As the world’s food waste problem gets literally bigger each year, so too does the amount of creative effort tech companies are putting into fighting it. The latest of these comes in the form of the Waste is Gold campaign, a pop-up event in Los Angeles in which three restaurants will serve dishes created from the food byproduct in their own kitchens. Powering the event is restaurant tech company Choco, which has big ambitions for fighting food waste both now and in the future.
The pop-up event will take place from Nov. 19–21 at Counterpart Vegan in Echo Park, Strings of Life in West Hollywood, and Beelman’s in Downtown L.A. These restaurants’ chefs will create dishes made from food byproduct (e.g., tomato soup from leftover vegetables) that will be available for takeout or outdoor dining. Customers can order online via the Waste is Gold website.
Choco is best known for its mobile platform that connects restaurant kitchens directly with suppliers to more easily order and manage their inventory. The company raised $30.2 million back in April, around the time it also launched a direct-to-consumer channel in response to the pandemic and ensuing restaurant industry meltdown.
But speaking to me on a call this week, Chelsea van Hooven, the Global Industry Advisor at Choco, said that the company’s overarching goal was to fight food waste, and that Choco is working on a number of different projects to raise awareness about the problem, including the Waste Is Gold campaign.
She noted that the inspiration for this campaign came after working with Matt Orlando, owner and chef at Amass, a zero-waste restaurant in Copenhagen, Denmark. In keeping with Orlando’s idea of building creative menus from food byproduct, Choco has given chefs participating in the Waste is Gold campaign a similar challenge.
For example, Mimi Williams, the executive chef for Counterpart Vegan, has created a ratatouille with spaghetti made from various parts of squash — parts that might normally be thrown out. Using more of the entire food, whether a squash, a pumpkin, or whatever else happens to be in the fridge, is lesson more chefs could take advantage of, and one that doesn’t necessarily require a lot of tech to execute on.
Tech, however, definitely has a role to play in the fight against food waste. For her part, van Hooven said that Choco is exploring the role of data in this area and how her company can provide a layer of it that will bring awareness and understanding of food waste to more restaurants. Tracking inventory data, and therefore food waste data, needs to become a part of daily business for restaurants. “We’re analyzing data in every field of our life, we should definitely use it for the better and optimize our food system,” she said. It’s a sentiment the food industry is voicing more these days as data’s critical role in fighting waste becomes more and more apparent.
While it’s still early days for Choco’s ambitions around creating that data layer, the pop-up restaurant events will definitely be making their way to more cities in the future.