Founded in Copenhagen, Denmark in 2016, Too Good to Go is working across the globe to help restaurants fight food waste – and pull in extra income in the process. The app allows restaurants, bakeries, and grocery stores to list excess food for consumers to purchase at a discounted price. It made its debut in the U.S. in September of 2020 and has since partnered with around 9,000 restaurants nationwide.
“More than one-third of food goes to waste globally,” says Allie Denburg, U.S. Strategy & Planning Lead at Too Good To Go. “In the U.S. it’s more than 40%, so this was the perfect solution to start to address that problem.”
How it works: The quickly growing app is currently launched in a dozen U.S. cities: NYC, Boston, Philadelphia, D.C., Baltimore, Providence, Portland (Maine), San Francisco, Seattle, Portland (Oregon), Chicago, and Austin. Any restaurant operator in those 12 cities can sign up.
Restaurants list their surplus food on the app as a “surprise bag”. Each surprise bag can include a variety of prepared food and/or individual ingredients.
“The goal there is to make it as easy as possible for restaurant partners so that they don’t need to manually update everything that's in their bag,” says Denburg. “That’s something we found that users like because it creates this mystery experience. We’ll see Facebook groups where users share what they got.”
Customers purchase bags through the app and pick them up at the restaurant. Pickups are typically scheduled for the end of the business day. Through the app, restaurants can set an ongoing schedule based on average daily surplus or manually input available surplus each day.
Pricing for the bags is designed to match food items at one-third of their retail price. Based on how much food is leftover, operators will choose from three bag price points, sold to the consumer at $3.99, $4.99, or $5.99. Too Good to Go takes a $1.79 transaction fee from each bag. There’s also an $89 annual fee, required only after operators earn their first $89 in revenue.
Pretty much all surplus is fair game. Too Good to Go educates its app users with a “look, smell, taste, don’t waste” model, informing customers that certain items in each surprise bag might be past their “best buy” or “best before” dates.
“We typically say anything edible, so for a bakery or bagel shop, that could be items that would've sold 10 minutes prior but it’s the end of the day, or at pizza spots, that could be slices of pizza, full pies that don’t get picked up, or even pizza dough, sauce, and cheese,” says Denburg.
How it benefits operators: The main benefit to operators is obvious – recouping revenue from excess inventory, rather than having to pitch it to the trash. But there are more subtle benefits, too. Joining the app can help restaurants signal to current customers that they care about sustainability, says Denburg, and it can also attract new customers. Restaurants surface on the app for customers to browse, with the app currently maintaining a growing user base of two million people. Yet as the app expands, with a goal of becoming available nationwide, fighting food waste remains the top priority.
“The impact is something we’re just really proud of – we’ve already saved over 1.7 million meals in the U.S., [equivalent to] the carbon footprint of over 800 flights around the world,” says Denburg.
Grace Dickinson is a reporter at Back of House. Send tips or inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.