Saving while reducing food waste in London

In London, instead of going out to a restaurant or bring food to the office, most people get takeaway to eat at their desks. This dynamic forces restaurants to have a wide selection of prepared items. Always the same items. This is very different from the Spanish “menu del dia” in which you can go to the same restaurante every day and find a daily menu that rotates.

People are in a hurry here and don’t want to wait for the restaurant to prepare food. It is very fast as you just take what you want from the shelf and leave. If you ask for something that requires preparation, you rarely have to wait more than 5 or 10 minutes. So the priority is the speed and not the quality or the social aspect of having lunch with other people. The classic example is Pret a Manger. They are everywhere.

This is very convenient but it made me wonder. Is this ready-made food lost at the end of the day?

And in many cases, it is. Many of the products can not be reused in a kitchen. If a roast chicken is not sold, a restaurant can do a thousand things with it. But Sushi, salads, sandwiches… it’s hard. Even more when your menu does not change.

The other day I realized this when I saw this little bell:

In the restaurant chain Itsu, they put most items at half price half an hour before closing,

The objective is twofold. On the one hand, Itsu does not waste food. On the other hand, it has some sales at the end of the day that it could not get otherwise.

Is it not possible for someone to decide to wait and save half price?

It is. But I think it’s a very small minority. Itsu sells mainly at lunchtime (12:00pm) and at dinner time (7:00pm). Most locations close at 9:00 pm or 10:00 pm, so discounts will only be available around that time. If someone is able to change their schedule about 4 hours to get the discount, I suppose it is well deserved. Also, they don’t commit to have anything on the shelf. That is, they may not have anything that is going to be lost that day and you are left with nothing if you wait.

Thinking about this, I wondered if other restaurants or stores would do the same. I was very surprised to find a lot of things but I will comment on the two best ones.

Too Good To Go

Too Good To Go tells you which restaurants have food that is going to be lost so you can buy it for a very low price.

You can’t choose what to take because the restaurant doesn’t know what it is going to have available.

The first time I used this app I went to pick up breakfast at a hotel. Several hotel chains have a buffet breakfast and they have to throw away practically everything that is left over. This is where this app is a killer. I had breakfast for 2 pounds that would otherwise cost me more than 7. The hotel wastes less and has a small extra income.

I have seen some restaurants that take advantage of the app as if it were another sales channel.

One thing that surprised me is that you can book your food almost 24 hours in advance. In the case of the hotel, I definitely understand this. They try to avoid guests not finding what they want for breakfast. Therefore, there are always going to be things left over.

But in the case of restaurants … If they know 24 hours in advance that they will have more than enough, would it not be better to prepare less food?

OLIO

This startup has raised a Series A round of 6 million pounds. They try to fight waste in a much less commercial way. In fact, virtually everything that appears in the app is free.

The equivalent in Spain would be Nolotiro.org, but Olio has a much clearer focus on food.

It has agreements with several restaurants and stores. When they have things that are going to throw away, a volunteer from Olio collects them and publishes them in the app to distribute them.

To encourage volunteers Olio lets them keep 10% of what they collect. Although I get the impression that most volunteers do it more for the cause.

Also anyone can donate. Some examples that I have seen:

  • “I have made a lot of jam and I’m giving away 3 jars”
  • “I have bought some cakes but I have noticed that they have an ingredient to which I am allergic”
  • “My company has organized an event and there is a lot of food left over”
  • “I started a diet and I have a lot of baking supplies that I want out of my kitchen”

I love this idea! I would not be surprised if this app is a great success. Especially seeing the profile of the founders and their investors.

Do you think this could work in other places?

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