It seems like there’s a new food startup popping up every other week, each one promising to deliver your food even faster and fresher. To differentiate itself, Toronto-based U-Feast tries to take the slow approach — the company offers tickets to weekly off-menu “feasts” at restaurants across Toronto. Foodies get the feeling that they’re getting an exclusive dining experience, and brands can sponsor the feasts to get their products out there.
U-Feast is expanding its reach by acquiring competitor Pass The Table, which similarly offers restaurant experiences featuring a bespoke chef’s menu. U-Feast, which currently has about 3,500 members, said that the acquisition will add 2,000 new members to its platform, and projects to have over 8,000 members by the end of its first full year of operation.
Speaking with BetaKit, Jason Finestone, co-founder of Pass the Table, acknowledged that it is a delicate balance to combine a memorable food experience and experiential dining, but with over 300 dining experiences under its belt, the company has figured out how to strike that balance.
“We combine exceptional service, innovative food and carefully curated beverage pairings together with interactive engagement with the audience by chefs, sommeliers, and partner brand ambassadors which are all integral to creating a memorable culinary experience,” said Finestone, who is joining U-Feast as chief experience officer. Pass the Table co-founder Jeffrey Weber will be joining U-Feast’s board of directors.
“Incorporating the marketing element into our U-Feast dinners is not about selling to people or running an infomercial,” said Finestone. “We are as careful in choosing our brand partners as we are with the restaurants we host at, and only involve brands that fit with the food, theme, and venue. We carefully and seamlessly integrate appropriate brands into the experience to ensure that each partner brings added value to the table.”
Over the next year, U-Feast will launch a new user interface focusing on customization and building out its data analytics engine to better target customers. Pass the Table will also be integrating its culinary experiences into U-Feast. “These pre-curated experiences allow diners to choose their desired dates, and provide groups as small as two with access to experiences that no one else in the restaurant has, during a normal seating, such as special chef’s tables, tasting menus and hands-on experiences,” said Finestone.
U-Feast currently operates in Toronto and plans to expand to Vancouver in early 2017. Montreal and Chicago are also planned expansions for that year. “Chicago is also similar in size and scope to Toronto, making it an ideal fit for our first U.S. operation,” said Finestone. “It is also relatively easy to get to from Toronto so that we can carefully manage our U.S. launch with a pragmatic hands-on approach.”
Article image credit Brilynn Ferguson