The New Food Chain: Karma
My dad brought home the Evening Standard, a London newspaper, and at the start of the London life Tech section of the paper, I noticed an article with the headline, ‘The New Food Chain.’ The article focuses on the innovative app Karma, which connects hungry Londoners with top restaurants offering surplus meals all for half-price.
Karma provides an innovative solution to the food waste crisis. The app launched in London on the 18th February 2018 so it is a very new release. I feel that the app will appeal to Londoners who have a keen eye for a bargain.
After further reading into the new brand, I discovered that the idea is for restaurants to post when they have meals that would otherwise be thrown away; Karma users then receive push notifications to let them know a meal is available. It also shows where exactly it is, mapping out participating restaurants with little pins.
I think this is such an interesting idea and I really feel that once the word is spread about the new release, the app will be very popular amongst busy Londoners and students in particular. This is because the food is available at a cheaper price and it is such an easy process, you pay through the app and then arrange to pick it up.
I found that the interface is easy to navigate; it clearly lists meals in order of proximity and ranks them by distance, price both original cost and the markdown and the quantity left.
If I owned a London-based restaurant, it would be a no brainer for me to sign up. There is no subscription fee and restaurants make money on food that would otherwise be discarded. The article states that Karma estimates this will, ‘...give partners the potential to increase yearly revenue by up to £30,000 from food that would have otherwise gone to waste.’
At the time of writing this, on launch week of the app, 50 restaurants have signed up. These include Aubaine, Michelin-starred Aquavit, vegetarian restaurants Tibits, Yamabahce, Magpie, Essence Cuisine, Calcutta Sweet, Hummus Bros, Detox Kitchen and Arkett. The article shares that the foodie districts of Soho and Clerkenwell are well-represented on the app. Karma’s focus is to sign up Zone 1 restaurants during the first phase of the app’s roll-out.
Karma launched in Sweden in 2016 and now has 250,00 users and 1,000 businesses signed up. While tackling food waste, the brand is also hoping to optimise data. The algorithm is said to track the habits of users and businesses to learn about peak times when a restaurant’s surplus is in most demand. The article states, ‘Cafes and restaurants usually sell surplus breakfasts after 10am and surplus lunches after 2pm.’
The app also personalises the feed for consumers by taking into account the user’s older history as well as their location to push relevant food up their newsfeed. I think it’s a critical factor that Karma’s data could then be used by participating restaurants to create strategies for sustainability. This could be done by mapping out patterns of when and what food is wasted, thus reducing the environmental impact.
Grocery stores and supermarkets can also register to share their spare food and minimise the expiring produce that is dumped in skips after closing times.
I understand why the brand has chosen London in particular because it is so large and has one of the best food scenes in the world. London also contains a high number of restaurants and retailers who care about sustainability, as well as a population of both environmentally conscious and digitally native people. Having said this, I feel that food waste is a massive problem across the UK and Karma would be successful in any city in my opinion.
I feel that the Karma team is inspiring because they are educating people and spreading awareness of the issues at hand. Although the app relies on consumer goodwill as customers have to pick the food up themselves, unlike competitors such as Deliveroo or Uber EATS, it is almost a social tool that makes saving the planet more convenient.
Overall, I feel that the launch of this app will in turn make people feel grateful and happy with their contributions to sustainability, as well as receiving delicious food. It may also make getting a takeaway more accessible and is perfect in my opinion for Londoners who work 24/7.