We've all arrived at our favorite restaurant only to learn that they've run out of our favorite item. But what if there was an app that let users track the supply of food at local restaurants throughout the day? An ASU startup called Frenzi claims to have the answer.
"It's an app in which restaurants can post (extra) food at the end of the day if they have it, or to bring in customers during slow periods outside of breakfast, lunch and dinner," Ricky Johnson, a senior in computer systems engineering and founder of Frenzi, said.
The aim of the app is to generate extra traffic for restaurants in times of slow business. The idea came while Johnson was on a trip to visit his girlfriend.
"We went to a donut restaurant," Johnson said. "At the end of the day they have tons of donuts that they haven't sold."
The restaurant just put all the extra donuts in bags and threw them in the dumpster. The neighboring college community knew better than to pass up the opportunity.
"At their college, the college kids go and take the donuts and just go back and eat them," Johnson said.
For Johnson, this sparked an idea to help restaurants better market extra items, limiting the amount of wasted food and profit. Since then, Johnson has created Frenzi for the iPhone, while his co-founder, Brandon Caffie, has been working on its Android version.
"We have it set up right now on a local basis," Caffie, an ASU computer systems engineering alumnus, said. "It's per zip code."
Users within a specific zip code get notifications from restaurants near them about deals throughout the day.
"So, if we step out to Pinal County, for example, we won't get these notifications," Caffie said.
The Frenzi team aspires to grow the app, first to all three major Arizona universities, then nationally. To help achieve this goal, the Frenzi team has reached out to the ASU Venture Devils program. Their Venture Devils mentor, David Wachtel, sees a lot of potential in the project.
Wachtel, an academic associate for entrepreneurship and innovation, said that while a number of services offer similar functionality, Frenzi uniquely connects restaurants with their clientele.
"There are some other programs out there that are trying to collect extra food for homeless shelters," Wachtel said. "Then there are some more formal ones that are gathering food for donation afterwards."
Frenzi's unique goal of directly linking consumers with excess food at restaurants has had its difficulties, as well.
"We have four restaurants participating right now," Johnson said. "It's kind of been a bit of a struggle to get people to jump onboard and change their behavior."
Frenzi has had to work hard to keep restaurants interested while they rally the attention of a user base. With only two employees, Johnson and Caffie, the process has been quite slow.
"Even just the thought of restaurants posting 'leftover food' or stuff like that, the backlash of somebody coming back and saying, 'Oh, I got sick from your food,' has kind of been a hurdle that we've had to jump over and try to get people to give it a try," Johnson said.
Johnson says that the term "leftover" isn't the right word. The food restaurants promote on the service is as fresh as their other foods — they just have extra. Johnson hopes that, once users get over the stigma, they'll recognize the value of such a service.