‘Meeting through eating’: New student-launched web app builds connections through food


John Blair | Senior Staff Photographer

Joe Slomowitz, Avi Moses and Oliver Yao, the co-founders of Potluck.

By Jamie Sheppard, Staff Writer

Bishal Dasgupta, an MBA student at Pitt, arrived to the U.S. from Kolkata, India, in the fall of 2022 looking for ways to connect with the community. He discovered Potluck, an online platform where users can connect with each other and meet up to have a meal.

The day Dasgupta arrived at the Pittsburgh airport, he said a “veteran Potlucker” named Adam Bey offered him a ride after he had reached out in the Potluck Discord group. Although he felt anxious to accept, Dasgupta said he wanted to take the chance anyway. He later learned that Adam had more in common with him than he originally thought.

“He offered to give me a ride. And so we exchange contacts. This is me, coming from India to the States for the first time in my life,” Dasgupta said. “But I still took my chances. Then he started speaking to me in Bengali, which is my mother tongue. I was not at all expecting to meet someone who spoke my mother tongue.”

Potluck is now rebranding to Greatings, and the organization is launching a new website in March. Founded by students Avi Moses, Joe Slomowitz and Oliver Yao last year, users can join or create groups on the platform to meet up in person at a local eatery or brewery and socialize with new people. 

Moses, a junior supply chain management and marketing major, said his passion for entrepreneurship stemmed from learning about it during high school. He said his parents each started their own businesses, so he values the innovation of this field.

“[At the] dinner table, the conversation was all about [my parents’] businesses, entrepreneurship, starting something new, and so I was learning that at home, which I loved, and I would go to school and learn about that in my class,” Moses said. “I love it. I love starting something new, building something, creating something, and that’s what I’ve found passionate so far.”

Slomowitz, a senior supply chain management, marketing and business information systems major, said entrepreneurship allows him to pursue many professional roles.

“There wasn’t one particular career area or career path that was really sticking out to me, and it just, it made sense to start trying entrepreneurship,” Slomowitz said. “You wear a lot of different hats, which is pretty cool.”

Dasgupta said Potluck helped him build confidence so that he could maintain strong relationships while moving to the U.S.

“I knew that if I’m coming to this new city, I had to kind of build that rapport with people build my base,” Dasgupta said. “I started exploring accounts or groups of people online that fit with my interest areas, and food was one of those areas.” 

After his short time knowing Slomowitz, Moses and the Potluck community, Dasgupta said he feels safe among these people. 

“I feel that I can count Joe as one of my very close friends here in Pittsburgh … Sometimes you get those vibrations from people that make you feel that you can trust this person,” Dasgupta said. “Coming from another country altogether, I always felt connected and safe and home.”

Moving forward with Greatings, Moses said his Jewish upbringing inspired him to pursue this project. Particularly, the concept of tikkun olam, a Jewish term meaning “to repair the world,” was important to him when thinking about this project.

“Getting people to meet, having people together, fostering these connections. It’s a similar mindset to what I’ve been brought up with, and to translate that to Greatings is very cool,” Slomowitz said. 

Slomowitz and Moses both have a Jewish background. Slomowitz emphasized the connection between their culture and the mission of Greatings.

“Jewish culture, there’s a lot of eating around tables and discussions over food and things like that. And I think that’s why we kind of really connect with this idea of bringing people together over food,” Slomowitz said. “Between all the different holidays Passover, Rosh Hashanah there’s always a big meal.”

Community is a large value of Greatings that Moses said he resonates with. By nature, the platform connects people who might otherwise not get a chance to meet.

“The biggest part for me is community,” Moses said. “Seeing so many people using it, so many people loving it, going out to do it by themselves, just creating meals, meeting new people and passing it on to the next person.”

Users on Greatings will have the ability to add friends, chat and share photos, as well as split payments conveniently, Slomowitz said. The site currently has more than 40 users, whom he and Moses granted early access to the platform through Instagram.

“So the idea is that you can hop right on the website and immediately just see all the meals and opportunities that you can join,” Slomowitz said. “People can chat before the meal, get to know each other … They can share pictures and things like that.” 

Slomowitz added that Greatings exposed him to cultural diversity through meeting many international students.

“We had like, two or three meals in a row where it was like, predominantly international students. And what I like to say, in terms of experience, it’s almost as if I was able to travel without having to step on a plane, because we had people from all over,” Slomowitz said. “There’s so many things coming together at the dinner table … to learn about a community by sitting down at the table with them.”

Dasgupta encourages other students and foodies to try out Greatings for themselves because of the meaningful experiences it provides.

“But the point here being at the crux of it, the ability to meet people, learn about other cultures, learn about another individual’s experiences, while having some common ground, which is food, and also trying out new cuisine,” Dasgupta said. “If you are someone who likes to eat, then you should definitely join this group.”