Oula Antere: ResQ-ing Meals in a City Near You

We are currently living in a world where the assembly line approach to production is beginning to creak under the burdens placed on it by exploding populations and an increasingly volatile environment. Nowhere is this more obvious than in food production, where one-third of all food produced across the globe is wasted before it reaches retail shelves.

This waste extends across the whole value chain. A recent study revealed that Finns throw 24 kilos of food in the bin every year. What is less reported is waste in the food service industry, where up to 25% of all food items are thrown away by Finnish food outlets. This amounts to 14 kilos of food per resident of the course of one year.

Enter ResQ Club. Download the app, and you will find a list nearby food outlets offering quality meals at reduced prices. These food items would normally be thrown away at the end of the day. By ResQ-ing meals, users combat food waste and give an additional source of income to restaurant owners and food outlets across Finland, Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Estonia.

Recently appointed CEO Oula Antere has been with ResQ Club since 2016 and is excited about the potential of this rapidly emerging marketplace.

Nordic Business Forum: ResQ Club seems to be such a simple yet effective idea. Why hadn’t this been done before you came along?

Oula Antere: There are multiple reasons, from high smartphone penetration to low-cost payment infrastructure, that make our service viable only now. We need to be super fast and efficient to get the food sold in the couple of hours when it’s still in top condition, and many factors made this much more difficult in the past. Also, people have finally woken up to realize the impact our lifestyle has on our planet, and therefore instantly understand why it is a bad idea to throw away food that’s already been prepared while it still could be used.

There is quite a lot of background tech that needs to run smoothly with a business like ours, so it’s a real asset to have so many developers as our co-founders. Some of the other services trying to do the same thing as us have been good on the idea level, but have lacked the capacity to build a great product. Of course, in addition to a great product, you also need people with the fire inside to spread the service to retailers and customers. That fire has fueled our awesome market teams in Finland, Sweden, and Germany to push us forward.

We’ve learned to move quickly to fill any needs that arise — there is no such thing as my work, your work, etc. Whoever is available gets the job done. That attitude has been essential to the company’s growth.

Nordic Business Forum: You have grown from early stage startup to a company employing 40+ people in 5 countries within 2 years. How did you keep on track in terms of growth?

Oula Antere: We quickly understood that food service providers have trouble matching their supply with demand everywhere we go. However, there are local differences, and we haven’t been without difficulties in building up the service in new countries. We originally went around just trying to replicate the growth model we used in Finland. That didn’t really work everywhere, so now we’ve spent time learning the local characteristics and tailoring the service according to those.

We also decided from an early stage that a collaborative approach with like-minded organizations would help us find new opportunities. Our recent merger with MealSaver in Germany is a great example of how well this approach has worked for us.

Have you managed to keep to your original vision as you grow?

Oula Antere: The beauty of ResQ is that our mission is built into our business model. When we grow the business, we don’t have to worry that we are losing our soul — the bigger we grow, the more impact we will have on food waste. In many businesses, the dynamic is different as the business model makes it easy to give in to customer demands at the expense of the original vision.

Of course, there have been players on the market who have moved away from selling surplus and reducing food waste to becoming more of a discount channel for normal offers. That I would see as kind of losing our soul.

Nordic Business Report: How has ResQ Club impacted food waste?

Oula Antere: We currently have over 150 000 registered users and 1 000 provider partner venues, and over 250 000 portions have been rescued. It’s hard to estimate the exact impact on emissions, but we might already have prevented 1 million kilograms of CO2 emissions due to our activities.

One partner recently told that they sold 95% of the 250 or so portions they offered on ResQ last month and that they’re super happy to receive extra income from food that would otherwise be wasted. And from our customers, we get a lot of feedback how we are saving not only the food but also their evenings!

Of course, there is a measure of disruption with this kind of service. Our customers don’t eat less due to ResQ, so their ResQ purchases result in less food purchased elsewhere. Often this means that our users cook less at home, which actually will reduce the amount of food thrown away in households, the biggest source of food waste in Western societies!

Nordic Business Forum: What next for ResQ Club?

Oula Antere: The surplus food marketplace business has just recently achieved legitimacy, and is now starting to spread rapidly. As the discussion grows, it’s also beginning to impact on our ability to cooperate with big restaurant chains and other large organizations – they move slowly and can be risk averse, but have now realized that rescuing the excess portions makes sense not only in terms of income but also brand wise.

In the mid term, we’re aiming to ResQ 10 million portions of quality food per year, while our long term vision is to enable all urban surplus to be put to the best possible use. In general, we see more and more people moving to cities and living an urban lifestyle – that’s not sustainable unless we make it so. We want to be at the forefront of making a sustainable lifestyle the best and the easiest one to live.

ResQ Club has built a platform that balances the needs of consumers with those of its partners. By rewarding individual outlets and consumers who behave responsibly, ResQ Club has genuinely created a service with a conscience that benefits all involved. Make an ethical choice for your next meal.

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