The app lets you buy leftover food from the restaurant. Is it worth it?

(NEXSTAR) – It all started with targeted advertising on Instagram – like many of my online shopping adventures do these days. There was a new app that extended the service to the area where I live in Los Angeles, which would allow me to pick up leftover food from restaurants, grocery stores, cafes, and bakeries for a fraction of the price.

The company has been operating in European cities for some time and has recently begun to expand to cities in the United States. At the time of publication, Too Good To Go operated in Austin, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, the DC area, New York, parts of New York. Jersey, the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, Portland, Philadelphia, Providence, Seattle and a few other parts of the country. The company says on its website that it plans to expand further in the coming months, but does not specify where or when. (Too Good To Go did not respond to requests for comment from Nexstar.)

The app is quite easy to use. When you open it, there are offers from restaurants in your area with different pickup times and prices. Most of the options I’ve seen in my area are so-called “loot bags”, a jumble of items that will remain a mystery to you until you pick them up.

Take a look at the Too Good To Go interface, which sells leftover food from businesses at a discount. (Screenshot / Alix Martichoux)

Still, prices were attractive, especially in expensive Los Angeles. Also, I’m not a picky eater.

Too Good To Go sounded too good to be true. So I decided to try it.

Attempt #1: Epic Fail

My first attempt at trying Too Good To Go – to put it simply – didn’t work at all. I spotted an offer at a smoothie place less than a mile from my apartment for $3.99. I paid through the app and was given an early evening pickup window just before the store closed.

It was one of those “goodie bags” so I had no idea what it would be, but I was intrigued to see what kind of goodies a high-end smoothie shop left behind at the end of the day. The answer, it turns out, was nothing.

The store clerk seemed really confused when I showed up for my pick up. “No, I’m fine,” he told me, as if I were selling him something, not the other way around. I explained how the app worked (supposedly) and he still didn’t quite understand it. I left empty-handed.

If there’s a silver lining to this failure, it’s that Too Good To Go seems very prepared for this situation. It took a push of a button in the app to get a refund.

Attempt #2: Things are looking up

Undeterred in my quest for cheap food, I decided to give Too Good To Go another chance. times when I first moved to LA and accidentally bought a $16 smoothie, but that’s another story). I decided to try my luck at a pizza place and scheduled a pickup window for 8-9 p.m.

When I arrived at the empty pizzeria, I again encountered a bit of confusion. But there was a happy ending this time. A little explaining and they started packing my order: four huge slices of pizza – the kind where one slice counts as a meal – each with different toppings like mushrooms, garlic and ricotta.

I ended up with four meals for $4.99. Not too bad.

Attempt #3: Take the helping hand

On my third try, I walked into the French Bakery with confidence and my redemption code was ready. The employee who greeted me also knew what she was doing this time. She wrote down my code on the app, ran around the back of the store for a minute, then came back and loaded me with a bag of pastries.

I had all of this for $4.99 – not bad in a town where you could easily pay that much for a single croissant.

An assortment of Le Pain Quotidien pastries purchased on the Too Good To Go app for $4.99. (Photo: Alix Martichoux / Nexstar)

It was the bag of food that won me over. If it would otherwise have to be thrown away at the end of the day – as Too Good To Go advertises – it seems like a win-win: cheap food for me, less waste for the company.

But in my experience so far, being flexible is key. You have to be okay with fixed pick-up times, a mysterious assortment of goods, and the possibility that you’ll find yourself with nothing from time to time. I wouldn’t rely on it to plan my weekly meals, but I’m not the type of person to turn down a discount. Or a pastry.

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About Vivian J. Smith

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