Getting a box of eight doughnuts for $3.99 in Portland, Oregon, might sound too good to be true. But Too Good to Go, newly launched in Portland, can make it happen. Too Good to Go is a food-based service app that connects customers to local restaurants and grocery stores that want to pass on their end-of-day surplus—produce, prepared meals, bagels, or a “Surprise Bag” of doughnuts to pick up after closing time.
The company started in 2016 in Copenhagen, Denmark, and quickly expanded across Europe, arriving in the United States in late 2020. Since then, Too Good to Go has kicked off in cities including Philadelphia, Boston, and Washington, DC. “We knew that if we wanted to make a difference in the US, we needed to be ready to adapt our product and really think about it," says Too Good to Go cofounder Lucie Basch. “And actually after a few months, we were really excited to see that there was nothing to change. The concept actually started here even faster than in any of our previous launches, even in the middle of a global pandemic.”
Food waste is responsible for some 6 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, and in the United States alone over 30 percent of the country’s food supply goes to waste. Here in Portland, companies like Urban Gleaners have long been finding ways to connect leftover food donations from restaurants and stores with those in need. Instead, this app connects paying customers directly with stores and restaurants, offering leftover food at a third of the regular price, with Too Good to Go collecting a commission.
It all happens through an app, which allows you to select a business based on its location and make a choice to purchase what’s on offer. At closing time, you arrive at the restaurant or grocery store in question, display an order code to a staff member, and pick up your food, which might be produce, prepared meals, doughnuts...
Local businesses like Spielman Bagels were quick to sign on in Portland. The app "just popped up on my newsfeed,” says Jordan Gilpin, retail operations and sales manager at Spielman. “They bring in a lot of new customers to our brand that haven’t heard of us before—70 percent of their customers are new to our store.”
Coco Donuts’ Sunshine Sawyer said the company reached out to pitch the concept, and "I was hooked.” The Portland chain was already donating food to Outside In’s youth homeless outreach program, but found there were still days when they had surplus. The real attraction, says Sawyer, was the app's flexibility—if there are no doughnuts available for a particular day, she can cancel. If there is food that might otherwise go to waste? Sign up for a "Surprise Bag" and see.