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App cuts waste by offering restaurant food at a discount

Food Super Bowl Restaurants
Posted at 2:28 PM, Jan 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-25 10:02:40-05

According to estimates from the USDA, 30-40% of the U.S. food supply goes to waste.

Some of that waste is unavoidable, like when a refrigerator malfunctions and causes frozen goods to go bad.

In other circumstances, the waste is a predictable problem.

"We're a bakery. We have to order a couple days ahead," said Michael Stansfield, the director of catering at Le Pain Quotidien. The restaurant chain includes several locations on both coasts. "We're trying to do our best to calculate our sales, but it ended up that we were throwing out more than we could sell."

Stansfield's team found a solution to some of their food waste issues by partnering with a restaurant app called Too Good To Go.

"The customers seem to like it," said Stansfield. "Our team noticed that the customers who started using Too Good To Go come back, without having to use Too Good To Go, to buy other products. They get to try it, taste it, and then if they really like it, they'll come back and get it for that full price."

Restaurants put together "surprise bags" using leftover food, then use the app to sell those bags at a discount.

"Let's talk about a pizza shop," said Claire Oliverson, the head of U.S. marketing for Too Good To Go. "Sometimes they sell 45 pizzas in a day, sometimes they sell 55. They always need a little bit of buffer at the end of the day. They'll take a slice of pepperoni, a slice of cheese, and a special of the day, and they'll put that together in a 'surprise bag,' and you'll pick that up, as a consumer, for one-third of the price."

The app measures the climate savings for each restaurant.

Stansfield said the Le Pain Quotidien restaurants have saved nearly 4,000 meals in the last 30 days.

Since partnering with Too Good To Go, Stansfield noted his company's surprise bags had kept almost 46 tons of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.

By comparison, the average American produces about 16 tons of CO2 each year.

"You get into the food industry because you love food, and you want to celebrate it, and you have a great relationship to it," Oliverson said. "We wanted to provide a solution that's great for those partners, where they no longer have to throw that food away."

Too Good To Go is up and running in more than a dozen U.S. markets.

There are not many direct competitors on American soil.

Nonprofits like We Don't Waste partner with restaurants to reduce food waste, and apps like Misfits Market and Flash Food offer people a way to purchase discount produce.

Neither option provides the same direct connection between restaurant and consumer as Too Good To Go.

"A lot of it comes down to our own demand," said Oliverson. "As we think about our own carbon footprint and the way we show up and shop, the more that we demand solutions like this, the more that they will become available."