Make new friends and get a good feed while you're doing it. That's the basic premise behind SocialTable, an intriguing new service inviting you to share a meal with a group of gastronomically compatible strangers.
Starting in September, SocialTable will team up with a number of carefully selected restaurants around Sydney. They'll work in partnership with the venues on specially designed set menus, the details of which will then be posted to the SocialTable website.
"For example, we might have a booking at a restaurant on a Thursday night for eight people," explains SocialTable co-founder Tom England. "We release that onto the website and as a diner you can see that table, you can get an idea of the menu, and book your seat."
"When you sign up you create a brief profile, including a photograph, your likes and dislikes around food, and interests outside of that," adds his business partner Ben Stokes. "You'll also get a brief snapshot of the person who might be sitting at the table with you."
Users will also be able to list any allergies, and buy drinks packages to go with their food. The whole meal will be paid for ahead of time via the SocialTable website (and eventually an app), with Stokes estimating an average bill of "around $50 to $60 for the food, and then drinks on top".
Initially the plan is to work with around ten medium-to-high-end restaurants in areas like Bondi, Manly, Newtown and the CBD, providing what England calls "a cross section of locations and a cross section of cuisines that really show what Sydney dining is all about." They're coy about exactly which restaurants they've struck deals with so far, although they plan on releasing the details of their launch event in the new few weeks.
In the long run, SocialTable hope to be hosting upwards of 20 dinners a week, and have already talked about expanding to Melbourne and potentially Perth. "Perth has a huge fly-in fly-out market," says Stokes, adding that they see the service as something not just for locals, but also tourists and business travellers.
Of course, the danger with a service like this is that you could end up on a table with people you don't have anything in common with. Then again, with all this talk about social bubbles we've been hearing recently, perhaps that's not such a bad thing. And hey, either way, at least you get dinner out of it.