WeFiFo: the supper club platform using technology and food to help combat loneliness

“Supper clubs have been around for a while, it’s as old as the hills. What we’re doing is providing the infrastructure.”

So says Seni Glaister, founder and CEO of WeFiFo (short for We Find Food), a marketplace for food events and supper clubs. Similar to Airbnb, the platform allows people to open up their homes as hosts to foodie evenings, or as a way for chefs to diversify their skills. 

Glaister may think supper clubs are as old as the hills, but they’re increasingly becoming the cool way to socialise. Alice Levine and Laura Jackson are often credited with reinvigorating the supper club trend with their must-attend events, and you can now find a supper club on any given night in London, whether it’s a Italian-themed or even veggie.

For Glaister, it’s about connecting people through food, with the help of some tech too. Here’s what you need to know about WeFiFo and the communities connecting through delicious dinners. 

How WeFiFo started

Founding and establishing companies is in Glaister’s blood. She started The Book People at the tender age of 21 back in 1988 with co-founder Ted Smart, the bookselling platform which distributed to its customers via a catalogue, and later a website. 

“Only yesterday I was doing a talk about disruption and the gig economy. Those [words] were absolutely relevant to The Book People when we began, but then the language hadn’t been invented then,” Glaister tells the Standard

After a management buy-out in 2014, Glaister spent a year on TBP’s board as a non-executive director, before deciding to leave and branch out with WeFiFo. 

Seni Glaister, founder and CEO of WeFiFo (WeFiFo)

As an early fan of Airbnb, she wanted to create a marketplace that could give home cooks “a stage and an audience.”

“The idea for WeFiFo occurred to me quite completely, but the more I thought about it, the more compelling the reasons became. I [wanted] to give a platform to the cooks, but the biggest societal problem it can solve is too many people eat in isolation,” explains Glaister.

The statistics don’t lie: a study in 2017 revealed that almost half of all meals in the UK are eaten alone, whilst 34 per cent of UK adults can go a whole week without eating a meal alongside someone else. 

“Making a dent in that statistic gave me the purpose I needed,” she adds.

How WeFiFo works 

There are a few ways you can use WeFiFo. One way is as a guest, when all you need to do is select an event you’d like to attend, pay, show up, eat food, and leave a review afterwards. 

The events are facilitated by the hosts and the cooks. New cooks are listed as novice cooks, and then they can progress through the system up to home chef thanks to ratings and reviews. 

For hosts, they can train for their Level 2 Food Certificate, paid for by WeFiFo, as part of its programme. “We give a lot of support – get their domestic kitchen checked by their local environmental health officers, so all of our home cooks have their five-star food rating, so it’s safe for guests and hosts,” explains Glaister. 

In this way, everybody wins. People get to delicious food, home cooks get to test out their talents and hosts can pick up some new skills along the way. 

“It’s more relevant than ever before as we tackle the loneliness issue, but also as the gig economy allows more people to start thinking about where they might go in the future, side gigs become more relevant.”

Glaister says they probably have more professional chefs on the platform than they expected, but it’s also helping to tackle the major gender imbalance in the food industry. Women are more likely to cook meals at home, as well as do the food shopping, but in the professional kitchen, men reign supreme, and only 15 per cent of professional chefs are women.

At WeFiFo, 65 per cent of its hosts are female. The platform is empowering these home cooks and hosts to showcase their skills and have some fun at the same time. 

Creating people businesses thanks to tech 

Though WeFiFo is a tech company, as a marketplace platform, Glaister sees it as more of a people business. “The tech part makes everything easier – the food choice is easier, quicker, safer, but WeFiFo is about real people, real conversations [and] that doesn’t exist without people leaving their homes and going somewhere to eat,” she explains.

A stint in the John Lewis Accelerator programme, JLAB, means WeFiFo took £100,000 in investment from the retail stalwart in 2017, culminating in a partnership with Waitrose that is bringing WeFiFo supper clubs into stores

“They had a desire to do experiential dining, to increase footfall and dwell time within their stores. And we felt we could resolve that for them very quickly,” says Glaister. 

The Waitrose supper clubs cater to a different demographic to usual WeFiFo events, Galister says they’re generally empty nesters and social foodies. But, 42 per cent of those customers have gone on to other WeFiFo events since. 

“The atmosphere is always fantastic, there’s loads of laughter at the table. They’re noisy, fun, foodie affairs and people really enjoy them.” 

There’s also a focus at WeFiFo on solo dining: 30 per cent of attendees are solo diners. These aren’t dating events, something Glaister was keen to keep away from, but simply people wanting to connect over food. 

“I’ve walked up and down a high street to find somewhere welcoming to eat by myself,” she says. “Being able to go and join a conversation is such a healthy thing, for your mental and physical health, and I want more men and women to feel comfortable to be single and join a table.” 

Earlier this year, WeFiFo smashed through its crowdfunding target of £400,000 to facilitate its expansion. The rest of 2019 is focused on the Waitrose events and growing across the UK. Does this mean an international expansion could be on the cards?

“That’s a huge part of the ambition,” says Glaister. “But the focus right now is prove the product in the UK. London is chronically lonely, the UK is lonely, it is an epidemic. And if we can make the model work here, we can make it work anywhere.” 

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