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Making Friends Over 30 with Grubwithus (grubwithus.com)
183 points by eddylu on July 16, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 71 comments

I don't want to criticize the post as promotional, because it's the company blog, and it's their job to be talking about themselves. At the same time, I don't think it's a real answer to the NY Times article. You're not going to make friends over one dinner.

I've gone to a couple GrubWithUs dinners, and they were great. I met interesting people, had interesting conversations, and even made some new acquaintances.

I didn't "make friends," though. That's a much different thing, and comes from a different place. The original NY Times article made great points about our changing nature as we mature getting in the way of deep friendships. That's all true, but there are also logistical practicalities.

The great friends you make in school or college are people that you saw every day, or at least every week, in class and around campus. You shared groups and activities, whether it was a sport, a band, drama club, your D&D group, whatever. Friendship takes repeated exposure in mundane situations.

I've had some great, intense experiences with acquaintances as an adult. A few years ago, I took a cross-country road trip with a guy that I met through a mutual friend. I was writing an article about the Smart Car, and he was my photographer. We drove 4,000 miles over 12 days, and had a great time. We both live in New York, and I even run into him at the occasional show. Without a regular, everyday reason to hang out, though, we just faded into acquaintances.

For people who want to have real friendships as adults, maybe what we need is some kind of structure in our lives that more closely resembles what people have earlier in life. For myself, I still have a D&D group, and while I don't want to hang out with everyone all the time, I have made some real and lasting friendships in the group. I'm sure most people could think of some way to find structure and camaraderie on a regular basis. I don't think GrubWithUs really does that, though.

> You're not going to make friends over one dinner. ... Friendship takes repeated exposure in mundane situations.

I agree... so why not host multiple dinners? On your own?

I started hosting my own dinners[1] at my house every Wednesday and it's been fantastic. Really super great. I can't advocate it enough, especially for someone introverted like myself who may not want to go out of his way to interact with new people every day.

The people that come to the dinners are people I meet through my roommates, or old friends, or workers at the local cafe (original and ongoing source of roommates too), or their friends. Sometimes we invite acquaintances on an off chance. Neighbors are fair game too. GrubWithUs would just be another "source" of potentially great people. After all if they don't click, you don't have to invite them next week.

Another similar event I started was a recurring beer tasting event with the owner of the cafe. This is a completely different crowd, fairly varied in age, but still small enough to be intimate and regular enough to make good acquaintances and bring people together.

There have got to be a lot of ways to introduce regularity into your life with acquaintances. Hell, even going to the same cafe regularly can help with that.

GrubWithUs may not be good for long term friends, but it does provide a sampling of people that you can in turn invite to your own regular dinners. It's a launch-pad for finding people to invite to your own regular events.

[1] Some photos: http://imgur.com/a/X2Zoj

Congratulations on leading the dinner parties! That is awesome!

Weird book recommendation that you very well might like - if you are open to it.


Dinner parties are the engine of French social life. It's part of their culture. In such a small country, you have to know someone before you 'date' someone.

In France, dating is something that is just not done. French women throw dinners on Friday to bring together men and women - no such things as 'Girls Night Out'. A guy invited to the dinner cannot expect much - opposite of a date with built-in social expectations - and both parties get to see the person in a real social setting, not an artificial one.

You may find the chapters about just living and the dinner parties interesting.

France isn't that small...

Frankly I wish this kind of thing were more popular in the USA too. Dating strangers is nice and individualistic and all, but I'm way more comfortable meeting people through friends and more to the point it's fun - which is more than I can say for spending hours writing OkCupid messages which will 90% of the time be ignored.

I'm glad that hosting dinners has worked well for you, but my experiences attempting the same almost exactly mirrored the descriptions in the NYT article. I.e., long and exhausting back-and-forths trying to find a day that works for all parties. Even trying a fixed day, as you did, didn't work so well, as it became this complicated and frustrating experience of having to "book" someone's Weds weeks in advance and keep track of which of our friends and acquaintances were available when.

I don't do this based on specific people; it's more, "I'm having some friends for supper this Wednesday. You coming?"

K.I.S.S.-- this admit's of a binary argument only.

Wow. You had just what I had in mind. I created Strangers for Dinner to that extent. We've had about 4 dinner parties so far and they were pretty amazing.

The amount of conversation you get with strangers, learning more about different people.

Hope I don't sound too self-promotional, but you can check out Strangers for Dinner: http://strangersfordinner.com

Nice website. Would love to check it out but I don't use Facebook. I really don't understand why websites don't have alternative means of creating an account.

It's worth considering that people who are more likely to use such a site might be more introverted than the average person and perhaps less likely to have a Facebook account.

We actually target INTJ and INTP people for Strangers for Dinner. And yes, we're looking to move away from Facebook, but right now, Facebook has a wealth of information about a user.

Our system can make heuristic guesses (and validate that you're a real person) about your interests by using Facebook, so it's gonna be difficult to replace for the time being.

Sorry about your non-experience with SfD

Why target INTJ and INTP? Do you do anything on the site to verify the personality type?

I thought it was a bit weird you used Pyongyang as the default. If you had picked any other foreign city I would have assumed it was a foreign website and given up then. Probably better to leave blank (I had to delete Pyongyang, so this would have saved me typing) or fill in using IP geolocation.

no we don't verify personality types. That'd be creepy. I started SfD for a personal reason (in fact I posted it here at HN first saying I didn't have friends). People like me would be my target audience, I decided. Them extroverts have enough friends already.

I used Pyongyang as a form of negging. The idea was to use repugnance to force people to change the form. There is a IP geolocation version coming out really soon (as well as other features)

Very nice, for what little I can see. One of those loonies who have deleted my facebook account. I have twitter, openID etc.

How do I finish filling out the profile? Apparently I can't respond to "Bring a plus one" to the party?

If you click on the Plus One button it will toggle and automatically save the status. This is a clear usability issue.

Do you have any suggestions on how to fix it?

"Friendship takes repeated exposure in mundane situations."

Or, in some cases, limited exposure in exciting or trying situations. I have at least one really good friend that I met on a (in retrospect) comically terrible plane flight. I have some close friends I met on a two-week-long backpacking trip, and some that I met on a summer-long volunteering trip.

Sometimes, if the initial meeting is very memorable or intense, it can accelerate the process. I can't say for sure whether that's possible at a dinner. Unless it's a truly bizarre and memorable dinner.

When was the last time you talked to your plane flight friend?

Two days ago.

> I didn't "make friends," though.

Well, you have to start somewhere, and acquaintances are a first step.

My own negative reaction to the article came from the idea of being stuck next to other people at a dinner. I recall one time in Austria being sat across the table from an individual whose idea of a shower was apparently going hiking during the summer rains - and it was February.

But hey, I guess everyone tries different things, and you see what works. This is as good as anything.

> You're not going to make friends over one dinner. ... Friendship takes repeated exposure in mundane situations.

I made two friends at a GrubWithUs dinner. I think in today's climate you have to be so much more deliberate and calculating to have friends. You have to treat friendships the same way you treat online dating- meet as many people as possible and make plans with as many of them as you can. Which is really annoying, but otherwise I frankly would have no friends since I work from home and my colleagues are primarily older married men.

How I made these friends is I put cool people I met in my contact list and invited them to lots of things I already like to do on a regular basis. I also formed my own supper club that meets once or twice a month. Obviously it doesn't work out with everyone, but it worked out with two so far, which is great. As a woman who works in tech and has always had interests that are primarily shared with men, it has always been hard to me to make female friends, so I'm really grateful for anything that allows me to widen my net.

I would say a major obstacle to making friends for me is that at my age people are starting to couple and making their relationships their priority. I have a few friends whose significant others will not like them go anywhere unless they are also invited (and often these significant others are unpleasant people). It is sad to lose these friendships.

> I have a few friends whose significant others will not like them go anywhere unless they are also invited (and often these significant others are unpleasant people). It is sad to lose these friendships.

Even sadder is that pleasant people should be tied up in relationships with unpleasant ones. How does that happen? Is there a shortage of pleasant people, or does everyone care more about looks/money than kindness?

Insightful post. I've noticed the same thing by going to Reddit meetups. With the exception of recurring events (like boardgame night) you really only see the "regulars" once a month, so if you miss one meetup, you really lose out on a chance to get to know anyone. That, and despite bars having the right atmosphere for a meetup, it's usually impossible to talk to anyone outside of the 3-4 people directly next to you.

Just because structures like that are sometimes helpful doesn’t mean that they’re necessary. When I first moved to Austin, I tried a couple of meetups on nights when I had nothing else going on. None of the groups interested me enough to make me go back, but I made friends I still hang out with now, seven years later.

If you mean someone you click with, it’s easy to say “let me know next time you go Xing”, if you share a hobby; if not, you can just decide to meet to check out some interesting food cart or restaurant, and then go from there. Is that really so hard to do? I’m incredibly shy, and even I can do that much!

That's exactly it, the NY Times article wasn't only saying it was hard to meet people, it was saying that it's hard to hold on to people that you meet, because you just don't have the time to spend nurturing a friendship.

> For myself, I still have a D&D group…

Oddity, that's exactly why I started to play D&D (…erg, pathfinder) at age of my life.

It's great if you mostly want male friends...

As Simon Sarris mentioned, perhaps a good idea would be to host a dinner party.

I'm currently running Strangers for Dinner (http://strangersfordinner.com). It's a work in progress. But the idea is simple: host a dinner party for someone who share similar interests, maybe engage your guests in the preparation of a dinner party (that's something we've tried and worked)

There is something to the "shared struggle" philosophy of making friends. One of the dinner parties we held, we actually asked our guests to help us make food. I have a very tiny kitchen, and it was difficult to make food with many people in the kitchen. Overcoming this tiny shared struggle, I think we've managed to make friends (of course after the meal we also washed up, and exchanged facebook contacts).

It can be done. I mean, during our first dinner party ever (http://blog.strangersfordinner.com/2012/06/field-report-nasi...), we met a journalist. 2 months on, we're working together on creating press releases for SfD and marketing to mummy bloggers.

Sometimes it's the power of weak connections that you want to harvest. And through working together, you become better friends.

Genuine and real friendships take time. Strangers for Dinner and Grub with Us are merely tools. Use them and use them wisely

> Friendship takes repeated exposure in mundane situations.

When I've been over at my sisters and they have their good friends over, they sometimes talk about health issues openly (I feel kind of awkward being there). So I think, in my opinion, friendship involves trust that you can talk about something important to you without feeling that you are risking the friendship.

> A few years ago, I took a cross-country road trip with a guy that I met through a mutual friend.

Some of my best friends have been friends of friends. I meet someone and later on I meet one of their friends - and we bond quickly. By meeting more people, you geometrically expand your possibilities. Life is random. You're not going to hit it off with everyone - but the more people you "bounce" off of in your social universe - the better chance of a happy collision. Friendships can decay rapidly - but enjoy the times.

GrubWithUs brings in some planned serendipity.

> For people who want to have real friendships as adults, maybe what we need is some kind of structure in our lives that more closely resembles what people have earlier in life.

If you're willing to dedicate time to a weekly (not monthly, that's not going to work) meetup, that should do it. Otherwise, you're probably stuck with your neighbors and cow-orkers as your only source of new friends....

Tangentially related, I think this is an excellent example of capitalizing on "Startup Micro Opportunities" [1]

The original article about friends resonated strongly with HN, and GrubWithUs is a natural solution to the problems discussed in the article and thread. Writing an article like this is a great way to capitalize on that momentum.

Great job GrubWithUs! =)

[1] http://www.gabrielweinberg.com/blog/2010/10/startup-micro-op...

Shucks ... doesn't seem to be a way to see if there's any activity in my area without having to sign up first. I've seen grubwithus come up occasionally but never really checked them out.

Another good way to socialize after college is through meetup; meetup's got a pretty big network now, and there will be more clubs and groups in most areas than most people could reasonably hope to be active in. I just picked up a bunch of new climbing buddies out of Sacto that way and got back on the rock in Tahoe for the first time in years.

>Shucks ... doesn't seem to be a way to see if there's any activity in my area without having to sign up first.

Yep. I signed up and after going through the signup workflow, I then found out there was nothing really going on in my neck of the woods.

And then I discovered that to delete my account (which I shouldn't have had to create in the first place) I had to email them. Maybe there was a self-service account deletion option that I couldn't see, but I didn't want to spend any more time hunting for it.

I always sign up for things like this with my spam account / info. If I really like the service, I just create a new account with real info if there's no easy way to delete the old account.

Hey there,

I run Strangers for Dinner, which is like GrubWithUs, except we encourage you to host your own dinner party. We also don't do the groupon thingy that GWU does.

IMO, running your own dinner party is far more satisfying than meeting people for dinner/lunch. I mean, we've had 4 dinner parties in the 2 months we were running, and all 4 had been pretty dang amazing. The level of conversation, the depth, etc.

I personally find it difficult to connect with people, but in a small intimate setting like my house with 5 people, that is where I (and I suspect many others) are comfortable.

Give SfD a try: http://strangersfordinner.com

Shared suffering is a guaranteed way to make friends.

When you are placed under high amounts of stress and you are with someone else an instant bond is forged.

Physical stress is the most obvious but mental or emotional stress are just as affective. If you want to make friends do something you hate or are horrible at.

The NYT article sited talked about 'getting over that hump' in a relationship. Meeting people seemed like the easy part, but forming a friendship was the problem.

Ask them if they are afraid of something or cringe at the thought of doing something then organise the effort.

Know your limits and cooperate against them. When failure is obvious everyone is free to have fun and avoid any anxiety to impress or succeed.

Example: I went indoor rock climbing with a friend. It was his second time, and my first since I was ten. We got to the gym, did a few easy tracks and then I suggested we go at the most difficult track on the wall. We made it about ten feet up the wall then fell off. Our hands were simply too weak.

We knew it was beyond us, but this was the first time all day that we laughed so for the rest of the day we just kept trying the same track.

We breaked for lunch and then argued whether we were too spent to go back for round two. We decided to hell with the fatigue we have to beat that track. We went back and, again, fell every time we tried.

The next day I saw him walking down the street so we got some coffee and laughed about how the both of us needed to find someone else to open doors and jars of peanut butter because our hands were so exhausted our grips had become useless.

There was very little `proper` socialising. Impossible to talk about anything except grip suggestions when one guys on the ground and the other is on the wall, but we got to know each other better, I think, than if we had talked about work or whatever.

Dinner is nice, but you want something you can look back on and say, 'Haha, do you remember when... that shit was ridiculous.'

I have no idea what your website does, then when I click to find out more, you want me to register.

I've gone to a few GrubWithUs events and found them terriby shallow, boring and exhausting. Throwing together a bunch of strangers at random and hoping that something sticks is a very bad strategy for making friends.

I'd rather go to a Meetup where at least I can have a chance to learn something with people who care about something other than food. Being stuck at a table with the same haphazard group of people for hours? No thanks.

There's also Grouper http://joingrouper.com, which pairs three men with three women. It only serves NYC at the moment though.

Grouper might be a little...um...different than GrubWithUs [1]. There's a little more of a feel of a "group date" rather than, "I want to meet new people." As somebody well attached, I would feel rather uncomfortable in a Grouper setting, but not in a GrubWithUs setting.

[1]: http://blog.joingrouper.com/sex-in-the-bathroom-and-the-prob...

Grouper is in beta in SF as well. I've been on one and my friends have been on several. It was fun, but so far no one has made any friends (or started dating), so I don't know it's a solution to this problem.

Although it doesn't state as such, everyone I know that has used Grouper has done it in a group dating context rather than a "making friends" one.

I did not know that. Thanks for the clarification.

The blog is missing a link to http://grubwithus.com in the header or sidebar.

Funny enough, I work at Grubwithus I just griped about this recently (for startup blogs in general):


Thanks for pointing this out. I'll pass the word along to the blog maintainers.

It would be nice if you could tell if there is any local activity before signing up. I'm not giving a random web site my Facebook or email when most likely no one else local is signed up anyway.

That is very common on startup blogs. I still haven't been able to figure out why. Given how prevalent and obvious it is, it has to be intentional. Or maybe they are all just blindly copying each other and not realizing the person who started the trend made a mistake? lol

It's so common it was listed as mistake #1 on "5 Common Blogging Mistakes Made by Startups:"


which was on HN a few weeks ago:


It really drives me nuts.

How likely is it to turn random strangers into friends? Seems to me a better strategy would be to do things where meeting people would already signal a common interest. Sure, we all like to eat, but that is usually not enough to form a life-lasting bond.

That said, personally I am always curious about other people, and meeting people you wouldn't meet otherwise sounds like fun - for a while.

> How likely is it to turn random strangers into friends? Seems to me a better strategy would be to do things where meeting people would already signal a common interest.

You're absolutely correct. That's why Grubwithus has themed meals and local interest groups (that regularly host meals). The idea of bringing people together over a shared interest has been incredibly well received, and generally results in higher quality conversation etc.

I did a grubwithus dinner last week and got to know a guy who's going to work out of my office on Wed and then go rowing with me after work. When I read that article's headline, I instantly thought of Grubwithus.

In the discussion on yesterday's NY Times story, someone said that your coworkers are not an ideal place to find friends because of the inevitability of situations in which you have to compete with your coworkers for bonuses, the best assignments and promotions.

Well, a person is not in competition with his or her cofounders. Would any who have or have had cofounders like to comment on how good having cofounders is at creating lasting friendships?

If you are competing with your coworkers, rather than working together as a team, to make sure there are opportunities for all, you don't need friends: you need a new job.

Interesting idea, however I think it feels a bit too deliberate for my tastes. Based on the groups it can seem more like a networking tool.

Beyond a startup, I would also recommend volunteering, doing sports, taking a class, or if you're spiritually-inclined, going to church, in order to make new friendships. Those tend to be more regular, and you're not so focused on the conversation itself.

I tried GrubWithUs out of curiosity last year. They have something that looks like a social network to promote keeping in touch with people, but I didn't notice people making us of it effectively. Perhaps if it was plugged into Facebook in some way it might help people move at least to "acquaintance" stage.

Grubwithus.com looks enticing, but when I looked for more information on how it works, I'm encouraged to sign up. This is a disappointing trend; I am interested to learn more, but to do so I must commit -- so unfortunately I'm a bounce.

Edit: Reading through more of these comments, I'm not alone.

I've got to upvote this one on its timeliness and relevance alone. Startups, take note.

Timeliness and relevance? Personally I find it to be neither.

It is my impression that they are a bit disingenuous, and actively using HN for promotion, playing the 'we're a startup' card as hard as they can. It might have been the "groupon is evil" post they made that gave me the sour taste, which had very few interesting points, and if nothing else, was just link baiting.

This was the post: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4166021

Hey guys, slight problem on the interest selection screen:


I'm using Chrome (20.0.1132.57 m) on WinXP Home.

Thanks for the note -- we will deploy the fix for this issue tonight. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Not sure why but after entering in my zipcode it started me at NYC (I'm in NJ so I expected that) but then other pages like the interests page would start showing Chicago based information.

Same experience - I am in NYC, it started me off in Kips Bay - every time I explicitly change my locality it changes it back to Kips Bay when I navigate to a new page. Additionally, and this could be user error, but it added me to various groups I have no interest in and I had to hunt down how to leave those groups.

Just join a crossfit gym. Get fit and meet dozens or hundreds of locals in a non-forced environment.

Does anyone else get irritated by product blogs that don't have a link back to the product anywhere?

How exactly are they promoting a dinner arranged through their site as "unplanned"?

I actually did register on Grubwithus after seeing it recommended in the original thread.

It appears there is an event in my town on Thursday, and it shows a few people who will be attending. To reserve a seat, I have to pay $22. Where is the event? It doesn't say, except that the location is "near Portland" and will be revealed "soon". What will we be eating? It doesn't say.

I dunno about you guys but that much info is not exactly enough for me to plunk down $22. "Near Portland" is especially ominous, that could be anywhere in a 50 mile radius.

Who knows, maybe I am using it wrong.

Ditto. Was expecting it to tell me about the dinners before the groups in my area. I assumed (because of the interests I put in) that the Young Professionals Group was hosting a dinner so I "joined" it. Then when I was on my profile, I realized that I'd only "joined" the Young Professionals group not their dinner. I had to go back to the homepage to see the to-be-determined PDX dinner date was actually being hosted by the Portland Foodies, which I am not interested in attending.

I just signed up as i thought it was interesting, only to find out there is no action in Berlin, Germany. Not really surprised by that.

So i thought, ok, let's set up a group and a diner in a nice restaurant... So why the hell am i supposed to provide my credit card data to potentially pay $22 (??) for a meetup in a UNKNOWN, not freely choosable restaurant in Berlin?

It just tells me "yo, we will set up a nice partner restaurant for you"...

So i have to pay upfront (if enough people signup) for a meetup in a restaurant which i cannot choose, somewhere in Berlin, not knowing if grubwithus will actually be able to book a table in a decent restaurant (how would they know my taste....). It's also entirely unclear how much of the money goes to grubwithus, which should be clearly explained somewhere without me having to look it up in the terms and conditions or wherever it might be hidden.

I'm not fast in saying "This concept will fail", but I am pretty sure this model is fundamentally flawed and will fail...

I misinterpreted the platform as a nice way of setting up a diner with friends + some strangers in a restaurant of my choice (where i know the quality is good), but grubwithus doesn't allow me to do that.

It's also really weird that i cannot comment in my recently created group, because the system tells me to "Slow down there partner!".

Nice try, GrubWithUs

When people start talking about a problem your startup is designed to address, you'd be doing a disservice not to tell people about it or remind them of it.

But this isn't an answer, it's a promotion.

I don't think you understand that meme.

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