Bring Me Home, an app which lets you buy surplus food from restaurants at big discounts, launches in Sydney this week. Founder Jane Kou explains how it works.

Bring Me Home founder Jane Kou. Image Credit: Phoebe Powell
  • Bring Me Home is an app that lets you purchase surplus food from cafes and restaurants at discounted prices.
  • Created by Jane Kou, the app first launched in Melbourne and is launching in Sydney on Friday.
  • Kou spoke to Business Insider Australia about what inspired her to launch the app.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.

A whopping one third of food produced globally is wasted, according to research from Rabobank.

And we’re a big part of that. Australia is the fourth highest waste-producing country in the world per capita – between 2016 and 2017, Aussies chucked out 7.3 million tonnes of food throughout the supply and consumption chain.

But Melbourne-based app Bring Me Home is on a mission to reduce food waste. Launched in 2018 by founder Jane Kou, the app allows you buy food at discounted prices that would otherwise be thrown out by a cafe or restaurant at the end of the day. All you have to do is order the food and pick it up.

Starting out with less than 30 businesses, Bring Me Home has since grown to encompass more than 130, including Roll’d, Sumo Salad and Pappa Rich. And it has gained around 20,000 users.

Now the app is launching in Sydney on Friday, adding nearly 30 more businesses to its cohort such as The Hungry Mind and Mrs Fields.

How it works

When you sign up to Bring Me Home, you’re shown a selection of businesses offering discounted prices on their food. You also see the time when these items are able to be picked up – say, between 4pm and 7pm. Once you order and pay, you get a digital receipt that you’ll need to show the restaurant staff when you arrive to pick your item.

The only catch is, because the food that cafes or restaurants have available may vary, you don’t get a set menu. Instead, Kou explained that the app manages expectations by listing what you can expect from the order, such as three rice paper rolls for the price of five. It’s when you get to the restaurant that you can pick – for example, what kind of rolls you want.

“Everyday, the leftover items might be different,” Kou highlighted. “So we want to make the venue’s job easier by allowing that flexibility.”

Bring Me Home App. Image: Supplied.

Kou explained that businesses offer a fixed discount price on their food, between 30% to 35%. But that discount amount can go up to 70%.

“For example, a cafe that has sandwiches, bagels and also pastries, what we get them to do is set a fixed discounted price,” she said. “But they can bundle their food differently.”

Kou added that the app is ideal for people without allergies but the company is working on adding more options for vegans and vegetarians.

“In a way, it is very suitable for people who don’t have any sort of allergies or don’t mind trying new things,” she said.

With the app, you get to see how much money you’ve saved and how much food you’ve “rescued”. You can also get reward points each time you shop, which convert into discount credits you can use later.

For businesses, there is no sign on fee or subscription payment. Instead, Bring Me Home takes between 20-25% commission on the items.

“I always tell the vendors that the reason why we take a commission is because we want to put the money back into marketing and bring them more business and help them clear out the stock,” Kou said.

“If we don’t drive customers for them, we don’t charge anything. We want to actually show them results. We only do well, if they do well.”

Addressing concerns about food safety

When it comes to food safety, Kou emphasised that the food is still sold within business hours. She explained that it’s essentially a cheaper option compared to a customer who just walks in and buys the same item directly.

“If [businesses] are confident selling the same thing to a walk-in customer, they should be confident selling to our customers too,” she said.

Kou said she has seen a change in the perception of this idea of food from her users since the app was launched.

She explained how she is seeing more users adopt this concept and buy more than they usually would. Based on their purchase behaviour, Kou believes a lot of users have gone past the “leftover food is no good” stage and hopped over to the idea that “surplus food is a nice deal to get.”

“I always call our users ‘the smart users’ because if you’re able to get the deal at the end – and you still get the same food as someone who walks in to pay full price – that’s pretty smart,” she said. “Saving money and making an impact as well.”

Nonetheless, the company still offers recommendations on food storage, such as consuming certain foods within a certain timeframe or storing it at an appropriate temperature.

Bring Me Home tracks how much you saved. Image: Supplied.

Taking practical steps being waste conscious

The idea for Bring Me Home stemmed from Kou’s waste consciousness.

Originally from Macau, Kou explained that her family was very waste-conscious. And for her, that was compounded by the amount of food she saw wasted when she worked in a cafe. When Kou moved to Melbourne as an international student, the idea of what she could do about it stayed in the back of her mind.

While doing her Master’s in Commerce and Marketing at the University of Melbourne, Kou’s class was tasked with doing a research paper on something they’re passionate about. For Kou, it was food waste. During her research, she came across an app in Europe called “Too Good to Go” which let users buy unsold food from restaurants to combat food waste.

Jane reached out to the company and managed to speak with its co-founders. It later escalated into a job interview for Kou, with the potential of bringing the app to Australia.

Ian Price, who was appointed CEO of Too Good to Go in Australia, however, told Business Insider Australia via email that the app launched in Australia without Kou’s involvement. He said after the Australian launch, the company changed its business strategy and decided to focus on Europe. Thus, it closed in Australia.

When Jane graduated from university, she spoke to the co-founders about creating a similar app from scratch for Australia.

“I had their blessing and that’s why I decided to start Bring Me Home,” she said.

At just 25 years old, Kou already has big plans for taking the app all around Australia.

Bring Me Home is launching in the Sydney CBD and looking to launch in North Sydney and Parramatta. The company has even teamed up with the University of Sydney Union to roll out the app at around 10 venues on its campus. And more university rollouts are on the way, with the company in contact with the University of New South Wales and the University of Technology Sydney.

Kou added that they have plans to launch in Brisbane by the third quarter of 2020 and do a pilot in the Gold Coast around the same time as well.

“I have been getting a lot of messages from people from Perth, Adelaide, Tasmania, even New Zealand,” she said.

“The goal is to always go nationwide. I want to make Bring Me Home as accessible as possible.”

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