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A New Way to Eat--and Meet
In 2010, when Eddy Lu and Daishin Sugano moved from Los Angeles to Chicago to open a cream puff shop ("They're the next cupcakes!" they say), the pair realized they'd overlooked one aspect of relocation: making new friends. They tried chatting with people in bars, but "guys thought we were hitting on them," Lu says. "It was awkward." Then they realized their best connections had formed over food. "Eating together is the classic way to socialize," says Lu.
A few months later, the pair launched grubwithus.com, where users browse dozens of upcoming gatherings at local restaurants and then book their seats at a table of strangers also looking to connect. The food is usually served family-style over multiple courses, which helps people settle in and get talking. "Grubbers" must adhere to a few rules, however: Be on time, don't check cell phones, and avoid politics-and-religion talk.
Now in dozens of cities—and available for anyone, in any city, who wants to use the site to set up a dinner—Grubwithus meals have produced friendships, job offers, and a few romances. But Sugano says he and Lu are their own best success story: "We arrived with no social network, and now we have 25 real friends in Chicago." And all because they remembered that before Facebook, there was food. "People say this is a forward-thinking service," Sugano says. "But making time to eat together is old-school. We're just going back to basics.
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