BOULDER — A startup company formed by three recent graduates of the University of Colorado Boulder hopes to take college towns by storm.
Called Goodie Bag Food Co., the company connects people who want inexpensive but quality food with restaurants that have too much left over at the end of the day.
Founders Eddy Connors, Luke Siegert and Ethan Mills developed their idea to combat a couple of unrelated problems: One in three college students is food insecure, not knowing where the next meal might come from; and nationwide, America wastes 40% of its food with restaurants making up a sizeable chunk of that.
“We co-founded Goodie Bag after winning a startup competition at Silicon Flatirons this past summer,” Connors said. The company launched Jan. 2 this year.
It’s a simple concept: The company recruits restaurant partners — it has seven restaurants, a bakery and a grocer on board now — who know they’ll have food left over at the end of the day. Then, the company markets the availability of food using its app to students and others in the community.
The restaurants use the company’s website and app to place a notification that food is available. Potential customers who have signed up for the app receive a notification. They view the availability of a Goodie Bag (or box), pay for it to reserve it, then go to the restaurant to pick it up.
The food sells for at least 50% less than what the restaurant would sell it for in the store. A common price point is $6, “and it is a full meal for sure,” Connors said.
Barchetta LLC’s pizza store at 1644 Walnut St. was the first partner to sign with the company. Siegert was working there during his final semester at the university. Barchetta prepares slices of pizza to have ready for lunch customers. Not all sell, so it makes the unsold slices available to Goodie Bag.
“You just don’t know what type of pizza it will be,” Connors said. What the bags contain is a mystery.
“The buyer knows where it is coming from but not necessarily what menu item it is,” he said. That approach was selected because being more specific would add work for the restaurant and would have required more programming and cost on the part of the company to implement.
The mystery nature of the selections hasn’t been an impediment. Every bag that’s been offered has sold out, Connors said.
Restaurants are not charged for the service. “It’s a free way for them to salvage revenue, reach potential new customers and create a positive impact in the community.”
The founders used their winnings from the Silicon Flatirons pitch competition to pay legal fees in setting up the company. It’s gotten some investments from family and friends. It paid to have its web portal and app created to its specifications.
The biggest investment, Connors said, was time and the potential to earn money quicker by going to work for someone else.
It’s too soon to gauge the impact on reducing food waste. From the customer perspective, the company knows how much the buyer is saving with each transaction. From the restaurant perspective, partners know they’re not throwing away as much food and that they’re gaining incremental revenue. The full impact is still being determined.
Goodie Bag earns its revenue by taking $1.50 off the top when a purchase is made. For that $6 price point, Goodie Bag gets $1.50 and forwards $4.50 to the restaurant.
While the company could expand into any community with restaurants, the founders are targeting college towns first.
“We’re identifying the market niche of college campuses. Because we’re recent grads and so close to that culture, we understand the need. Students want affordable options,” Connors said.
He said that the company has competitors, but none are targeting college towns.
Food buyers don’t have to be students to use the service. “Our first customer was a young mom. We’ve had cops purchase from the platform,” he said.
The founders have identified 100 markets that they want to target. Next on the list will be Fort Collins and Colorado State University.
“We’ll put aside the rivalry with our neighbor and service the Rams,” he said.