About six years ago, Lucie Basch was passing a pastry shop and watched the baker throwing away goods they hadn’t sold. She asked if she could take them off his hands, but he said he wasn’t allowed to donate them. She offered to pay, and he ended up giving her three times more than what she paid for.
“That made a light bulb go off,” she said. “This is something that could happen every evening at every local food store.”
Basch said she started partnering with like-minded entrepreneurs and soon cofounded Too Good To Go, a new app (available for iOS in the Apple Store and on Google Play for Android) that connects consumers with surplus from restaurants, bakeries, cafes, and grocery stores at the end of each business day, ensuring that unsold food doesn’t go to waste. The app just launched in Providence, R.I.
Q: How does the app work?
Basch: Consumers download the app, browse participating locations nearby, reserve and pay for a “Surprise Bag” to pick up. Then, they’ll head to the store during the pick-up window, based on each location’s choosing and closing time. The contents of each “Surprise Bag” vary daily and app users can expect to get a range of products at one-third of the retail value — from a bag of fresh fruit and vegetables, three pizza slices, or a couple of extra sushi rolls, to a pint of gelato or an assortment of pastries.
Q: From your perspective, how severe is the issue of food waste in the US?
Basch: [About] 40 percent of edible food is wasted in the US, and as highlighted in the latest IPCC report, food waste contributes to 10 percent of all global greenhouse gas emissions. If food waste were a country, it would be the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases after China and the US. The need to connect the dots between food waste and climate change is crucial, now more than ever. In fact, Project Drawdown ranks reducing food waste as the #1 way we can each fight climate change. Saving just one meal through the Too Good To Go app saves the carbon footprint of charging a smartphone 422 times while supporting local business at the same time.
Q: Which markets are you in? And why did you choose those markets?
Basch: We’re in 12 US markets and counting, including New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Seattle, Jersey City, Portland, Austin, Baltimore, and now Providence. We chose these cities by a number of factors — namely larger and denser cities to start — so we can make the largest impact possible.
Six years since starting, we are in 17 countries and have saved over 107 million meals thanks to this super simple concept.
Q: How does Too Good to Go help business owners, especially during the pandemic?
Basch: The pandemic rocked the food and restaurant industry around the world. Shutdowns and a decrease in foot traffic exacerbated an already growing problem and, unfortunately, forced many out of business. Too Good To Go remained open across all 14 European countries, and quickly launched in the US, Canada, and Ireland, to provide a solution for consumers and businesses to minimize food waste and recoup some operational costs. Our partners have also said many new customers discover their store through the app, so it’s a bit of free marketing as well.
Q: How much does it cost a small business to join Too Good To Go?
Basch: It doesn’t cost businesses anything to sign up. We only charge a small, annual administration fee that is taken out of the profits made from Surprise Bags. When users buy a Surprise Bag, Too Good To Go takes a $1.79 commission per bag, and the rest goes straight to the store. This allows us to power our marketplace across 17 different countries by enabling our team to raise awareness of food waste at the retail level and provide meaningful employment to more than 1,200 people.
We’re proud to be a certified B-Corporation, which is awarded to businesses that meet “the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose.”
Q: How can a business join Too Good To Go?
Basch: It’s super easy and quick. They simply go to the “Own a store?” tab on our website, fill out the form, and can begin saving meals the same day.
Q: Who is your target audience?
Basch: We want to work with any establishment that is throwing away surplus food at closing time. Our partners choose us because we help their business operate more sustainably with ease. In terms of app users, we believe the only way to eliminate the massive amount of food waste is for everyone to play a role in the food rescue ecosystem.
Q: Do you have any data that shows the impact your app has had so far?
Basch: Our key metric for success is our “save ratio,” meaning the amount of meals we’ve saved based on supply. To date, since the company’s inception in 2016, we’ve saved over 107 million meals from the trash — the carbon footprint of 52,657 flights around the world. In just one year since launching in the US, more than 1.7 million Americans and over 7,000 food businesses have saved over 1.5 million meals.
We’re extremely proud and inspired by the response and impact in the US already — we’ve seen faster growth here than in any of the European countries we’ve launched to date.