Aldo Rios, owner of El Churro Shop, recommends customers try the app to reduce food waste and find new local favorites | Francia Garcia Hernandez

Laury’s Bakery & Café, 12 Madison St., usually sold most of its daily batch of donuts, cupcakes, cakes and other baked goods. By the end of the day, any unsold baked goods would be donated to nearby churches or taken home by the family-owned bakery’s employees.

Since joining the Too Good to Go network, the bakery now sells surplus baked goods at a discount price through the “Too Good To Go” app, available for iOs and Android users. It is one of 400 food businesses which have joined the app’s network since it arrived in the Chicago market in July 2021.

“On days when I have some leftover, that’s what I use… no leftover for me, lucky for customers,” Jin Kang, owner of Laury’s, told the Austin Weekly News. On average, the restaurant sells 10 to 13 meals through the app every week.

Laury’s Bakery & Café is one of the Oak Park businesses in the Too Good To Go network. | Francia Garcia Hernandez

“Another good thing is, when they come because they haven’t visited this bakery before, while they’re picking up their box, they’ll purchase other items, so it works out.”

The app was created in 2016 as a solution to the enormous amount of food that goes to waste around the world. According to Too Good to Go, globally 2.8 billion tons of food go to waste every year, costing the global economy $1.2 trillion and causing 10% of global greenhouse emissions. Through its app, the company creates a marketplace where restaurants and stores can sell surplus food at a discount price, preventing it from going to waste and providing an additional source of revenue for businesses.

Cakes at Laurys Bakery | Francia Garcia Hernandez

Given that restaurants and stores often cannot plan what surplus food they will have as it changes based on their daily sales, they sell “surprise bags” through the app, usually at a third of the retail price they would be sold for. The discount does not mean the food is no longer good to eat; it just wasn’t sold by the end of the day. At Laury’s, a long-time institution near Madison and Austin in Oak Park, a surprise bag can include an assortment of donuts, cake slices and pastries and occasionally a full cake. The retail value of the surprise bag varies from $15 to $30 dollars, yet customers can usually pay $5 for a surprise bag.

Since its launch in Chicago, 239,000 meals have been saved through the app.

“I thought it was a great idea [to join] because we always have a small surplus of churros or other baked goods and drinks,” Aldo Rios, owner of El Churro Shop, 3536 W. 26th St., said in Spanish. Rios, a native of Little Village, opened his small business almost a year ago to bring locals traditional fresh churros, coffee, hot cocoa, milkshakes, sandwiches and other desserts rooted in Mexican cuisine.

“It prevents this food from becoming waste,” he said, adding selling the surplus of food for a discount price provides some income on products that otherwise would have not generated any revenue. Usually, a surprise bag includes a dozen churros and a coffee, but it can also include a milkshake or funnel cake based on availability.

Following Mexican tradition, fresh churros and hot chocolate are served at El Churro Shop. | Francia Garcia Hernandez

Rios said he joined Too Good To Go after company representatives contacted him and explained the benefits of the app. Food stores and businesses can join the app for free and pay a small annual fee once they sell food through the app, in addition to a small commission on each sold meal. For Rios, joining has been worthwhile as it attracts a new customer base who finds his business when browsing through the app.

“It brings people in who never heard of us before,” Rios said. “Some people who first purchased through Too Good To Go become our customers and come back.”

Like Kang, Rios recommends business owners and customers try the app. “It has many opportunities for businesses to showcase their products and for customers to find hidden gems in new areas of the city,” Rios said.