When the New York City-based grocery store Brooklyn Fare has fresh bread and pastries left at the end of the day, it now offers them to customers through a new app instead of discarding them. The store, along with around 200 restaurants, is using an app called Too Good to Go, which launched first in Copenhagen.
The app lets customers browse for “surprise boxes” of leftover food at a discount from participating stores and restaurants, and then pick up their order. “Controlling how much we sell on a day-to-day basis is virtually impossible,” says Brandon Issa, regional manager at Brooklyn Fare. “We’re always going to have something left over a majority of the time, because we want to make sure everybody has something to get. So the one great part about this app is it bridges that gap for us—it gives the customer a cheaper entry point with random goods in the bag.” A box of bakery items worth $12 sells for $4, he says.
Restaurants and grocery stores often face challenges with donating food. “When restaurants struggle to donate food to local food banks or shelters, it’s usually down to logistics,” says Gaeleen Quinn, who is leading the U.S. expansion of Too Good to Go. “Either the restaurant needs to deliver, or the charity needs to collect, and it gets unviable for a few loaves of bread or a small variety of extra produce. With prepared foods, you have to make sure it’s temperature-controlled throughout and eaten within a short time period. For smaller, independent restaurants like so many in NYC, these challenges are too great to overcome.” By letting a restaurant offer a mystery box rather than letting customers request specific items, and by making the customer responsible for picking up the food, it’s an easy process to manage that can recoup some of the cost of the food.
Some other solutions exist to make food donation more convenient, such as another app that connects surplus food to DoorDash drivers who can deliver it to food pantries. Other apps connect customers directly to restaurants, such as Food for All. Still, they haven’t yet become widespread. In Europe, Too Good to Go has managed to achieve some scale, now saving around 100,000 meals each day.