Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The New Food Chain; Trends Karma Uses AI to Connect Hungry Londoners with Top Restaurants Offering Surplus Meals -- and It's All Half-Price, Says Samuel Fishwick

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The New Food Chain; Trends Karma Uses AI to Connect Hungry Londoners with Top Restaurants Offering Surplus Meals -- and It's All Half-Price, Says Samuel Fishwick

Article excerpt

OLVING the food waste crisis? SThere's an app for that. Karma, a Swedish start-up that launches in London today, has an innovative solution to the problem. Put simply, the app connects restaurants with surplus food to hungry people with a keen eye for a bargain.

Restaurants post when they have meals that would otherwise be thrown away; Karma users receive push notifications to let them know a meal is available, and where exactly it is, mapping out participating restaurants with little pins. The food is almost always available at half price or less -- you make the payment through the app and arrange to pick it up. Users have to pick up their food within a time window specified by the restaurant.

The interface is easy to navigate. It lists meals in order of proximity and ranks them by distance, price (including both the original cost and the markdown) and the quantity left. Think Deliveroo but without a delivery time -- you have to pick it up yourself.

For restaurants, signing up is a nobrainer. There's no subscription fee and they make money on food that would otherwise be discarded. Karma estimates that it gives partners the potential to increase yearly revenue by up to PS30,000 from food that would have otherwise gone to waste.

So far 50 London restaurants have signed up for the launch this week. The roll call includes Aubaine, Michelinstarred Aquavit, vegetarian restaurant Tibits, Yamabahce, Magpie, Essence Cuisine, Calcutta Street, Hummus Bros, Detox Kitchen and Arkett. The foodie districts of Soho and Clerkenwell are Continued on Page 30 Continued from Page 29 well-represented on Karma, and the focus will be on signing up Zone 1 restaurants during the first phase of the app's rollout.

Karma launched in Sweden in 2016 and now has 250,000 users and 1,000 businesses signed up. It's used in 35 towns and cities: from the major cities of Stockholm, Malmo and Gothenburg, to towns with only 10,000 people.

While food waste is one resource Karma is hoping to optimise, data is another. The algorithm tracks the habits of users and businesses to learn about peak times when the restaurant's surplus food is in most demand. Cafes and restaurants usually sell surplus breakfasts after 10am and surplus lunches after 2pm. The app takes into account the user's order history as well as their location in order to push relevant food up your Karma newsfeed. It will be learning the same data about its London restaurants and users.

Crucially, Karma's data could be used by participating restaurants to create strategies for sustainability. If you can map the patterns of when and what food is wasted, then restaurants can learn how to reduce their environmental impact. Grocery stores and supermarkets can also register to share their spare food and minimise the expiring produce that is dumped in skips at closing time. …

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