|DamoGO cofounder Lin Hwang poses at a DamoGO event, urging people to take home extra food rather than let it go to waste. / Courtesy of Lin Hwang|
By Hallie Bradley
It's closing time, and the restaurant still has plenty of leftovers. But rather than throw it all in the trash, the restaurant connects with frugal customers who come to "rescue" the food.
The eatery and customers are connected through DamoGO, a free mobile app that any savvy consumer interested in sustainability should be downloading.
The idea is simple: bakeries, restaurants and delis ― any spot that produces food ― preps a certain amount each day. Not all that food is used or sold, and at the end of the day what's left is thrown out. Instead, users of DamoGO can swoop in to find meals ready to eat and bakery treats on the shelves, and they can "rescue" them, as DamoGO likes to say.
Founders Lin Hwang from the United States and Muhammad Farras from Indonesia are on a mission to create a national movement to reduce food waste at restaurant and retail levels while making delicious food available for everyone. Changing the way people think about food "waste" and converting it into food "rescue" is another goal and users are reacting positively.
"Users love the idea," Lin explained, "but I think it's more so because we are not a discount app. We are a social impact startup to reduce waste, and the half-price discounts are a secondary ― but great ― benefit. There's nothing not to love about being able to save 50 percent on perfectly good food and helping to reduce waste!"
The company that was founded in 2017 in hopes to raise awareness about food waste and help bring a positive change to the way the food industry does business.
The app is straightforward and easy to use, Lin explained. Consumers "are purchasing same-day, perfectly good, unsold food at half price and preventing it from going to waste. Users can follow their favorite stores by clicking on the heart in the store profile to get real-time notifications on new items ― all they have to do is pick up the food before the last pickup time that's listed. Our app is also available in both Korean and English."
Currently most of the stores available on the app are concentrated around Itaewon and Gangnam and the founders are looking to aggressively target the Hongik and Korea University districts soon. Popular spots like Salt House Korea, Tom's Pizza, Southside Parlor, Champ Kitchen and Casablanca Sandwicherie are already on the app that has seen a big following in the foreign community here in Seoul.
The concept that Lin and Muhammad have come up with is not just benefiting sustainability-minded consumers but it is a win-win and vendors are saving big as well. Restaurants list their items for free on the app and are gaining additional revenue as well as marketing exposure and in turn they're also lowering the fees they need to pay the city to pick up their food waste. Food trash can bring on rather hefty charges as it is calculated by weight and some small restaurants can pay upwards of 800,000 won a month. Because vendors gain so much from DamoGO, they are required to post food with at least a 50% discount in price which makes it even more reasonable for consumers to go sustainable.
DamoGO has seen the potential to do good in the community and works to make a positive social impact through their rescued food movement. Last week, they rescued 6,600 bags of chips and almost 2,000 boxes of ready to eat curry and donated it to the Dream City Homeless shelter near Seoul Station. This month, they will also be rescuing six tons of frozen chicken breast patties and will be delivering them to an extensive network of soup kitchens, homeless shelters, and pet shelters. The founders are making sustainable eating easy while advocating for awareness of a problem that is all too often overlooked and helping the community at the same time.
The founders will represent their company at the upcoming event The Conscious Market that will be held at Vineworks near Sangsu Station on Seoul Metro Line 6 on Aug. 17 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Hallie Bradley is a writer based in Seoul and also has the blog thesoulofseoul.net.