Paul Davidescu likes eating out. A standard evening might mean going soup to nuts in one place, but on one particular night out with friends, the enterprising UBC grad realized that there's something special about bouncing from place to place: You discover new restaurants. The evening has an energy to it. You get out of your comfort zone and go places you'd never been.
"It was one of the best nights we've ever had," he says. "What if we could replicate that every night?"
So, fresh out of business school last year, Mr. Davidescu launched a social idea that's becoming a going concern in Vancouver: Tangoo, an all-inclusive group tour of three bars and restaurants in one evening.
The model is simple enough: For a single, pre-paid ticket of around $50 – gratuities included – buyers join a group of 50-odd diners, divided into two "streams" to keep the numbers manageable. In the course of an evening, they'll make three stops: First for before-dinner drinks and appetizers, then to a second location for an entrée, and then to a third location to end the evening.
Mr. Davidescu started offering the tours privately last year, tinkering with the formula until it was ready to go public. And when he did, people came. Chiefly attracting young professionals, the evenings quickly went from once every two months to once a week. Now, Mr. Davidescu is looking at themed evenings and the corporate space, offering the tours to private birthdays, to companies in search of team-builders and after-hours convention entertainment, and ultimately in other cities.
From the restaurant owners' perspectives, the scheme is meant to be both sustainable and promotional. Mr. Davidescu is the first to say that Tangoo is "not another Groupon," which asked restaurant owners to offer dramatic 50 per cent-off discounts to attract visitors who may or may not ever come back. With Tangoo, participating restaurants make a small mark-down, which Tangoo then marks up again to pay for the whole operation.
And for ticket-buyers, Mr. Davidescu says, the appeal turned out to be as much social as gastronomical: Changing locations throughout the night is a good setup for a mixer, giving people the chance to chat without getting locked in to a three-hour conversation. Watching this play out informed Mr. Davidescu's pitch.
"At first it was the convenience, and then it was the price – and then we realized it's about meeting people," he says. "It's pretty amazing to see how strangers can be put in a room and by the end of it they're friends."