Let’s reevaluate what we know about food waste. On average, 130 billion meals are wasted each year in the United States, according to Feeding America. That’s 40% of all food in America wasted.

Spoon HQ had the opportunity to talk with Allie Denburg, U.S. Strategy & Planning Lead at Too Good To Go: The app minimizing local food waste.

Too Good To Good launched in Europe in 2016 by co-founders Luice Basch & Jamie Crummie. Their mission? To directly decrease food waste by providing an app to restaurants, chains, grocery stores, quick service, etc., with the opportunity for their customers to reserve food that would later be thrown away. The app expanded to the U.S. in 2020.

Basch said she had that “a-ha” moment when she was in Paris and noticed the excess pastries and baguettes from local bakeries. When she asked if the local bakery owners gave out what they had left, they said they wouldn't give their products away for free, but would give them out for a reduced price.

How Does It Work?

Like every app on your phone, there is a developer side and a user side. On the developer side, Too Good To Go partners with local restaurants, chains and grocery stores that have the same mission of reducing food waste.

If a restaurant is interested in partnering with Too Good To Go, they can sign their business up on the website. Once they do that, the food service can list the number of bags they plan to sell based on the amount of excess food they have. The food will be listed as a surprise bag for ⅓ of the retail price that the business can set. The surprise bags are filled with an assortment of items leftover from the businesses at the end of the night, but the bags will differ each night based on the leftover items from the store. Typically the bags will be priced at $3.99, $4.99, and $5.99.

On the user side, once they download the app, it will provide them with food services in their area that are offering surprise bags. The user can reserve their bag and pick it up at the time the restaurant has listed.

To date, there are 54 million users globally on Too Good To Go and they are partnered with 8,000 restaurants, grocery stores, cafes, bakeries, etc. in the US and 180,000 Globally. 

The Impact

Since launching Too Good To Go, 120 million meals have been saved globally, equivalent to 480 million pounds of food. In the U.S. alone, 1.7 million meals were saved. That’s two meals being saved per second.

I reached out to folks at two restaurants that use Too Good To Go to lessen their food waste.

The first restaurant, Rize Pizza, sells pizza, wings, fries, and sandwiches. Before partnering with Too Good To Go, the restaurant used to throw out a lot of its slices at the end of the night, which cost money.

“The real reason was we put so much time and energy into making our pizzas, that it was the thought of just trashing something that made it worse,” Julia Angelos, co-owner of Rize, said.

Although they gave leftovers to family and friends, it wasn’t enough and based on their business they weren’t able to reuse slices the next day. They started a new idea where they would make less slices to combat food waste, but many customers were unhappy because there wouldn’t be any more slices or they wouldn’t find the one they wanted.

“When I found out about Too Good To Go I was thrilled at the thought of reducing/eliminating waste, having the slices go to a better home, and incurring some of the loss cost,” said Angelos.

Rize Pizza sells surprise bags for $3.99, which include four slices.

“It’s a win-win across-the-board both from saving waste and incurring some of the lost cost and having our slices potentially go to new customers that didn’t know about us before,” said Angelos.

The second business, Traub’s Bakery, partnered with Too Good To Go to not only lower food waste but help out the community.

“All I had to do was download the app and say how many surprise bags I would like us to sell each day, the time they can be picked up, and how much product to put in them,” Traub’s Bakery manager, Michelle Faragalli, said. “After seeing the options for selling and hearing what the average is, I thought $15 a bag was a good price. The customer only pays half the price of the surprise bag but is getting $15 worth of product.”

Depending on the surplus of baked goods they have, customers can find donuts, danishes, sticky buns, and sometimes even pies or cakes in the bags.

“Since we have signed up with Too Good To Go, I have added extra days to our schedule along with extra bags. My employees are now throwing away 70% less product each night and we have already saved over 100 meals,” said Faragalli.

Current Goals

Businesses can benefit from the Too Good To Go partnership via building awareness, visibility, and helping with supply chain or inventory. This movement’s hopeful goal is to live on a planet with no food waste, and hopefully Too Good To Go can be the start of that dream.

Too Good To Go are currently focusing on two different impacts - direct and indirect. Every purchase made has a direct impact on food waste. The indirect impact is focused on raising awareness on food waste and sustainability, reaching schools, educating, and policy making.

In Europe, Too Good To Go is working on an initiative called Look, Smell, Taste, Don’t Waste.

The purpose of this initiative is to encourage consumers to look, smell, and taste the food that may have an expiration date on it before throwing it away because of the “use by” date. Check for any visual signs of mold. Smell if the food is going bad or has a bad odor. Taste a small amount of the food to determine if the flavor has changed or does not taste like it usually should.

Too Good To Go is currently working with big brand names, some of which are Nestle, Cheerios, Tropicana, and more, to change their packaging and re-classify how their products are labeled. Instead of using “sell by” or “use by,” these companies should start using a “best before” label. This means that the food is at its best quality and taste before the date printed, but does not mean it cannot be consumed after that date.

If you are ready to take the next step and join the fight to end food waste, download the app, and stop by your local food services to purchase a surprise bag today!