At a neighborhood bakery in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a slice of fresh pecan pie usually goes for $4.75. Through a new app, beta testers can now get a slice for $2, if the café has extra food at the end of the day.
The app, Food for All, connects its users with unsold food at local restaurants to help eliminate food waste. Customers save 50%-80% off the regular price. The app will also soon show detailed data about how much their purchase of an entree or salad helped the environment by keeping it out of the trash.
A 2013 study estimated that 84% of food thrown out at restaurants ends up in landfills. Beyond serious environmental impacts, that's expensive for businesses; for every $1,000 of revenue, restaurants are throwing out more than three pounds of ingredients. They also have the extra expense of trucking food waste away.
"The higher the volume of the organic food waste, the more they need to pay," says David Rodriguez, CEO and founder of Food for All.
While many restaurants partner with nonprofits to donate food, it isn't a full solution. "[Nonprofits] don't come every day, because it's expensive," he says. "There are logistical expenses, they need to pay people to go pick up the food, they need to pay the truck, they need to pay the gas and everything. So they don't go every day—they go once or twice a week."
Restaurants working with the new app will still be able to donate to food banks, but on days when they do have extra food, they can use the app.
For customers, the app gives simple options—you might see that your favorite corner restaurant has pizza available, but you won't know which kind. That's because restaurants didn't want to encourage regular customers to try to game the system to avoid paying full price.
"What we decided to do was take out the menu option on the app," says Rodriguez. "You're going to see there's pizza, there's a sandwich, there's salad, but you can't decide which type of sandwich or salad. This way we're differentiating the normal customers from the restaurant from the customers that actually just want to help not waste the food."
The team developed a working prototype in an accelerator program at the Harvard T.H. Chan Center for the Health and the Global Environment, and is now running a pilot with 30 Boston restaurants. In a new Kickstarter campaign, they're raising funds to finish the app, validate the business model, and then begin bringing it to other cities—starting with New York City in 2017.
[All Images: via Food for All]