Much of this waste originates from cafés, restaurants, and hotels, which throw out unsold food.
A new app called BuffetGo aims to put a dent in that waste. Available in Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, San Diego, Chicago, Finland, and Denmark, it connects users with local restaurants and hotels that want to sell perfectly good leftover buffet food.
The app, which launched in 2014 in Finland, offers food for 90% cheaper than the original price, founder Emil Lolby tells Business Insider.
Once you sign up, you can browse the list of buffet locations and select which one you want to order from. Then you pay for the food — all the items are priced between $2 and $6 — and visit the restaurant at the end of the lunch or dinner shift to pick it up. From Chinese to Italian food, there are all types of buffets on there.
One buffet called Cafe Exchange in NYC, for example, is selling pasta, sushi, and salad for just $3. Regular price: $20. Another in San Diego called Yummy Buffet is offering Chinese food that’s normally $14.99 for $4. Lolby says savings average about 75-90% compared to the original buffet prices.
You can think of the app as a kind of Seamless for food waste — except that you have to pick up the meal. The buffet’s staff will give you a to-go box, which you fill up with as much food as will fit in there and then leave.
Most buffet-style restaurants replenish the food every hour, so the last hour of the day is often when food goes uneaten, Lolby says.
“The foods prepared in the last hour are perfectly fresh and untouched but sadly due to restaurant regulations, unsold food must be thrown out,” he says.
Last year, BuffetGo expanded to Denmark, and in late September 2016, it came to the US.
Since the app is new to the US, only a few dozen buffets are currently available nationwide, but Lolby says the team will add 45 new locations by the end of October. In early 2017, it will further expand to Turkey and Spain.
The app looks like a win for the restaurants and hotels (since they earn money for surplus food they’d otherwise throw away) and customers (who want cheap food). A similar UK-based app called Too Good to Go was also built on that idea, except users order from non-buffet restaurants.
Both apps could eventually decrease the amount of food dumped in landfills. In the UK, about 41% of all food waste comes from restaurants and pubs. Food waste from American restaurants makes up 15% of all the food that ends up in landfills (about $1.6 billion worth).
BuffetGo seems like a clever way to cut down on that waste.