Do you look back in horror at your Seamless and Grubhub receipts, wondering how exactly your grilled cheese sandwich cost you $43.50? Then we’ve got good news: there’s a new, sustainably-minded app that can help you both reduce food waste and bulk up your wallet.
Now live in New York, Too Good To Go partners with local restaurants and grocery stores to put together daily takeaway bags of surplus food, available to consumers for just a few dollars. So we put it to the test – and got quite the bargain.
On Tuesday W42ST’s Naty Caez took her chances with Too Good To Go. By picking up from Afficionado Coffee, Fruitstand43 and Pick-A-Bagel, she took home a $15 haul of fruit, vegetables, pastries and over a dozen bagels, which the app estimates would have cost at least $42. The only waste: one rotting plum.
The app works by letting users browse what’s on offer in their area, reserve the bags and pay for them on their phone before picking up their surprise package. Too Good To Go provides an estimate of the minimum full price each bag would have cost, and a rough indication of its contents.
While you can’t select items from a menu a lá Seamless, the app gives you a general idea of what’s inside your “magic bag.” And it guarantees to come in a lot cheaper, with most bags costing from $2.99 to $5.99, plus tax. The aim is to cut food waste and give shops, cafes and restaurants an economic incentive to do so.
For the Hell’s Kitchen foodie, there are several local favorites already on the app. As well as W42ST’s destinations, they include Amy’s Bread, the Amish Market, Queen of Sheba, and Romeo and Juliet. Also taking part: Colombian Coffee, Rancho Taqueria, Bao Bao Café, Sergimmo Salumeria, Bibble & Sip, Bird & Branch, Café 424, Sacco Pizza, Taco Mahal and Kashkaval Garden as well as popular chains like Le Pain Quotidien, Juice Press and Just Salad.
“We began partnering with Too Good To Go during the pandemic. We have had such an incredible response from app users,” said Paul Miller-Gealone of Amy’s Bread. “When there are left over items, we can place the number of bags we have available on the app, and they’re all purchased within minutes. It’s a great way to bring in a little revenue on items that would have otherwise been unsold.”
In addition to saving New Yorkers some serious change, the team at Too Good To Go collaborates with schools and local governments to rework food systems and reduce waste. According to a study from the company, “up to 40 percent of all food produced in the US is currently wasted” — with 63 million tons of food sent to landfill each year and 40 percent of food waste at the retail or consumer level.
“New York has embraced our simple solution for saving surplus food. In just two years since launching in New York City, New Yorkers and our local food business partners have saved over 1.6 million surprise bags from going to waste,” said Chris MacAulay, US Country Manager at Too Good To Go. “We’re so honored to partner with great local establishments like Breads Bakery, Eataly and Murray’s Cheese, and we’re beyond excited to continue to grow the app’s footprint and impact in NYC at scale.”
After launching in major cities across Europe, Too Good to Go is now live in New York, Boston, Austin, Chicago, DC, Atlanta, Portland (Maine and Washington), Seattle, San Francisco and Baltimore and has partnered with over 175,000 stores. The app sustains itself by pocketing a small percentage of each sale and charging partners an $89 yearly fee, providing restaurants and stores with a relatively affordable way to manage surplus product and avoid newly re-activated city fines for improperly processed food.
And for some users, the thrill extends beyond just saving money – one frequent customer referred to the goodie grab-bag element of the app as “Halloween trick-or-treating for adults” to the New York Times. There’s even a Too Good to Go subreddit dedicated to sharing especially lucky finds.
So the next time you find yourself simply out of ideas for dinner, you can always spin the wheel of takeout fortune and try your luck on a local meal that will only set you back the cost of a latte!