FanWide had a pretty good idea for a business. The Seattle-based startup’s platform connected fans of various sports teams to create game watching parties at more than 800 local sports bars across the country. But in this pandemic world there is no sports and sports bars are closed, so…. yeah. Time to pivot.
Like so many other food–related companies during this outbreak, FanWide quickly adapted its product offering and business model to change with the times. Instead of connecting fans in front of TVs to watch a game together in real life, it is focusing its efforts on virtually connecting people with the chefs at their local restaurants to buy meals and learn how to cook them at home.
Here’s how it works. Once onboarded to FanWide’s platform, restaurants select a meal they want to offer (typically something built around a protein that isn’t too complex). Restaurants direct interested consumers to its dedicated section on FanWide, where they can order the meal ingredients directly from the restaurant as well as any add-ons like wine and select a time slot for the live video cooking demonstration.
The restaurant preps all the ingredients and assembles them into a meal kit that participants pick up at the restaurant (presumably in a contactless fashion). When it’s time, people log into FanWide and get livestreamed instructions showing them how to prepare their meal. The chef walks people through all the pre-heating, searing, flipping and plating and a sommelier can talk about the wine pairing. According to FanWide, classes typically last 45 minutes.
FanWide is targeting higher-end restaurants who have a more dedicated clientele, and anticipates meals costing consumers roughly $50 per serving (so a family of four would pay ~$200). FanWide makes its money by charging a 17.5 percent commission on the total bill (before tax) . Fifty bones per serving ain’t cheap for a dinner, but if the classes are good, that price becomes more palatable because FanWide is offering more of an experience rather than just grabbing a straight takeout meal.
FanWide is offering customers trapped in their homes another means of mixing things up in the kitchen. While services like Food Network’s Kitchen app offers live cooking instruction from celebrity chefs, FanWide offers a deeper connection to local chef’s in people’s hometown. Not only do you learn from your neighbor, but you also support that restaurant during a time when they need it most. These types of local connections could make Fanwide more appealing for community-minded folks.
But at the end of the day, how good the virtual classes are is what will make or break the FanWide experience for people. It’s also the thing that’s almost entirely out of FanWide’s control. The company provides restaurants with a guide for proper video setup, but it’s still up to the restaurant to have a decent camera, placed in proper position with good lighting, and a solid mic, etc. Chefs cook good food, they don’t do video production, and with social distancing measures, it’s not really advisable to have a film crew coming through a kitchen on a regular basis.
I don’t think FanWide’s pivot into livestreaming cooking classes is a bad idea. It’s certainly better than holding out hope that sports and sports bars will come back anytime soon. But as a parent, I don’t imagine this is something I would do to make dinner with/for my 9-year-old. If we didn’t have a kid, it might be something fun and different to try while cooped up with a significant other once in a while, but again, it would depend on the quality of the presentation.
FanWide’s livestream cooking classes are on a limited trial basis right now, testing with family and friends before rolling out more broadly. But the company is eager to add restaurants to the platform from anywhere in the country.
Regardless of how well it works, kudos to FanWide for being so nimble and rolling with the pandemic punches. It’s one more example of tech startups pivoting to pitch in and help restaurants continue to earn revenue during this downturn. We’ve seen other companies like Territory Foods open up its platform so restaurants can sell pre-packaged meals to customers, and Impossible Foods allow restaurants to sell Impossible’s plant-based meat directly to consumers.
Now we’ll just need to see how far FanWide’s virtual cooking classes will be reach, and how soon sports will return, so it can reconnect with its original fanbase.