One of the dirtiest secrets of the F&B industry is how much food is wasted during their operations. You’ve seen restaurants throwing out unsold inventory for the sake of “quality control,” and it’s ironic that despite the threat of global food shortage, the amount of food wastage continues to rise. The UN estimates that about a billion tons of food is thrown away annually – with almost 40% coming from restaurants and retailers.
Faced with this alarming trend, Hongkongers Carla Martinesi and Chris Wettling came up with an idea for the community to access unsold food at the end of the day, buy it at great deal, and of course – as with most things these days – do it digitally, right at their fingertips.
Thus, Chomp was born. This mobile app (IOS/Android) fights food waste in Hong Kong by allowing consumers to purchase a Mystery Box – packed with perfectly edible goodies – from a partner at a discount, and rescue food that would otherwise be headed straight to landfill.
A NO-BRAINER SOLUTION
The founders of Chomp have been passionate about food waste from a young age. “Even in our homes, we’re always sharing tips for using up food scraps and ways to extend food,” shared Martinesi. Both also took up hospitality courses and were involved in the F&B industry, with Martinesi working at hotels and several restaurants including The Upper House, while Wettling’s father used to be the executive chef at The Peninsula.
While Chomp isn’t the first to tackle food wastage in Hong Kong (there’s also other food rescue apps like Phenix or Breadline), their fresh approach to the market is what they say differentiates them.
“We are definitely newer, smaller, but that makes us incredibly flexible and easy to work with,” said Martinesi. “Our solution is 100% app-based which makes working with us, that much easier since it’s right in your hands.”
The concept behind Chomp is as simple as it gets: After downloading the app and signing up for an account, users can start looking for vendors offering the “Mystery Box”. Once you’ve selected one, simply purchase and arrange for a pickup time – and that’s it!
Each Mystery Box can be anything – from a box of teas or liter of milk to a sandwich or an assortment of treats – and sold typically around 15-25% off, sometimes bigger.
Since its launch in August 2021, Chomp has steadily built a network of 60+ F&B partners and a loyal user base – skewing more to a local audience – that’s on the lookout for deals in Hong Kong’s most popular foodie locations such as Causeway Bay, Central, Sheung Wan and Wanchai.
Fire up the app and you’ll see establishments such as healthy dish purveyors Food Folk and Nosh, local favourites Lok Cha Teahouse and Golden China Restaurant, or neighbourhood bakeries such as Lily’s Pastry or Lo Chen offering deals.
In addition to trying to solve wastage, the founders also saw Chomp as a way to help F&B establishments who were already struggling because of COVID-19 to attract new customers and gain an additional revenue stream.
“We focused on local businesses especially now during COVID. They are the ones that need the most support,” shared Martinesi.
A BRIGHTER FUTURE…PAUSED?
With Hong Kong currently in the midst of the fifth wave, Martinesi and Wettling are working hard to help out the local F&B scene and firmly believe that panic buying and hoarding are not the answer.
“How much food are you really going to freeze until the lockdown starts?” asked Martinesi. “Next time you’re thinking of buying a couple loafs of bread to put in your freezer, why not open Chomp and see if your local bakery in your neighbourhood has goodies in need of rescuing and support their business at the same time!”
Chomp’s Long-term Goals
Moving forward, both founders continue to refine the app and grow their presence around Hong Kong. Their ultimate goal: to have a partner in every district, while promoting a more sustainable lifestyle. “If we could bring that number down from 13 million (rice bowls thrown out daily) to 12 million, every small step counts and every crumb matters,” shared Martinesi.
In addition to a growing partner and customer base, Chomp’s mission is also being noticed. In November 2021, they were accepted by Impact Kommons as part of their third cohort, which would allow Chomp to further optimise their operations, scale their solution and expand within the New World Group’s ecosystem.
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