Canny shoppers visit the supermarket late in the evening, near to closing time, in order to pick up all the marked-down bargains. You’ll get perishable goods—fruit, veggies, croissants that are still good for breakfast a few hours hence—for absurdly low prices, as the store tries anything to avoid tossing them out. Now, that could happen with restaurants, thanks to a new app called Too Good to Go.
The app, available on Android, iOS, or in any browser, matches restaurants with hungry customers. Participating restaurants list their leftovers, and customers can browse to see what’s available. You can order right from the app, then go pick up your bargain dish.
The service was launched by Chris Wilson and Jamie Crummie in the U.K. and is already available in cities in Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Norway, Switzerland, and the U.K. It's designed more as a way to manage waste than to generate a profit: Although the restaurants do make a little on each non-wasted meal, the idea is that they avoid losing money and that they don’t waste perfectly good food.
"The ultimate goal is to use it for restaurants to solve their waste management problem, rather than it being about making profit," Wilson told London’s Evening Standard. To this end, Too Good to Go provides standardized, "eco-friendly packaging," and the app/service takes care of everything, even the payments. Once you’ve paid, you get a voucher to take to the restaurant.
You can browse a list of restaurants in your city, or take a look at a map to find something nearby. The before/after price is listed, and everything costs between £2.00 to £3.80, or local equivalent (£2 is around $2.60). Taking a look at my local Berlin selection, I see that different restaurants handle the scheme differently. For instance, a nearby bakery just gives you a goodie bag filled with whatever they haven’t sold. And a local sushi place gives you a box and lets you fill it from their selection of leftovers.
The restaurants and stores also have a time window, often just before closing, and these are also visible on the listings, so you can plan accordingly.
So far, say the founders, the service has signed up local restaurants. "Most of the places tend to be independent or just small chains because it is really hard to crack the big companies," said Wilson. "It is the bigger chains that have the large amounts of food waste but it is hard to even speak to the right people there."
This kind of service could flourish in the right conditions. It’s one thing for small independents to sell their waste to savvy consumers, but if the chains get behind it, then the whole perception changes, lessening the stigma attached to leftovers. And the law could help to force the big chains to comply. France has already banned supermarkets from throwing away food. Perhaps that would also work for large restaurant chains?
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