The concept of food waste usually conjures images of servers removing half-eaten meals from diners’ tables and chucking the remains of the meal into the trash. There is, however, a completely separate type of restaurant food waste: the untouched edibles thrown out of the kitchen. Maybe someone ordered too many avocados, or the chef made more soup than there are diners to eat it. Whatever it may be, a lot of perfectly edible food is going to waste, and more and more see this as a big problem.
Solving that problem is the inspiration behind Too Good to Go, an app that functions a lot like Seamless, where you can buy back unused food from local restaurants at majorly discounted prices.
Through the app, a user selects the restaurant and purchases an order. From there, you just need to show up at the restaurant before closing time, where you’re given a takeaway box and can fill it with as much food as you care to. (I should clarify that restaurants sell unused food from the kitchen, not the scraps from diners’ plates.)
Prices range from £2 (roughly $2.59 USD) to £3.80 (about $4.93 USD), and you’re not just getting some third-rate takeout shack’s leftovers. Places like Yo! Sushi and Chop’d have gotten on board, as have supermarkets, buffets, bakeries, and universities.
“Food waste just seems like one of the dumbest problems we have in the world,” co-founder James Crummie recently said. The restaurant industry is wasting about 600,000 tonnes of food each year, and in the UK alone there are one million people on emergency food parcels from food banks. Why do we have these two massive social issues that are completely connected, yet there is not much going on to address them?”
That 600,000 tons of food also produces another 200 tons of carbon dioxide emissions. Meanwhile, the U.S. wastes enough food annually to fill a college football stadium, and it’s estimated that worldwide, one third of food produced for humans is lost or wasted.
Fortunately, TGTG isn’t alone in trying to do something about this. Here NYC, you can now buy surplus food from restaurants via the Food for All app. Users log into the app, purchase a meal made from the surplus food, and can pick it up one to two hours before closing time. You can even opt to eat the meal right there in the restaurant. Restaurants can choose to donate proceeds from each meal to charity.
Courtesy of Finland, BuffetGo lets users buy food from restaurant buffets for up to 90 percent off the original price. Twenty percent of the profit from each meal goes towards the United Nations World Food Programme. The service is available in a handful of countries, including the U.S.
These apps aren’t just helping the planet, though. For restaurants, they’re an easy way to save money, since wasted food is a big contributor to high food costs. And for diners, particularly those with tiny kitchens who rely on delivery and takeout, it’s a much cheaper way to get dinner on the table. All of those factors working together make the concept of buying leftovers via apps a very promising one for the future of food.