Karma’s food waste app lets you buy surplus meals from restaurants, cafes and shops at half price
Food waste is an enormous problem throughout the world, and although the main culprit is us supermarket shoppers having eyes bigger than stomachs (or more likely, fridges), restaurants are not immune from the problem. Knowing exactly how many people you’re going to serve in a day is vital – you just can’t sell out-of-date produce for obvious reasons. Well, not if you plan to stay open, anyway.
In November 2016, a company called Karma opened in Sweden in an attempt to make a small dent into the problem. The company teams up with eateries to help them sell off surplus food before it goes out of date, at a substantial discount to the consumer. In Sweden, Karma has swelled to 250,000 users getting cheap food from more than 1,000 restaurants, cafes and grocery stores in 35 cities and towns.
Today, Karma launches in the UK – London to be specific – though the numbers are understandably smaller to begin with. On launch, Karma includes 50 locations around the capital including nine Aubaine outlets, six Hummus Bros locations, and the Michelin-starred Aquavit. Chains, including Detox Kitchen and Tibits are also part of the first wave. The company says that it started with a similar number of restaurants in Sweden, and it ballooned very quickly.
To be clear, this isn’t a rival to Deliveroo – you actually have to get up and go to the store that’s looking to clear out its stock on the cheap. That may be problematic with the launch partners, which seem to be concentrated in the less-residential areas of Soho and Shoreditch where relatively few people will be at closing time. “We find Karma works best when there is a high density of restaurants in one area, which is why we focus on specific neighbourhoods,” a Karma spokesperson explained. “But there is nothing to stop places signing up outside of those areas. E.g: today we have restaurants in Kensington, South Bank and Stoke Newington.”
“We think London is a great fit because it has one of the best food scenes in the world, a high number of restaurants and retailers that care about sustainability, and a population that is both environmentally conscious and digitally native,” the spokesperson explained, adding that the company will be announcing plans for the next cities “very soon.”
As a starting point, it’s hard not to be positive. Over 10 million tonnes of food is wasted in the UK each year, and if that can make a small dent in the problem, while helping hungry Londoners get a bargain in the process, then it feels like a win-win.
(Pro tip: If the Swedish example is anything to go by, the company reckons breakfast surplus will be put up around 10:00, lunch after 14:00 and dinner after 19:00. So keep an eye on the app then, like a hungry hawk.)