Tokyo Express in south St. Albert has recently signed up for an app that allows restaurants to sell prepared food that would otherwise be thrown away for a significant discount.
Every location of the chain restaurant in the Edmonton area has signed on with Too Good To Go, a Danish app founded in 2015.
By using Too Good To Go, Tokyo Express can sell "surprise bags" which feature either an assortment of ingredients, or a specific dish the restaurant is left over around closing time. On the app, the price for a surprise bag at the St. Albert location is listed at $5.99.
"We have been always searching for solutions to figure out how to deal with the food waste," said Yuyan Chi, the owner of Tokyo Express.
"[Too Good To Go] has the flexibility that you can package it up as ingredients or you choose to make it a dish,” she said. “It’s so helpful that this platform allowed us to package everything up at the end of day, and give it to someone who needs it."
Chi said that although the St. Albert location has signed on with the app, the orders have been infrequent. At the Tokyo Express locations in Edmonton, Chi said, the surprise bags sell out right away.
"We actually realized that ever since we [started] using this platform, our food waste actually reduced," said Chi, adding, "It’s not because the platform helped us to sell it by the end of the day, it’s because our employees got more awareness about food waste."
Chi said she first heard about the app at a recent Restaurant Canada trade show where Too Good To Go delivered a presentation.
"During the trade show, everyone was talking about food saving and food waste," she said. "That is a huge topic environmentally and also economically.
“During the trade show I actually contacted several different suppliers or platforms; [Too Good To Go] were the first ones, and so far the only ones, to reply to me," Chi said. "They actually replied to me within hours.”
After she contacted Too Good To Go, Chi said, the company sent employees to every Tokyo Express location within a week to help each location's manager and staff learn the new platform.
"[Too Good To Go] have people going around, really passionate employees, [who will] hold your hand and help you step by step," Chi said.
"I was inspired and so moved by their passion about this job.”
'Another tool in the waste-reduction belt'
“We think this is certainly a very good step because it gives businesses and individuals another option, another tool in the waste-reduction belt," said Sean Stepchuk, the director and co-founder of Waste Free Edmonton.
Waste Free Edmonton is a non-profit organization that advocates for reducing the amount of waste produced in Edmonton. As part of their work, the organization advocates to governments, businesses, and individuals about opportunities to reduce waste, and the organization also gives presentations about plastic waste in schools.
"It’s another step in the right direction, and another thing that businesses and people can use,” Stepchuk said of Too Good To Go.
Stepchuk said Too Good To Go had contacted Waste Free Edmonton before the app launched in the city and surrounding area.
"We were certainly very supportive of them coming into the Edmonton area, [but] one of the things that we wanted to speak to them about was the additional packaging waste associated with this service," Stepchuk said.
"One thing that we’ve really liked that [the app has] done is they give the [restaurants] the ability to say that people have to bring their own containers," he said, adding, "We’re not sure how many do that currently, but that’s a fantastic thing to offer.”
Stepchuk explained that other than selling leftover food for a discount, restaurants in the Edmonton area can also donate their leftovers to service agencies, or sign up with an organization such as Leftovers YEG which will pick up the food from restaurants and deliver it to various agencies.
"There’s lots of different options and it’s just great that this is another one that seems to be win-win in terms of reducing food waste but also putting a few extra dollars in the pockets of the local business,” Stepchuk said.
As of June 1, Tokyo Express is the only restaurant in St. Albert to register with Too Good To Go.
The downtown Edmonton location of Jack's Burger Shack is listed on the app but not the St. Albert location. In an email, the owner of Jack's Burger Shack, Tu Le, said that although the downtown location has signed up, the restaurant hasn't used it yet.