Posted on February 2, 2017 by staff

How the fight against food waste inspired a cheap meal app


A start-up dining out app is tackling food waste in the restaurant business by dishing out cheap meals to its users.

Founded in 2014 by former corporate lawyer Rob Hall, Wriggle now acts as a restaurant discovery tool and offers users same-day discounts to fill excess capacity.

But initially, it began as an idea to tackle food waste – a problem that costs the UK restaurant industry upwards of £650m every year.

Hall was based in Brazil when he came up with the concept. Now based in Bristol, the scheme has since rolled out to Brighton and Cardiff.

Speaking at a BusinessCloud roundtable sponsored by law firm Gregg Latchams, he said: “My brother was playing around with some start-up ideas, he was looking at something and asked me to run through it and I actually came back with: ‘I don’t think that’s right. I think this would work tackling food waste’.

“And he didn’t like it so I went and did it.”

Heralded by some as a rival to Groupon, Hall’s initial concept was to help businesses reactively reduce the price of their food to stop it going to waste.

Its developers, though, are quick to distance themselves from Groupon – instead claiming they create ‘spontaneous customers’.

At times when independent restaurants have spaces available, customers can use it to discover new places to eat after the app ‘broadened out’.

The platform’s functionality is simple – local businesses reactively reduce the price of their products when they need to sell food close to the end of its usage, or to fill tables.

Wriggle customers can then, in a couple of taps, make cut-price last-moment purchases.

Time-relevant offers can be tailored to customers’ preferences through a variety of channels.

Hall added: “It’s developed over time… We pick out nice places and we connect their unused capacity.

“But actually as we’ve developed an audience it’s also sort of developed into a way to help places reach great customers in new ways.

“It’s based on which businesses in the city want to get customers in for whatever reason and then you can filter down so the right thing will pop up.

“We’re not using artificial intelligence but we do plan to because that’s the next step.

“We’re collecting a lot of really interesting data on people’s purchasing and what’s driving them, and location.

“Converting that into making sure that the right thing pops up for you as quickly as possible is very valuable.”

Meals like burgers or bagels can be bought through the app at a discount, typically around 20 per cent. Wriggle then takes a small cut of the sale.

Explaining the current locations, Hall said: “Brighton has the highest density of food and drink businesses per head in the country.

“And Cardiff is great because it’s a capital city and it’s just down the road, which makes it very convenient to launch in.

“There are different reasons for different cities, but basically regional cities with a nice dense population in a small area, with a good number of independent businesses.”