As I walk out of the Luke’s Local grocery chain in San Francisco on a Tuesday night, I feel an unexpected wave of guilt.
In my hand I am holding a heavy brown paper bag that is packed with eight products, a ham and goat cheese sandwich, a loaf of country bread with seeds, a fancy-looking almond cake, two chocolate sea salt biscuits and a packet of pita bread. Somehow I only paid $ 5.99 for this transportation which will feed me in various ways for at least a week.
The pound cake alone has a price sticker that says $ 13.99.
That day, the day I felt like I paid a small fee to rob a bank, I decided to have all of my meals (or at least my food for a 24 hour period) through the new Too Good app To Go, an anti-food waste company that helps bring excess food from restaurants and grocery stores to the general public for only $ 4.99 or $ 5.99 per “surprise bag”.
When I opened the app that morning, I had many San Francisco restaurants and grocery stores to choose from, including many that I would consider downright trendy, like Mamahuhu by Brandon Jew and Indie Superette by Michael Mina. I decided to pick a few that I knew well as I thought this would be my best choice for a well rounded day out based on what I knew the restaurant was in stock. I figured I’d get dinner from the House of Dim Sum, breakfast from Daily Driver, lunch prep from Luke’s Local, and a sweet treat and maybe a loaf of bread from La Boulangerie.
I was very, very wrong. As you can see, any facility can give a customer anything they want in a “surprise bag”. Sometimes the app might describe what’s likely in it (I’ve rarely seen this), but more often all you have to do is guess what they are for. But what I did wrong wasn’t necessarily the contents of the bag (obviously I expected and was right that Daily Driver would give me leftover bagels), but the amount of food in each bag.
While the customer is $ 4.99, each bag should be worth at least $ 15 (or a $ 5.99 bag should be worth $ 18), and each bag that I picked up had at least that and mostly a lot more. My plan for about three meals plus one dessert was actually subsidized meals for me and my husband all week long.
My loot from La Boulangerie included a banana and nut pound cake, a large chocolate chip cookie, a raspberry financier, and a baguette for $ 4.99.
At La Boulangerie Noe Valley, my bag contained a banana and nut pound cake, large chocolate chip cookie, raspberry financier, and a baguette for $ 4.99 – probably the most accurate of $ 15 I could get, when I added taxes according to my calculations.
When I pick up my dinner at the House of Dim Sum, I am greeted with a huge to-go container full of spring rolls, shrimp dumplings, pot stickers and Jian Dui, wrapped in such a way that I share it with my husband and there is enough for both dinners – everything for $ 5.99.
I ate Luke’s Local’s sandwich for lunch the next day and used the flatbread to gobble up some hummus that I had in the fridge. And for the rest of the week, I had breakfast – six Daily Driver bagels that typically cost $ 3.50 a bagel. Not to mention the peppers, onions, and garlic I used to complement a taco dinner later in the week, or the baguette pieces I used to soak up pasta sauce during another dinner and the lots of desserts that came from the various biscuits and this very tasty 13.99 pound cake.
Luke’s Local packed a grocery bag full of produce, a ham and goat cheese sandwich, a loaf of country bread with seeds, an almond cake, two chocolate sea salt biscuits, and a box of flatbread – all for $ 5.99.
Food waste is a major problem nationwide, but especially in the United States. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, up to 40% of our food is thrown away in this country. A 2014 study by the Food Waste Reduction Alliance found that 84.3% of unused food in American restaurants is disposed of and only 1.4% is donated.
Too Good To Go was born in Denmark and quickly spread to France, the UK, Spain, Germany and the Netherlands in 2016. Co-founder Lucie Basch said they knew the key to restaurant participation is to make the process as simple as possible, which makes the app easy to use and doesn’t require upfront commitments. There is no quota a restaurant has to meet so they can add food whenever they want and as often as they want.
The company charges a flat fee of $ 1.79 per purchase – which is pretty high when you convert it to a percentage (around 35% for a $ 4.99 bag) but pretty low when you Considering that most, if not all, of the foods the restaurant would have generated or no sales to save at all.
For Alexis Liu, owner of Beacon Coffee & Pantry, it’s a win-win for her small business in North Beach. Liu said that there is almost always food left at the end of the day, even if it’s just a bag of pastries, and she is glad that she no longer has to worry about it going to waste. She also said she believes it will introduce them to new customers who may not have visited the store but are now familiar with them and their products.
“Even if it’s just a bag that we sell and the actual amount that we receive [the app] is nominal, better than nothing and better than anything that ends up in a landfill, ”said Liu.
Basch said this is a great value proposition for restaurants, and while I didn’t think of it at first, I totally agree. I probably never would have bought the pitted loaf from Luke or that expensive pound cake, but now I might think twice about it if I ever go to the store again.
In addition to the Bay Area, Too Good To Go is currently available in New York, Boston, Jersey City, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Portland and Seattle. The aim is to add more restaurants in the Bay Area to the platform. The company hopes to launch in LA by the end of the year. The company estimates it has saved more than 72 million meals in 15 countries since its inception, adding up to £ 250 million in food.
Lucie Basch, one of the founders of Too Good To Go,
Courtesy Too Good To Go
Basch said she hopes restaurants and grocery stores can also learn from participating in the app. For example, if a restaurant sees there is always 10 baguettes left at the end of the day, maybe they could bake eight less each day and see if that helps their meal costs.
I promise this article is not sponsored by Too Good To Go, but I was really shocked and delighted with how much food each “surprise bag” contained and the quality of it. There doesn’t seem to be many downsides to consumers. Sure, I got a pear that was way too old to eat, but the bag of groceries was already way too expensive, so I didn’t feel bad composting a pear that would have ended up being composted in the store . Picking up items within a tight time limit can be a chore (the store schedules any time – you might only have a 15 minute window and up to several hours) but if you’re in a neighborhood that gets busy There are busy restaurants participating and you have a flexible schedule; it really isn’t that difficult.
The biggest barrier for many will likely be adhering to dietary restrictions. If you have an extreme allergy, Basch admits that the app is probably not for you as they can never guarantee what’s in a particular bag. They have a filter for vegetarian items but when I clicked that most of the restaurants disappeared from my app. But when I look back at my prey, only one out of four places contained items with meat.
If you’re on a budget, passionate about reducing food waste, and not a picky eater, this app could be exactly the win-win-win app it calls itself.
My dinner at the House of Dim Sum was full of spring rolls, shrimp dumplings, pot stickers, and jian dui – all for $ 5.99.