You Can Now Buy Buffet Leftovers — For a Really Low Price

 

As much as 40 percent of food in the U.S. is thrown away uneaten, and despite this, there are still children that are still hungry. Roughly one in six of U.S. households are on food stamp, which reflects that there are still large uneven food distribution in the U.S. Food wastes come from many sources, let it be the produces that were thrown out of groceries after “sell by” date, or bruised fruits that doesn’t mean the aesthetic standard to be sold. The latter example is a major problem in U.S. as half of the produce grown domestically got thrown away because it was bruised or misshaped. It turns out that in most case, a simple discoloration of the fruits and vegetables pose no health hazard and can be safely consumed. Not only that food wastes contributed to the food security issue, but decomposed food wastes in landfill release methane, a gas that contributed to global warming as well.

Restaurants are a major source of commercial food waste, especially the one that offered buffet, as toward the end of the business hour, there are food leftovers that are still good to eat. To keep the standard, the restaurants throw the leftovers away to make way for the food for the next business day. If the food is still good, why don’t we just give it to people who needed (or wanted) it? Fear not, there are now a website and an app where you can order leftover food from the buffets, and several location in U.S. already participated in the business.

The app is called BuffetGo, and is available in eight countries, including the U.S., though American customers still have to wait for the app, but for now they must make an order through the website. Using the app is simple, just type in a zip code, make an order, and go pick it up at the restaurant, all for a single-digit dollars, which is up to 90% mark off from the original price. Even a to-go box worth of food may cost as low as $1, this can potentially saves a lot of food waste and help mitigate the problem where people of lower economic background can’t effort food.

I have heard from social media that it’s mandatory for a grocery store to give expired food to the charity in France, but hearing that something different, but serve similar goal is now available in the U.S. Because 40% of the food waste is a large percentage, that’s can as well feed nearly additional 150 million more American than the U.S. have right now. It’s not that we didn’t grow enough food, but it’s that we didn’t use our food more efficiently.

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13 Comments

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13 responses to “You Can Now Buy Buffet Leftovers — For a Really Low Price

  1. Emilie Adamovic

    This is such a good idea to mitigate food waste! I know there are many governmental policies when it comes to buffet food because any buffet food is under a much higher chance of contamination compared to packaged or served food. Do you know how the app has worked around these regulations and policies to be able to offer the food to the public?

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    • In some municipality, giving food to the homeless is illegal. However, selling food is not, since the food you ordered from this app is not free (you still have to pay for the food). For all things considered, it’s a business and not a charity, so it’s not necessary to get around any laws aside from the restaurant business laws, which most restaurants presumably abide to anyway.

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  2. Peter Newton

    Thanks Sean! This is an innovative idea that I had not previously known about. This is a voluntary initiative; the policy in France is mandatory. What are your thoughts about the pros and cons of voluntary vs. regulatory approaches to reducing food waste?

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    • In the absence of regulatory policies, reducing food waste is pretty much voluntary. While the voluntary approach offers freedom of choice, this option has a weaker incentive, and people might tend to opt-out, but raising awareness about the food waste issue to the public could help. Regulatory approach is more reliable in term of providing incentives to reducing food waste, as business generally wants to avoid fine or other legal repercussion. However, regulating anything (probably including food waste) is a very politically sensitive issue, especially here in the U.S.

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  3. megangeraty

    I actually heard about the Buffet Go app last week and tried looking for spots in Boulder, but sadly the closest ones i found were in California. Do you know if there are any laws around businesses possibly selling spoiled food? How would customers know how long that food had been sitting out?

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    • If this was a charity, The Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act protects the donors from liability should the donated product caused any harm to the recipients, as long as the donated food is apparently wholesome and fit for consumption (so you can’t intentionally donate obviously spoiled food).

      Buffet Go app functions as a business, and not a charity (as you have to buy the food), therefore any restaurant that is part of the program will still be held liable for sickness caused by spoiled food even if it’s not visually apparent. Basically the normal restaurant business laws apply to this case.

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  4. clint1829

    I think this is an awesome idea as well. Obviously contamination is an issue that must be watched closely. Have you heard anything about how they try to manage contamination or keep the food from spoiling? Also, do you think this idea could be applied to grocery store in America so they do not waste as much?

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    • I haven’t heard if the participating restaurants take any measure in ensuring the food is not contaminated, but I presume that they won’t sell food that’s more than a night old as the food business laws still apply, not to mention that most restaurants probably don’t have the space to store the leftovers, they have to clean the buffet table. So the risk of anyone getting food poisoning from buffet leftovers is not that much greater than eating buffet an hour before closing time.

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  5. kaylawoods1

    This is a great idea. I’m assuming the app is available to countries in the Global North. Do you think this app would ever be possible in third world and developing countries like India? I’m aware of the Global South’s food scarcity/security issues but every country has their share of food waste.

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    • In India, there’s a similar food distribution effort set by poverty relief organizations to donate excess food to the poor, although the act is more of a charity than a business, unlike Buffet Go. I don’t think this app is going to be possible in developing countries anytime soon as it still cost the consumers, and in countries with weaker currency, buying the app cost a lot to them, let alone smart phone. However, that didn’t say that similar initiatives can be made to reduce food waste while feed the hungry at the same time (as in the case with India).

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  6. tayloreshreve

    This is an awesome idea, I hope this becomes more widespread as time goes on. However I don’t understand why they can’t donate the food as well if they aren’t really making a profit from selling people this food, I feel like a lot of food will still be wasted unfortunately. Hopefully we can take note from France and make it a requirement as well, and maybe expand to grocery stores.

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  7. I love this idea as well. Do you think you get to select the foods you eat, or is it random depending on what is leftover? I am also curious about how they might deal with dietary restrictions or allergies, do you know if the app accounts for these, and if the restaurants take these into account? It may raise costs if they have to put a lot of labor into making sure food is not cross contaminated at all steps.

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  8. NiccoloDeluca

    This is an amazing article! Do you think there might be possible legal and policy barriers if this idea were to become widespread? What do you think are the biggest challenges that food redistribution like this face?

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