Have Dinner, Make New Friends

When you travel a lot for business, you quickly become accustomed to eating alone, grabbing something quick from a drive-thru or getting a quick bite at a pub. It's easy to develop bad habits when, at the end of the day in an unfamiliar city, tired and alone, you just make a stop at a fast food joint and chow down in your hotel room while flipping through cable channels.

But why do that when instead you can find yourself sitting at a table full of friendly strangers, in an interesting culinary establishment, making connections and new friends? GrubWithUs, CookItForUs and Kitchit are all helping people connect and bringing the "social" aspect back to social networking by joining groups of people over meals. It doesn't matter if you're traveling, new to a city, networking, or just a hard-core foodie, somewhere there's an exciting meal waiting for you.

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GrubWithUs, both a web service and an app, aims to bring together groups of strangers over a good, old-fashioned face-to-face meal. Users browse meals, reserve and pay for the meals they choose, and then meet up with the other attendees at a restaurant to enjoy a family-style meal. Users can share a few online details about themselves as well as a photo, and make reservations based on people, locations or interests. GrubWithUs partners with restaurants, helping to bring exposure to the establishment, and helps coordinate the menu for the group, with most of the reservations running in the $20-$25 range.

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CookItForUs
is more than just a way to share your favorite recipes, it's also a way to share your favorite foods. Designed to connect "Cravers" with "Makers", the service allows you to select a food you're in the mood for — and then locate someone in the area who is able to make it for you, for a price. Members post the dishes they're "craving" and other members in the area can either share a recipe or make the dish. The meals can be prepared for pick up, delivery, dine in, or even made right in your home, and CookItForUs handles the order and payment. It's a crowd based service, so the more people who "crave" an item, the more makers will be making it.

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Kitchit is a service that focuses on the bespoke, or customized, dining experience by providing a way for people to hire award-winning chefs for meals, small parties and events held at your home. Kitchit members work directly with chefs to create a menu to their tastes; the chef then does all the shopping, prepping, and cooking and oversees service for the evening. They also handle the cleaning, which is a nice touch. It's a high-class offering, and the prices here range from a reasonable $40 per person, to a more elaborate $7,000 a piece.

(Images: 1 & 2. GrubWithUs, 3. CookItForUs, 4. Kitchit.)