Los Angeles Business Journal

GrubWithUs Launches App for Last Minute Dining

By Tom Dotan Monday, January 28, 2013

When friends mention “cool new restaurant apps,” there can be a moment (depending on the friends) in which you’re not sure if they’re talking about finger foods or mobile software.

GrubWithUs isn’t about to make that any easier.

Today the software maker in Venice rolled out something called GrubTonight. It’s essentially an app for people who like apps.

To be fair, it’s more of a social connection tool where people can meet new folks at local restaurants over food and drinks. Users who download the iPhone app get a daily alert about a local restaurant that is hosting a meal in the evening at a communal table. People can purchase a seat for about $20, which gives them a drink, entrée, and, yes, an appetizer.

“We designed the app for that feeling at 3 p.m. when you’re hungry and wondering what you’ll do tonight,” said Eddy Lu, co-founder of GrubWithUs. “GrubTonight is a social experience where people can instantly have something to do every night of the week.”

Right now, the service is offered only in Los Angeles, and there are participating restaurants on the Westside, Hollywood and Downtown Los Angeles. On its maiden evening, GrubTonight is partnering with 26th Beach in Marina del Rey, Tiara Café in Downtown, and Café Med in West Hollywood. As the service ramps up, the plan is to have meal options every day of the week.

The communal tables are generally six to eight people, and the app maker handles the seating arrangements. To that end, the app gathers some basic information from the users, including their age and gender. Executives at GrubWithUs say they’re optimizing the seating for peak social interaction; so they’re trying to minimize inevitable fights between 20 and 30-year-olds arguing which cast of Saturday Night Live was the best.

With each ticket sold on GrubTonight, the Venice company takes a cut, though executives wouldn’t say exactly how much. And although the restaurants are offering their food for GrubTonight patrons at a discount, co-founder Lu said his company is keeping the restaurants’ needs in mind by keeping that cut small.

“We want this to be a partnership – we don’t want to be a Groupon-type thing,” he said.