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Lithuanian PlateCulture proves itself in Southeast Asia, gets €200k to grow

Lithuanian Airbnb for home-cooked meals PlateCulture which is successfully operating in Southeast Asia received €200k by Practica Capital to grow their presence.

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The investment agreement was signed in September 2014 but was conditional upon user traction.There are now over 150 chefs from 20 countries listed on the platform and the number is growing 80% month-on-month.

PlateCulture will use the funds to develop improve their web page for convenience of hosts and to build mobile apps for accessibility to guests.

The platform lets you experience a home-cooked meal wherever you go. You can eat with locals at their homes, ask anything you want about the meal, and you also know that whatever you pay fully goes to the cook who made it.

PlateCulture was launched in September 2014 in Malaysia and is now operating in Philippines, Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam and others. The reason for the faraway market was deep local traditions for homemade meals.

It all started with the founder of Reda Stare visiting the region:

“I was traveling Southeast Asia for a year and made friends with locals, who would slowly introduce me to homes where I could eat authentic cuisine,” she remembers. “After coming back home, I kept having flashbacks of this amazing experience. I wished others could feel it, too.”

In 2013, Reda went back to Malaysia to do some boots-on-the-ground research. She wanted to know, whether local hosts would be open to welcome strangers in their houses. What she discovered was amazing.

“They do not have this fear of letting anyone in their house,” Reda remembers. “They are crazy about their food, love to cook it, love to talk about it and love to share it. When we found out that they are not anxious about our idea, we rolled out our minimum viable product – just a simple web page where you can leave your contacts.”

This is how PlateCulture got their first chefs, first guests and first dinners online. While the primary idea was to make it a tourist attraction, about 80% of visitors are locals.

“We started as a tourist attraction, but I am glad that our main customers are locals,” Reda reveals. “After all, it builds a community and ensures credibility. When you see locals are eating through Plate Culture, you know that this is not another tourist trap.”

See how it works in the video below:

“You cannot distinguish food and culture here. Locals throughout Southeast Asia are crazy about food. Kuala Lumpur stands in traffic jams during lunch breaks because if a Malaysian knows a good noodle place he will drive there for dinner, even if it is 45 min away,” Reda smiles. “We also have two foodie hotspots in Southeast Asia – Thailand and Japan. Plenty of tourists go there just for food and even more have food as one of their top reasons to visit.”

Reda’s platform found significant interest from chefs in Hong Kong, where home kitchens are an already established tradition. Locals loved the convenient way to manage reservations.

PlateCulture also lets locals experience foreign food, without leaving their city. Thailand, Hong Kong, and Singapore have many foreigners, offering Italian, French, Korean and African cuisine.

However, while establishing themselves in world’s most foodie-populated region, PlateCulture is also looking for growth in other parts of the world

“We will definitely test out at least one country outside of Southeast Asia,” she notes. “Most likely it will be in Europe, but we are still deciding, which one.”

PlateCulture already has a few hosts in Eastern Europe, Spain in Portugal. However, they will have to be ready for competing with VizEat gaining ground in the West after acquiring French Cookening.com. In the US the situation is even tougher with Feastly, EatWith and MealSharing gaining traction.

PlateCulture also is not limited to Southeast Asia. The platform lets chefs from all around the world register and offer their meals. There are cooks from Brazil, the US, India, China, UK and other countries listed there.

To become a chef one needs to sign up, fill in the profile and upload photos of meals. After a while, PlateCulture will send an ambassador to review your meal. The ambassador will check if everything matches the description, take photos and provide your first review. Additionally, hosts reviewed by ambassadors will receive a green sticker on their profile:

Because PlateCulture is an online platform and not a restaurant, they are less affected by food regulation. Legally, they are just a platform for getting to know people and having a dinner together, which makes it possible to accept chefs from around the world.

Our best regulator are user reviews,” says Reda. “Hosts put their reputation on the line, eat with their guests and are becoming part of the community. We are operating for almost two years and nobody has had food poisoning or any other serious problems.

If you would like to join PlateCulture as a cook, you can do it here. If you are traveling to any of the 20 countries and see a cook without the green sticker, you can reach out to the team to become an ambassador.

Ambassadors must speak English during the test, make good photos of the place and provide a practically useful, concise review. They review the quality of food, the proximity and cleanliness of the house and provide a price estimate.

The next steps for PlateCulture are releasing their iOS app in 2 months, fine-tuning their Android and web versions, as well as expanding the userbase. So if you know a great chef who was always dreaming of his or her own restaurant, you may want to suggest they try PlateCulture.

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Marija Odineca
Marija Odineca
I cover Baltic tech startups sharing startup stories, data, insights, and opinions

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