A young Milton Keynes entrepreneur and former fast food worker has launched the UK’s first ever online dinner party service.
Christopher Tau, who worked at KFC, McDonald’s and Nando’s, says he always dreamed of fine dining while he was flipping burgers.
Now his dreams have become reality with the launch of FoodHost.co.uk – and he plans to make civilised dinner parties something everyone in the UK can enjoy.
The site gives food lovers the chance to live out their ‘Come Dine With Me’ fantasies by hosting and attending dinner parties in their local area.
Tau, aged 23, funded the site through savings he put away during his time working at the fast food outlets. Now the firm plans to be the first UK company to tuck into a market that has already proved popular in the US.
Tau cooked up the idea after coming across a range of social sites based around sharing other products.
He said: “I spent several years working in fast food chains and found myself thinking up new and innovative approaches to food.
“I’ve always had a keen interest in peer to peer sites and after seeing the model work so well for the likes of sharing cars and spare bedrooms I thought, ‘Why hasn’t anybody done this for fine dining?’
“Never before has awareness of food and cooking been so high amongst the British public and programmes like ‘Come Dine With Me’ have shown just how much fun people can have hosting and attending local dinner parties.
“I hope by combining this idea to create a foodie social network which will allow people across the country to enjoy some of the best home cooked food around, whilst at the same time making new friends.”
Visitors to the site simply register some basic information about themselves before browsing the listings for upcoming parties in their local area, and clicking to attend any which catch their eye.
Those wishing to host an event can do so privately – inviting up to six people from the site, or publically, detailing the type of meal they will be cooking, with any guest them able to sign up on a first come, first served basis.
Some events even encourage shared cooking responsibilities with the host specifying which dish they will be cooking and agreeing with guests what foods they will bring along.
Attendees are asked to leave feedback on their meals with hosts scored out of five stars meaning there is an incentive to go all out to ensure a great evening is had by all.
Events, which cost between £2-3 to attend, can last just one evening oR be done on a reciprocal basis similar to the popular format of ‘Come Dine With Me.’
Hosts are unable to charge attendees for the meal, which Tau believes adds to the social element of the site. “We researched what opinions would be if the host charged for food and found that for many guests this would make them feel uneasy, detracting from their overall enjoyment.
“If hosts were to charge there would be an incentive for them to use cheaper ingredients to maximise their profits which once again would result in a less enjoyable culinary experience and goes totally against what the site is all about.”
Tau says that, as with all social networks, safety and security is a top priority and he has taken steps to ensure guests and hosts alike continue to have great experiences.
He said: “Our research found people had reservations about having strangers in their home, which is understandable. Therefore we have taken every step to build a creditable community by vetting all new members to ensure they are who they say they are.
“By encouraging them to link their Facebook and Twitter accounts, we hope to give members the greatest opportunity to find out as much as possible about the people they’ll be dining with.
“Guests are welcome to only offer private events whereby they pick who they invite and there’s even the option to specific the balance of male and female guests.”
He believes being the first firm to enter the UK market is a gamble worth taking if he is to fulfil his business ambitions. He said: “I think being the first to enter the UK market is a risk worth taking. I believe you should test yourself as much as possible whilst you’re young and I’ve already learned more lessons during the four months I’ve spent getting the site off the ground than I did during three years at university.
“My parents are both entrepreneurs and are fully behind me, which is great, but all the money that has gone into the business is my own and I hope the concept is as well received by the public as it has been in the US.”