Restauranteurs have now joined with the likes of taxi drivers and hoteliers by getting furious with new, online competitors. Specifically, Paris restaurant owners are very angry with chefs who have begun catering for diners - in their own homes rather than in restaurants. As a result of this growing trend that puts customers directly in touch with chefs, traditional eateries say they could be put out of business.
In some French restaurants, a quality dinner may cost more than $90 per person. At a dinner catered by a chef making the same quality dinner in his or her home costs dinner guests about $28 each.
Supporters of the phenomenon call it “shared economy” dining. Its detractors call it “underground restaurants.”
Shared economy dining follows the successes of Airbnb for hotels and Uber for taxis. It simply saves people lots of money.
Airbnb “is a trusted community marketplace for people to list, discover, and book unique accommodations around the world - online or from a mobile phone or tablet. Whether an apartment for a night, a castle for a week, or a villa for a month, Airbnb connects people to unique travel experiences, at any price point, in more than 34,000 cities and 190 countries.”
Obviously, the site has ignited the ire of hoteliers everywhere.
And of course Uber has simply turned the taxi industry on its head with the creation of ride sharing.
Synhorcat, the primary Paris restaurateurs’ union, has appealed to the French government to take steps to stop the phenomenon in its tracks. They argue that brasseries and bistros risk going under.
Synhorcat’s president Didier Chenet states that, “In the space of three years Airbnb has tripled its presence in Paris - to the point that there are now 50,000 flats advertised on its website.” He points out that small and medium-sized hotels have been hit very hard by the practice and have had to dramatically reduce their prices. He added that, “If the government doesn't do something to stop the underground restaurants, it will be the same disaster.”
In its argument against the 3,000 home-chefs in France that participate in shared-economy dining, Synhorcat emphasizes two major points: first, that home-restaurants are a piece of the black economy; and second, that safety and hygiene rules are blatantly being disregarded.
Chenet claims that, “There are people out there offering a service which is identical to restaurants: a choice of starters, main courses, desserts, wine, the works. But they pay no rent, no staff, no taxes - it is completely illegal.”
He feels very strongly about the situation and further adds that, “And if you want to set up a real restaurant, you need qualifications: how to deal with allergens; how to deal with alcohol. Do these people realize that if a customer drink-drives after a meal, they - the chefs - are partly responsible?”
Chenet adds that “Today many restaurants in France are on a knife-edge because of the economic crisis. Losing just half a dozen customers can spell disaster.”
But, Synhorcat may be hard-pressed to find a particular law that home chefs are breaking. Many of these new chefs cook for people at home as a hobby.
And owners of the website Vizeat - which is the market-leader in meal-sharing (as they call it) - reject claims that the home-chef industry is a threat to restaurants. People simply are seeking out a different type of experience.
Once again, new habits of consumers are challenging the older, established ways of doing business.