Joining the effort to reduce food waste in NYC — an estimated 3.9 million tons of food ends up in landfills in New York state every year — is Too Good to Go, a company that has a large presence in Europe but only just launched its U.S. operations a month ago, in NYC, with plans to expand nationwide.
Since its start at the end of September, Too Good to Go has already signed up 250 “partners,” as the group calls it, which includes a mix of restaurants, cafes, grocery stores, and food stores, all providing food to customers that would otherwise be wasted. Well-known establishments like Breads Bakery, Black Seed Bagels, Stumptown Coffee, and Tartinery have all signed on, and the company’s East Coast director Gaeleen Quinn — a hospitality industry veteran — says Too Good to Go is looking to rapidly expand to all five boroughs in the city.
“New Yorkers have accepted and embraced the concept, and it’s only been a month,” says Quinn, referring to the 15,000 registered users who’ve come on board since Too Good to Go’s launch in NYC.
The service is available through a mobile app and shows users nearby grocery stores, cafes, and restaurants that plan to give out food at the end of the day. The service is free to use for customers and food establishments alike, but Too Good to Go takes a cut from the sales price for the food, which is typically sold at one-third of the price than it normally would, according to Quinn.
While some other food waste apps in the city allow customers to choose specific items, Too Good to Go has engineered “surprise bags,” meaning restaurants can pick a selection of items to give away that remain at the end of the day, instead of committing to a specific item like croissants or cookies. Customers using the app, then, reserve one of the select number of “surprise bags,” available at their local cafe or grocery store, and head on over to pick it up at the selected time.
For some restaurateurs, this setup works better. Nicolas Dutko, the founder of French cafe mini-chain Tartinery, says the bag system allows him a lot more flexibility. “We never know what we might have, and for me this was really a game change,” says Dutko. Not committing to specific items also makes it a lot easier for cafe staffers to coordinate bag handoffs to customers at the end of the day, Dutko says.
He started experimenting with the service at his Park Avenue location in Midtown in early October, and had committed to giving away three bags each day. Dutko says all three bags were scooped up nearly every day that first week. “It’s a win win for customers and restaurateurs,” says Dutko, adding that while he doesn’t profit from the sales, he is able to cover the cost of the food itself.
In Nolita, Abraham Hamdan, one of the managing partners at relatively new grocery store Mulberry Market says the store has committed to selling products from its deli for now with the hopes to expand the service to the rest of the supermarket. “It’s exciting to see how this is going to play out.”
As part of its overall mission to address climate change through food waste, Quinn says the app does not do delivery and relies on customers picking up their orders in person. Getting restaurants and cafes on board is a hands on approach as well. Staffers go door to door approaching food establishments to talk about their mission and encourage them to sign on, according to Quinn.
Too Good to Go now joins other apps like Your Local and Food For All, all connecting restaurants with customers in the hopes of reducing food waste. Several other organizations throughout the city have been working for years to secure food waste and provide it to communities in need including City Harvest and Rethink Food, and these apps now serve to expand the scope.
Quinn says according to Too Good to Go’s estimates, it has already saved 10,000 meals in the city since its launch, and Quinn says the organization is adding several new members every week. “New Yorkers are proving once again that they are conscious about these issues,” she says.