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New app helps reduce food waste

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A screenshot of Feedback's website. FEEDBACKAPP.CA

An unexpected deal on pizza in 2016 was the catalyst for starting Feedback, a digital marketplace for surplus prepared food that might otherwise be discarded.

When Josh Walters, 22, co-founder of Feedback, went out for a slice of pizza one night, the vendor ended up giving him the whole pie, because he was closing his shop and he didn’t want the leftover food to go to waste.

His cousin, Ben Walters, 26, co-founder and CEO of Feedback, said that experience got Josh Walters thinking about the viability of a business that would utilize technology to redistribute unsold prepared food. That’s how the two began speaking about developing an app.

Fast forward to December 2017 and Feedback has now been operational for two months. The app connects its partners – the food purveyors – with subscribers – customers looking for deals on prepared food.

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“We just got our 100th partner,” Ben Walters said. “It’s a great milestone for us. We really have a range in restaurants.”

So far, 10,000 people have downloaded the Feedback app, he added.

Traditional media has created a lot of buzz and “helped with our traction” in getting subscribers for the app, he said. The company was featured on CBC Radio, CTV, Metro News and several local Toronto blogs.

Social media has also helped increase its exposure. “We’re building the community organically through word of mouth,” said Ben Walters.

From left, bottom row, Ben Walters, Feedback co-founder and CEO, and Josh Walters, co-founder and chief marketing officer. Top row: Casey Lewis, chief product officer, and David Freiman, chief technology officer.

Feedback has partnered with a variety of restaurants – many of which are located in downtown Toronto – along with vendors of prepared foods and baked goods (Toronto staples St. Urbain Bagels and What a Bagel are both Feedback partners).

Scrolling through the Feedback app, one can see all kinds of culinary offerings – from pizza, sushi and Middle Eastern food, to wraps, burgers and smoothies.

Walters, a business graduate with a background in consulting, said Feedback utilizes a “dynamic and demand-based pricing” model, similar to that used by the hotel and airline industries.

He explained that those companies raise and lower prices according to customer demand.

It’s an effective way of marketing to new customers.
– Ben Walters

Pricing is highest at peak times. These companies also attract additional customers by cutting prices when demand is low, to “clear their inventory and optimize their bottom line.”

When he analyzed the restaurant industry, he found that a lot of waste, in the form of unsold food, could be reduced and that companies could benefit financially if the food was discounted, to attract customers during the off hours.

After consulting with a number of restaurant owners, Ben Walters said he learned that restaurants are generally busy during lunchtime, from noon to 2 p.m., and at suppertime, from about 6 to 8 p.m.

“About 80 per cent of the business is done in four hours,” he said. “We help drive customers to restaurants during off-peak hours. A lot of restaurants are empty from 2 to 5 p.m.”

The Feedback service is “time specific,” he said, noting that on average, his customers save about 30 per cent on their meals.

The Feedback app in action. JESSE KLINE PHOTO

Once the two Walters cousins devised their business plan, they brought in Dave Freiman, now the company’s chief technology officer, to develop the app.

He was still working on it, when Feedback won the Lion’s Den competition in June at the Jewish National Fund’s Tech Shuk event.

Feedback was also the 2017 regional winner of a WeWork Creator Award, worth US$36,000 ($46,000).

Ben Walters said the company allocates a percentage of its sales to food programs like Second Harvest and Out of the Cold.

He said the money for charitable causes is available because Feedback is generating business and revenue for its partners. The app also helps promote their businesses.

“It’s an effective way of marketing to new customers. A lot of our partners don’t have money for a marketing budget,” said Ben Walters.

Ultimately, Feedback is a “winning” proposition for the partners, he said. “They’re winning by increasing revenue, they’re winning by getting new customers and they’re winning by reducing food waste.”