Editor’s note: We’re chronicling how tech is changing the way we eat and drink as we lead up to this fall’s Food Loves Tech. Our annual deep dive into appropriate food and ag technologies returns to Industry City on November 2–3, 2018—stay tuned for updates and watch last year’s highlights here.
Over the past two months, the kitchen at Williamsburg’s Llama Inn has served up meatloaf, lasagna and even a whole roasted fish. These dishes, which each cost only $5, weren’t on the regular menu. In fact the kitchen staff didn’t even know they were making them until a few hours before they closed.
The meals were available, via Food for All, an under the radar off-the menus meals app started by David Rodríguez and Sabine Valenga in Boston and New York City in 2017. The app is working to reduce food waste by offering surplus food from restaurants for a cheaper price, a few hours before the eateries close.
“We realized many bakeries and restaurants already discounted their food in their last hour and saw in Food for All the opportunity to do this at scale, while helping to promote these responsible businesses and creating a tool to generate awareness around food waste,” Valenga said.
The process is simple. Restaurants, of which roughly 75 are now participating, have a default profile that includes meal price, how many meals they can offer every day and a description of the options. Once they go live, they manage the meals available through the dashboard. Diners login to the Food for All app, browse through the available meals, purchase the desired one, and pick up the order or even sit and eat with the restaurant staff at a specified time (normally 1-2 hours before the eateries close).
Food for All started working with fast casuals restaurants and coffee shops as they often have food already prepared, but now through their Family Meal Special they are working with full-service restaurants such as the Llama Inn.
The family meals vary day to day at the Llama Inn, based on what food is leftover and what the staff feels inspired to make. Diners are invited to sit and eat with restaurant staff.
“We wanted to provide a solution to the issue of throwing food away and by participating we thought we could invite those who wanted to try our food in a sustainable way,” Llama Inn, general manager Alexander Diaz said. “We’re excited to be able to offer all proceeds to charity as well.”
For every meal sold at The Llama Inn, $4 go to the Food Bank for New York City. (Restaurants can choose to donate proceeds to charity.) Additionally, diners can directly donate to a partner food bank through the app.
In this next year, Food for All is hoping to open in additional three-to-five cities, most likely on the West Coast.