By Sean Zucker –
Food waste is without a doubt a major problem. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) reports as much as 40 percent of the food in the United States is currently wasted. All the while, one in eight Americans struggle with food scarcity. Why such waste? Plenty of reasons.
“Households toss limp vegetables. People are confused by food date labels. Restaurants often serve massive portions and trash leftovers. Grocery stores overstock their shelves to maintain an image of abundance. Farmers are unable to sell produce that doesn’t look perfect,” the NRDC explained.
The unfortunate impact extends beyond hungry families. Due to the level of energy and resources committed towards growing, processing, transporting and ultimately disposing of all this wasted food, it also takes a toll on the environment.
“Most wasted food ends up in landfills, where it generates methane, a greenhouse gas that is up to 86 times more powerful than carbon dioxide,” the council warned.
The battle against waste likely needs a multidimensional solution. In the meantime, one emerging startup believes it has devised a tool to at least stop the bleeding. It’s called Too Good To Go.
“We dream of a planet with no food waste, and every day we’re working on making that a reality,” the company site’s laments.
The pitch is simple—connect customers who want discounted food with restaurants that have extra. Founded in 2016, Too Good To Go claims to have saved more than 70 million meals over its first five years and now boasts more than 36 million global users and nearly 87,000 participating restaurants worldwide.
The digital platform makes grub hunting quick and easy, with one minor catch. “Our app is the most direct way for you to get involved—just download, log on and get saving perfectly good, surplus food from your local stores. It’s always a surprise, at a great price, and an instant good deed for the planet,” the company’s site explains.
That’s right, the food you get is always a surprise.
On the app, customers place an order by selecting a restaurant on the app then picking up a mystery bag of food at its location. Generally, orders fall between $4 and $6 but customers have no say in what they receive, only who’s providing the food.
While the concept may not work for everybody, Alex Bush, a 28-year-old Too Good To Go user in New York gave the overall experience a thumbs up. “I’ve been surprised by places,” he recently told CNN Business, “I reached outside my comfort zone and have fallen in love with it.”
As for the how the restaurants fare, many seem to really enjoy it. Nicolas Dutko, founder of the French cafe Tartinery in Manhattan, shared his delight with the app to Eater. “We never know what we might have, and for me this was really a game change,” he said before adding that having the option of not committing to specific items also makes it easier for cafe staffers to coordinate bag handoffs to customers at the end of the day.
Dutko explained that while he doesn’t profit from the sales, he is able to cover the cost of the food itself which previously would have been lost costs.
“It’s a win-win for customers and restaurateurs,” he declared.