Giovanni Casinelli is the founder of BonAppetour, an online platform for social dining. He shares with James Robertson, our Singapore curator, memorable dinners, inspirations for starting the company and the difference of growing the platform in Asia and Europe in this Pioneer Interview.
1. How did you first come up with the idea for BonAppetour?
The idea came about in December 2012. Inez and Rinita were on holiday in Paris for Christmas. Coming from Singapore they didn’t realize most of the restaurants would be closed on Christmas day. From the streets though, they could hear happy families enjoying their Christmas dinners. That made them think for the first time that would be great to have a service that can help anyone have a meal with local people and families. The idea of BonAppetour was born.
2. What do you think makes BonAppetour’s offering unique from other food or dining related apps and experiences?
We focus a lot on the community. Being it a community marketplace, we know the most important factor is trust between the people. We try to facilitate this point in multiple ways. First we have an automated social media account verification (hosts have to connect their facebook account). On top of that we personally go (ourselves, or through our city ambassadors) to have dinner and verify all our hosts. This way we make sure that the experience for the guests that will book them will be definitely worth it.
Another important point is that we want the whole experience to be awesome, not only the food. That’s why on BonAppetour you can find experiences ranging from a simple meal with a family to a dinner on a boat on a river in Rome.
3. You’ve grown the business simultaneously in both Europe and Asia. How do people react differently in various locations?
Very differently! That’s been an interesting discovery for us. On average people in Europe are more willing to open their doors to travelers, while in Asia people are a bit more conservative, and some are not as comfortable hosting strangers in their homes. But that’s on average, what’s fascinating is seeing how each and every person is unique in their own beliefs and openness to trying new things.
4. Are there any particular countries you would really like to set up in, where you haven’t already?
We’re currently open for hosts to join us from any country in the world, and we’re happy to reach 5 continents already. That said, we don’t have a big presence in the US yet, and we may want to focus on it in the near future.
5. What is your most memorable dinner so far?
It’s hard to tell from other people’s experiences, so I’ll go with one I had myself. It was July 2013. We were in Rome, and had gathered with other travelers from all around the world to have dinner with Susanna. She was a new host who had just joined BonAppetour at the time. The location was on the rooftop of a building. We all didn’t give much thought to it in the beginning, but once we arrived there it was stunningly beautiful. From there you could see the whole Rome, something I had never seen myself, even though I was born not far from there. We saw the sunset and the night fall over Rome. We had a delicious dinner, and we had fun until late at night.
As I said before it’s not just the meal that makes BonAppetour what it is, but the fantastic experiences you get to have with the member of its community.