and expand PlateCulture to other Asian markets.
The team is committed to their idea and platform, believing that the unique and culturally rich experiences that come with every meal hosted will prove an exciting – and hopefully enduring lure – for the adventurous and the curious.
“After all, over one meal, friendships are made and business ideas are born!” quipped Pakalnyte.
To get a taste of PlateCulture, click here.