Key business takeaways
- Signaling your commitment to sustainability can be a big draw for socially conscious customers Spending more with their values
- Use the platform as a modeling exercise to get new customers in the door and excited about some of your less popular, but well-liked products.
- Consider using your excess profits from Too Good to Go to donate to local food rescues, food banks, and other organizations fighting food insecurity
Chef Judy Ni, owner of Baologi in Philadelphia, serves modern Taiwanese cuisine from her parents’ hometown, from gua baos (Taiwanese street food) to noodles. But her restaurant’s mission goes even deeper: bāo•logy seeks to increase access to fresh and nutritious food—and that includes eliminating food waste.
“I’m the product of two immigrants who came to this country, and we grew up with scarcity,” Judy said. “There was a never-waste cooking mentality at home. You get a whole chicken, you break it down, you keep the bones, you make stock out of it, and you put all the scraps in it. We follow a similar philosophy in the store.
Judy’s entire menu is designed to be zero-waste, using only locally sourced ingredients. But even with all the careful planning, mistakes still happen—say, potsticker rips. It’s still perfectly fine, but Judy doesn’t serve customers. Usually, the team either eats it themselves or throws it away, he said. Now they have another outlet: too good to go.
Fully established in 12 United States cities and rapidly expanding, Too Good to Go partners with local food service businesses—including grocers and bakeries and restaurants—to save excess food from the trash. Most food banks can’t accept one-off deliveries or damaged meals, prompting customers to pick up a “surprise bag” for Too Good to Go’s business convenience.
“It’s a win-win for everyone,” Judy said. “Whoever is getting it at the end of the day, they’re hopefully enjoying it and they’re contributing [our zero-waste efforts] And.”
By monetizing food waste for small businesses, the platform has saved 145 million meals and served 59 million consumers globally. Too Good to Go takes a flat fee of $1.79 per purchase to operate the platform, and the business owner keeps the rest of the profit – an added bonus of bringing in new customers.
Yelp spoke with Food Rescue Advocates and the Too Good to Go team to learn more about how this platform can fit into your business’s marketing mix and sustainability strategies.
Costs of food waste
No business owner sets out to create food waste. But it happens at every level of the supply chain, sending about 40% of the US food supply to landfills — 40% of which comes from restaurants, grocery stores and other food service businesses.
“When you’re a chef or you’re an owner, it takes a lot of effort and a lot of resources to actually create your products; To throw them away—it’s painful,” said Gayleen Quinn, head of US impact at Too Good to Go. “However, the impact on the environment is even greater. Many people don’t know that food waste accounts for 12% of global greenhouse gas emissions. (Other estimates range from 6-11%.)
The US Environmental Protection Agency quantifies the cost of food waste this way: If the country’s food waste were a farm, it would be the size of California and New York combined. It drains the annual water use of 50 million American homes. And that’s enough nutrition to feed more than 150 million people each year, more than the estimated 35 million Americans who lack access to nutritious and affordable food.
Creating value from food waste
Everyone wants to donate food to help others, especially small business owners, who are often pillars in their community. But there are many times when a donation simply isn’t feasible—say, a restaurant has a few sushi rolls or a pizza left over at the end of the day. Making those pick-ups before the items spoil can’t protect the food. Worse, donations create more waste for food rescues if they don’t meet the cultural or nutritional needs of their clients.
“Too good to go is creating value that might otherwise go to waste,” Gayleen said. “We’re foodies, so bringing back the value of food and the value of all the resources that went into creating that food is so important.”
The platform helps business owners re-package surplus food into a “surprise bag” that is picked up by customers within a specified time frame. It could be a missed meal from a Grubhub order, leftovers from the salad bar, or a dozen extra donuts that didn’t sell. Whatever the case, the business is food that can be sold today but not tomorrow—usually for food safety or storage reasons.
Not only that, but the food on Too Good to Go is sold at a steep discount: each business owner decides the contents and value of the bag, which sells for $12-$20 at a 70% discount. Keeping bags at a low price helps increase access to prepared meals for people who have trouble affording food, but don’t want to go to a food bank or shelter.
“There are a lot of hungry people who don’t want donations: college students, medical students, nurses, single mothers,” said Abbey Stern, food pharmacy manager at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, who previously helped start Too Good to Go in Philadelphia. . “Too Good to Go gives them a resource where they can use their money, choose the restaurants they want to go to, and choose when they show up to pick up that food. So now they’re getting discounted meals, which they definitely need, but they’re also helping the environment by reducing waste, and they have complete autonomy.
But perhaps the greatest value of Too Good to Go is its convenience for consumers and business owners. “It also allows [business] To make a sustainable decision in a very easy way,” Gayleen said. “Instead of filling out an inventory or going to the backend of an application and itemizing all these different things, [Too Good To Go] One bundles everything together in a bundle that equates to a certain value and our customers pick it up.
Surprise (bag) and happiness
Many small business owners are familiar with the term “surprise and delight”—a marketing strategy that entices customers with an extra bonus or special touch they didn’t expect. What if you take that “surprise” literally?
With Too Good to Go, consumers know the type of food they’re receiving, but they don’t know what’s in the bag. Gayleen said: “There’s this element of surprise, which is kind of cool because they’re like: ‘What am I going to get this time? And how will it be different than what I had yesterday?'” Many consumers compare what they receive on local Facebook pages, chasing the next, unique experience.
Too Good to Go’s audience includes regulars, but it also includes curious customers willing to try something new for a discount. Do you offer something that customers rarely order, but could be a hit? Put it in a bag, and they’ll come back and buy it at full price.
“I found out [Yellow Bicycle Canteen] Too good to go on the app and I’m so glad I did! Yelp reviewer Lisa D. wrote about a vegetarian cafe in Philadelphia. “I will definitely be adding this to my lunch spot rotation,” said Kate D., another Too Good To Go customer.
“It’s a great marketing tool because it gets customers in the door,” Gayleen said. “In fact, many of our partners use Too Good to Go as a kind of modeling exercise [for customers]. This is an opportunity to mix different foods and try other untested things.
Finally, Too Good to Go is an opportunity to show that you are committed to sustainability. By simply signing up, you can sell a food waste management plan to customers who want to show their support for eco-friendly businesses. And if you don’t want to profit from the platform, Abbey suggests creating a savings account to donate back to a local food rescue or environmental organization.
“What we’re building is really a community of waste warriors,” Gayleen said. “Our customers who join the platform care about the environment and want to fight food waste. We want to make sure that we give restaurants and operators an opportunity to join us, so that they too can be part of the solution.
How to get started
Any business with additional food—from fresh produce to prepared meals—can join Too Good To Go. To sign up, go to its website, and the team will reach out. Business owners not in participating locations will be the first to join when Too Good to Go expands to their local area.
However, Too Good to Go is part of the solution.
Learn more about how local businesses can donate food through 412 Food Rescue and its app, Food Rescue Hero, which is currently being used in 16 cities across North America. To find a local food bank to support in your community, visit the Feeding America website. Finally, visit Yelp’s Sustainability Resource Hub to check out our new eco-friendly properties, additional resources and more.