Food waste is clearly an issue in America, one that Spoon has covered many times.
That’s why when we met this cool new company at Spoon’s annual Brainfood Conference that focuses on food waste created by restaurants, we just had to get to know them.
Meet PareUp: an app and website that connects you with local eateries that are selling their excess food at discounted prices. That’s right – delicious cheap eats from your soon-to-be favorite local restaurants.
According to PareUp, 40% of food from farm-to-fork is thrown away, which costs the nation about $165 billion dollars. Many times this food is still good to eat, consisting of either irregularly shaped and colored produce, or food that has to be tossed due to promises of fresh products from restaurants and bakeries.
These numbers are staggering, and the co-founders of PareUp have decided to do something about it.
So, they created PareUp – a free app that you can download on your phone to find live listings of restaurants, bakeries, and other eateries trying to sell their excess, still-fresh products at a discounted price before they end up in the trash.
Currently, PareUp has paired up with 55 locations in NYC, but has plans to expand as their user-base and eatery-base grows. More on this later.
We sat down with co-founders Jason Chen (right) and Margaret Tung (middle), pictured below with third co-founder, Anuj Jhunjhunwala (left) to get the scoop on their app, food waste and some of their favorite food memories.
Meet co-founders Jason and Margaret
Spoon: Where did you (Margaret) and Jason meet?
M: Freshman year at Yale.
Spoon: Why food waste?
M: I always wanted a for-profit business that had a bottom line impact, something that will help the smaller guys and farmers… If we can mitigate food waste then we can also have a positive impact on the environment.
J: My perspective of food waste mirrors most of what America’s conception of it is, which is not a lot of it. I thought [food waste] was mostly leftovers, maybe a little spoilage in the fridge, and I think most people think like that. Actually seeing the numbers and statistics behind how much food is being wasted, like actual edible wasted food – that was really eye-opening. That is what compelled me to believe that not only is there a major commercial opportunity here, but there’s also a major social impact as well.
M: Efficiency and social impact is what we care about at our core, and our business does exactly that.
Spoon: How is this app appealing to college kids?
M: College students are the perfect demographic for us – they’re going after cheap items and they don’t have a disposable income, and they have more freedom in their schedule.
J: We’re targeting them by 1) reaching out to various student groups to see if they’re interested in working with us, 2) going after stores around NYU that accept NYU campus cash, and 3) starting a branding ambassador program so people can talk to and promote things on campus that will reach students. We’re also free to use. And we appreciate any feedback they can give us!
Spoon: What deals/restaurants should we try from the app?
J&M: Between the Bread makes such good chicken. They’re primarily a catering company and do mostly lunch so they close at 4 pm, so they miss the dinner crowd. They post on our platform between 3-4 pm, things like salmon platters, salads, chicken platters and muffins. It’s soooo good and it’s 40% off. Definitely try it and put it in the fridge and eat it for dinner. Pushcart, Pi Bakerie (pictured below), The Squeeze and Chouxbox are also great places to try.
Spoon: Any tips about the app?
J&M: Because this food is excess breakfast, lunch or dinner, you’ll find deals a couple hours after when you’d normally buy these meals. For example, if you’re looking for lunch food, you’ll most likely see the live listing between 3 pm-4 pm. That means that you’ll find the majority of deals in the afternoon or evening when most places will be looking to get rid of their excess stuff, after 5pm usually. Right now, all you have to do is ask for the PareUp discounted item at the location to get the discount.
Spoon: Where do you see PareUp going in the next year or so?
J: We want to be in as many stores in Manhattan as possible, and also the boroughs. However, we don’t see why we couldn’t be able to expand to other metropolitan cities, college towns, and even other countries in the future.
Spoon: Favorite food experiences?
J: Blue Hill at Stone Barns.
M: Going into Queens and getting Thai, Chinese or Indian food. It’s cheap and it’s from people who are making the food they grew up with.
Spoon: Best college food story?
M: I worked as a short order cook at a late-night eatery. I once made a buffalo chicken tender quesadilla that was fried.
J: There was this place that served one egg, any way you wanted for $2.95. With this one egg you would get a plate full of hash browns, home friends and two slices of toast. If you asked for the egg scrambled, you’d definitely be getting more than one egg.
So what are you waiting for? Go download the app and start saving the world while eating awesome cheap eats.