"We Found Grub in a Hopeless Place”

My friends suck. Where do I find replacements?... Grubwithus.com

Grubwithus is an online/offline social community that was created by Eddy Lu and Daishin Sugano in July 2010 and headquartered in Venice, California. After meeting at the University of California, Berkeley, Lu and Sugano worked together on a variety of start-ups, one of which required them to relocate to Chicago. Their realization that they lacked a friendship network in the city resulted in the idea for Grubwithus. According to Lu, "Meetup groups are good, but they're usually geared to an event. When you're eating at a restaurant, you're locked in place for an hour or two. You have to socialize with the person sitting next to you." The site currently has an estimated over 40,000 users and continues to grow.

Grubwithus is a social dining network which aims to use online social networks to spark offline connections. “Grubbers” are able to choose a meal from a variety of online options. These social gatherings at restaurants serve to develop personal and professional relationships through a shared dining experience. Grubwithus is targeted at individuals looking to make friends in a new city or neighbourhood, or network with people with similar interests. The young, witty brand has been getting a lot of media attention from outlets like Mashable, The Huffington Post, Toronto Star, and Fast Company.

Grubwithus meals are held at restaurants with generally 6-10 people at each table. The menus are set in advance and users pay an all-inclusive price (including the price of the food, tax and gratuity) online. To bring people together over similar interests whether that is their love for cats or passion for travelling, most meals are themed and hosted by Grubwithus. Grubwithus recently launched an iPhone application called GrubTonight to make the experience more spontaneous.

Grubwithus also allows users to create their own meals. The meals can either be public allowing others to join or private- such as birthdays or bachelorette parties- allowing only those who have been invited to the meal to see it. The Create A Meal option allows Grubbers to create meals anywhere.

The site allows individuals to become users by using their Facebook account to sign up, making the process quick and convenient. Users sign up for free and can then look through all meals and people and find something or someone they like. This allows users to see who they will be dining with prior to the meal by checking their profiles.

The prices for the meals are determined by Grubwithus negotiating directly with the restaurants. They set a price so that the meals are affordable, while allowing the restaurant to make money and allowing Grubwithus to make money as well. They guarantee that the Grubwithus price will always be lower than what a customer would pay going to the restaurant on their own.

Research suggests that the Internet is increasingly becoming a meeting venue for couples in replacement of more traditional methods (Rosenfeld and Thomas). This tool accommodates the trend of increased online socializing and dating, as singles are included in the target market of Grubwithus. It is also compatible with a more recent trend of taking online offline, and using social media to connect with people in real life.  As the marketplace becomes more global, more individuals are relocated to new countries or travel frequently for business. This leads to an increased presence of individuals in foreign environments, in need of meeting others in social settings to create new networks of friends.

As a tool that brings online offline, Grubwithus presents several opportunities to complement other tools of the marketing communication mix. This tool allows restaurants to drive traffic of certain target audiences such as singles, entrepreneurs, and food lovers. By driving traffic through a tool targeted at these groups, restaurants can link their product and service offerings to the brand image of Grubwithus, and increase awareness of the quality of their food and service.

The connection to Grubwithus, and the exposure to the restaurant through this medium may improve consumers' perceptions of the atmosphere of the restaurant, and the needs that it fulfills such as fun and spontaneity. This marketing tool provides a potential for increased sales through customers returning after their first experience as a grubber, additional sales during a prepaid Grubwithus experience through additional drinks and menu items, and increased traffic during off-peak days.  The tool features new, local, high-quality restaurants, and caters to users who "appreciate the dining experience", rather than those who simply seek an inexpensive meal. Grubwithus also offers continued promotion of its restaurant clients. As Grubwithus is a social tool, it presents the potential for synergies with social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pintrest, as well as the restaurants’ websites. As grubbers’ experiences and interactions are centered around the restaurant and the meal, it may also improve word of mouth promotion.

While Grubwithus presents many potential benefits to restaurants, it presents several risks as well. Because this tool’s primary purpose is to plan dining experiences among strangers, it has the potential to result in an extreme (either positive or negative) outcome. A negative experience could cause unfavourable media associations or brand conversations online, and there are also safety concerns with any tool that takes an online experience offline. Meals are sold at a discount, which results in decreased immediate profit per meal to restaurants with an uncertain future return on investment.

Toronto Silent Film Festival
(“Get Together and Talk” Campaign)

Grubwithus is also interested in partnerships and collaborating with other brands, foundations, and companies. For example, there is an opportunity for restaurants in the downtown Toronto area to partner with Grubwithus and the Toronto Silent Film Festival (April 4th-9th) to increase their customer base by creating dining events targeted at Film Festival attendees. Restaurants will attempt to communicate that they are a venue for like-minded strangers to meet and socialize about a common interest (i.e. Toronto Silent Film Festival). The market will be segmented by psychographics, targeting consumers who are interested in silent films. Rational appeals in the form of information about the meals and the opportunity to network and share interests will be present throughout the campaign, while emotional appeals will highlight the consumer’s need for social interaction, spontaneity and fun.

Restaurants in the downtown Toronto area should perform market research and a competitive analysis to determine their positioning within the market and determine whether the individuals attending the film festival are within their current customer base. If this is so, restaurants can encourage repeat customers during the event, and spark a new image for the restaurant. If not, restaurants can attract new customers by including Grubwithus in their communications campaign and potentially create a new customer base.

Select restaurants can offer a unique selling proposition by providing a venue for attendees of the festival to meet other film buffs spontaneously to discuss the event over dinner. This proposition will satisfy the physiological need for nutrition, as well as the need for socializing and belonging by providing a chance to discuss the festival with a like-minded group of individuals over a meal.

During the information search stage in the purchase decision making process, it is essential to have the product or service included in the consideration set of the consumer. This can be achieved by associating a restaurant with Grubwithus and the Toronto Silent Film Festival. This will continue in future purchase decision making processes as a result of the use of Grubwithus as part of an integrated marketing communications campaign. Advertisements can be placed during the event and through the website of the Film Festival to encourage attendees to go to Grubwithus.com to join other film attendees after a screening at organized meals at restaurants. These advertisements will support other aspects of the integrated marketing communications campaigns of the restaurants whether that is their use of Twitter, Facebook or other social media platforms etc. This will place the participating restaurants in the consideration set of these film festival attendees above their competitors.

The post-purchase evaluation stage of the purchase decision making process is also very important to ensure repeat customers. The restaurant should communicate with attendees through direct email following the event to reinforce positive brand perceptions and encourage positive word of mouth.

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