Fast Company

City Harvest's App Gets You Reservations At The Restaurants That Care

If a restaurant donates to City Harvest--which collects wasted food at restaurants to give to the hungry--then it's featured on their app. It's a simple way to vote with your wallet when eating out.

Where to eat your next meal? Dozens of mobile apps are vying for the lucrative chance to tell you where to dine tonight, or five minutes from now, or within five blocks. Most app suggestions couple your cuisine choice with proximity, or restaurant reviews. Some base it on your plans--is this a hot date or staid business dinner? City Harvest just teamed up with Open Table to add a new element to the selection criteria: ethics.

Tons of food is wasted every night as restaurants toss out unsold stock. The hunger charity City Harvest has been trying to salvage as much of that as possible for needy New Yorkers for more than 25 years. Hundreds of restaurants sign on to save their excess edibles for nightly pick up. In return they get both a warm and fuzzy feeling and inclusion in the nonprofit’s annual Great Food, Good Hearts guide, which lists which restaurants support City Harvest.

Now you don't have to consult your dog-eared paper guide. The City Harvest app brings the idea of conscious dinner consumption into the mobile age. It’s just like the Open Table app with one major charitable modification--and one technical innovation.

You can search by cuisine, location, or name of restaurant, but every restaurant that the app shows you will be a City Harvest partner, so you know wherever you go--at least as far as food waste is concerned--you're voting with your stomach for a more ethical meal. “We did it to recognize the tremendous support we get from the restaurant community and to connect the people who want to dine out with the restaurants that support us,” explained Erin Hoover of City Harvest. It’s good old fashioned consumer pressure for more ethical business behavior.

The technical innovation might turn out to be the more important element though. Right before you are taken from the City Harvest restaurant search to the standard Open Table page for reservations or to-go orders, you will be given the chance to donate. Because Apple hasn’t facilitated in-app donations, the startup company LetGive is taking on that task, and this is one of their first prototypes.

It’s a step forward toward a new kind of charitable ask says, Elizabeth Fastiggi, LetGive's founder, because it is “engaging people in the moment." Bring the charitable request to the potential donor and eliminate as many barriers as possible and you increase the chance of a gift.

"[The users] are clearly already thinking about supporting City Harvest because they are thinking about supporting a restaurant that gives to them, and this is just another way they can easily support City Harvest in a very convenient way.”

[Images: Top, Flickr user MariyaZ; Bottom, City Harvest]

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  • Dylan McBurnett

    I remember the main idea for this app being submitted to the student OneShow 2011 in NYC by Laci Mosier. Yaknow, before it went mainstream. Go UT Creative \m/