Podcast: The App Helping Restaurants Fight Food Waste

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Chaz:    Really excited today. Not just because of what we’re going to talk about in terms of the cause that you guys are tackling but where you’re at as a business and so on is just absolutely amazing. So, first of all, welcome Jamie.

Jamie:    Thanks very much. Thanks so much for having us, guys.

Chaz:    Absolute pleasure. Before we dig into the business and what you guys are up to, I think it’s always nice for our listeners to kind of grasp who is Jamie and what is Too Good To Go?

Jamie:    I’m actually currently putting on a lot of weight from eating so much food through Too Good To Go (Laughs), so bear with me on that one. I guess the idea for Too Good To Go stems back to 2013. So I was working with Amnesty International at the time, and we had a function which was catered for by another food initiative, the Real Junk Food Project, and that really got us thinking, and we were like, ‘What about this issue of food waste?’ It was something which we thought, myself in particular, as someone working within human rights, I was, like, amazed that I didn’t know about the scale and the gravity of the issue of food waste. I guess that was something which stayed at the back of my mind. Moved over to Australia, lived there for a bit, came back and then I guess three or four years later here we are with Too Good To Go.

We actually started at the end of October 2015 in Copenhagen. Really the idea behind that was we see Scandinavia as such a progressive society. You just need to see with the amount of people going around on bikes and the introduction of the world’s first waste supermarket that it really is leaps and bounds ahead of us in terms of caring about the environment and really doing the right thing, which I’m super jealous of.

Chaz:    I’m really jealous of that. Good for you guys getting out of the UK and rocking it somewhere else first. That’s so cool.

Jamie:    Yes. I think we’ve got a lot to thank Chris’s fiancée Sia for, for bringing the Scandinavian out in all of us really.

Chaz:    Cool. So just on a granular level, obviously Too Good To Go is primarily an app or obviously 50/50. What does the product actually do?

Jamie:    I guess it’s two-fold in the sense that it is an app. It’s a web-based platform which allows users to collect surplus food from participating stores, be them restaurants, cafes or bakeries, market stalls, greengrocers. I think we’ve got a butcher now as well, at the end of their service as just a means of preventing that food from going in the bin. Again, it’s more than just collecting food for a discounted price. It’s about trying to change people’s attitudes and the way they view food waste.

So we sort of feel like if somebody can go and pick up food from a participating store we hope that can sort of transcend into the different sort of ways of their life. So, you know, sniffing the milk before you throw it away and seeing the sell-by date, and again just trying to really change the way that we as consumers view food and really place that lost value onto it.

Chaz:    Coming back to how you onboard stores, butchers and so on, what does that process look like? That’s quite tricky, right?

Jamie:    It’s really good fun. It’s just like drumming up interest. So we reach people through social media. There’s a lot of door knocking, going around speaking with people and just finding out if food waste is a thing which they have. If there’s a lot of in-store food waste come the end of service. We like to see it as a win-win really. So for them, it’s a chance to recover those sunk costs in food waste. So we have a strict kind of pricing structure because we don’t want people to come onboard to the app to then use this platform as a means of selling food.

Chaz:    That must be tricky, right?

Jamie:    Yes, I guess that is. It’s quite a big debate that sometimes we have with people but very few. It’s making sure we don’t devalue the store’s food, because if you can buy it through the app at £2.50 but then during regular lunchtime it could be £5, £6, £7, whatever it may be. So again it’s getting across the message that we’re actually rescuing that food from going to landfill and it’s a chance to recover those sunk costs of the ingredients or the staffing costs which go into it. It’s not a means of profiting or discounting their food. It’s really that food which was going to be thrown away. Perfectly good food to eat.

Chaz:    Talk to me more about the food waste market as a whole. Obviously, there are a couple of other players in the market, but certainly, you think there’s room for everyone, right?

Jamie:    Yes, definitely. I think it’s fantastic that there’s more and more social enterprises and charities developing which are looking to address food waste because I think the more people talking about it, the more that we can actually make a real viable impact. So, again, I love the fact that I open a paper or go on Facebook and there’s another person doing something brilliant and fantastic with food waste, be it making chutneys or crisps. There’s beer actually, so there’s Toast Ale, which is done by Tristram Stuart, which is delicious. There are so many amazing and whacky things going on which is fantastic, and the more that we can scream and shout about it the more that we can really start making a big impact.

Chaz:    Who can use Too Good To Go? Is it very much for everyone?

Jamie:    Literally anybody and everybody. So as long as you have a phone and access to either PayPal or a bank card then you can sign up and start ordering, collecting food from places like Yo! Sushi to places like Crussh, to some really cool little independents which you probably didn’t know existed.

Chaz:    How does that work then? Let’s say I’ve just downloaded the app. Is it later in the evenings and at night when the window is? Is it a window that opens up that you can pick up from?

Jamie:    It completely varies from store to store. So you may have different places which end up closing just after lunch, so there could be a pick-up window from 2:00-2:30. There may be places with 3:00-4:00.

Chaz:    That’s entirely determined by the stores or the shops?

Jamie:    By the store, exactly. So you’ll log in to the app and on the landing page, it’s all like GPS located so you’ll see the nearest stores to you and then you can flick through it. You don’t really know what food you’re going to get, with the nature of it being surplus food, but you know if you’re going to Yo! Sushi…

Chaz:    That’s the best part about it. So you’re also creating variety in people’s diets as well as tackling this problem.

Jamie:    Yes. We love it. It’s quite a liberating experience in a world of loads of choices you can just have one meal a day picked for you. I don’t know about you but when I’m choosing a film on a Friday night I’m flicking through 30 minutes of trailers.

Chaz:    Exactly the same. IMDB checking every one. It’s true. Then when you’re using something like Uber Eats obviously you have your best choices but the choice is kind of made for you. It’s fantastic. In terms of where food waste is going, I know that we’ll touch on it in a second around the fact that there’s awareness in things like air pollution but not maybe enough in food waste. Where do you see this market as a whole going and evolving, particularly in the UK?

Jamie:    I think it’s going in the right direction. As you rightly touched on there, I think we’re far more aware of the impacts of driving our cars, for example, and we can see certain schemes like the cycle to work scheme, which is actively encouraging us to cycle to work, but there isn’t a comparator really that’s advocating us to re-address the way that we value food. I do think it is going in the right direction and we are seeing people being more conscious about the way they source their food and the way that they take care of it really, which is a positive thing but I think there’s so much more to be done.

Chaz:    It’s a catch 22 right because as consumers we’re all about this fresh on-demand way of thinking, but that kind of makes things very difficult for restaurants and stores and stuff, right?

Jamie:    Yes, completely. I think the analogy of a supermarket is the best one really. So we go in and it’s open 24 hours or open until 10:00 at night and we go in and we expect our shelves to be fully stocked, yet at the same time we hate it when we find out that our supermarkets or restaurants or cafes are throwing away these sandwiches and salads and things at the end of service. So it really is a tricky thing for the restaurants in particular to balance. They’ve got to have that fresh produce because that’s what the consumer market demands, but at the same time we’re having this surge of people who rightly are saying, “We don’t want that food being thrown away.” So it is a tough balancing act. That’s why I love Too Good To Go because it really is that safety net which allows those restaurants to actually make sure that that food isn’t being thrown in the bin.

Chaz:    Absolutely amazing. Let’s talk about your customers, your consumers from a demand perspective, so less so from the store side and restaurant side. Who are your consumers? Who are your early adopters and your brand advocates?

Jamie:    Everybody and anybody really. We started and we thought the people who would be absolutely loving this are students, and yes students do love it but we actually did a bit of a filming day down in Brighton and we were calling up some of our biggest users in Brighton and one of them was this one gentleman, I was on the phone to him, a guy called Ian. I didn’t know his age and I just presumed he was probably a young guy but he uses it to feed his kids. He goes along with his newborn twins as well and picks up his Too Good To Go. So it’s really diverse in terms of the people which are using Too Good To Go. That in itself is fantastic.

Chaz:    It’s amazing. We were saying earlier, your brand advocates are ultimate brand advocates. This is completely true by the way. My housemate came in, got all our phones and was like, ‘Guys, you need to download this app. It’s awesome,’ and literally took all our phones and downloaded it for us. That is just amazing. On a more broader sense, talking about the fact of why you first started in Copenhagen and so on, is the UK government doing enough here? From what my understanding is, and correct me if I’m wrong, you kind of expressed that actually there are other markets internationally that are just way in front of us in this market.

Jamie:    Yes. I think we are very much behind in terms of our food waste. You just need to look at the stats really. In the hospitality industry alone, we’re throwing away 600,000 tonnes of edible food waste each year. So we are the highest offenders in Europe. Quite frankly, yes, we’re not doing enough to prevent that. I think there should be legislation which is reflecting the likes of that in France and Italy which is actually placing sanctions on the big players which are throwing food away. That there makes for good headlines and it also makes for us to start talking about and debating about it and then we can see that trickle-down effect into other walks of life.

Chaz:    It’s consumer-led, isn’t it? At the end of the day, we need to get people talking about this because ultimately the supermarkets, the bigger players, what they stock, why they stock it and when they stock it is driven by consumers. I’m guessing that let’s say a parsnip, all the bad looking ones get thrown away and they keep the good looking ones because the consumers only buy the good looking ones, for absolutely no reason whatsoever. I think it’s absolutely fantastic what you guys are up to. I really want to finish talking about a very overall broad view, all the players in the market. What is your message as a company in how you want to get that out there?

Jamie:    We really just want to place that lost value back onto food as something that should be eaten and not thrown away. So we’re just wanting people to really think twice about throwing something away, think twice about what it is they need to buy and really just we love Too Good To Go in the sense that it’s an affordable way for people to be sustainable. So people often think, “Oh, it’s really expensive to shop or source your food locally,” or to shop organically, and things like that, but this here is a really cost-efficient way for people to be that sort of environmental activist, so to speak, and pick up food for between £2.00-3.50 and really make a huge impact on helping the environment.

Chaz:    Absolutely. Fantastic. Jamie, awesome to have you on the podcast. Certainly, if there are any stores or restaurants, supermarkets, one-man bands listening, what’s the best way to contact you guys?

Jamie:    Just hit us up through our website. Drop us an email, or drop me an email even at Jamie@toogoodtogo.co.uk. If you’ve got any friends who have anything from a restaurant to a market stall, get them in touch because we’re now operating in I think 13 cities across the UK. So we’re really trying to spread our wings and get Too Good To Go flying.

Chaz:    Thanks very much, Jamie. You’ve been absolutely fantastic. Cheers bud.

Jamie:    Thanks so much.

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