For years, Airbnb transformed private houses around the world into hotels, allowing people to rent out their homes to strangers. Now, Airbnb has its sights on turning homes into restaurants.
Airbnb invites San Franciscans to “hold dinner parties for strangers and charge them a fee,” Wired reports. And government regulators are as happy about Airbnb’s culinary pursuits as they are about its room-sharing service—which is to say, the government is not happy at all.
San Francisco’s head of food safety told SF Weekly, it is “completely illegal” to sell food without a permit, and the city threatens to fine Airbnb dinner hosts $3,000.
Besides the obvious lack of sanitation or health inspection and heightened risk of foodborne illness, these unlicensed food services would compete “with existing restaurants that have suffered through considerable red tape to get up and running,” Wired explains. It would take money away from those whose actual, pay-the-bills jobs are feeding people.
Why this sudden desire to get cooking? In a recent post entitled “Shared City,” Airbnb CEO and co-founder Brian Chesky wrote that cities are too “mass-produced” and we live “closer together, but drift farther apart.” Getting people together around the dinner table, even if they’re paying, is a step toward fulfilling the idealistic sense of community Chesky seeks to foster.
Although its dinner party plans face major opposition, Airbnb has power, having successfully used the Internet to show people there’s a hotel alternative. The company has learned how to work the system, if you will. And it’s scary to think Airbnb could do the same thing to dining, potentially upending the restaurant industry.
How do you feel about Airbnb’s ambitions to turn home owners into unofficial restaurateurs?