Recent Queen’s grad to launch app aimed to mitigate food waste

Josh Walters to launch Feedback app in September

Josh Walters, ArtSci '17.
Supplied by Josh Walters

When Josh Walters, ArtSci '17, set out on exchange to Sweden in 2016, he didn’t know he’d be coming back to Queen’s with a big idea. 

While out with his friends in Rome late one night, Walters stopped at a pizzeria with the intention to buy a single slice for four euro. Instead, he was offered the entire store's inventory for 20. Selling the pizza at a substantial discount, the owner of the pizzeria said he didn’t want the perfectly good pizzas to go to waste when closing for the night.

During his exchange at Lund University, Walters also observed the success of what he called “ugly grocery stores” in Scandinavia. Here, he said food that shoppers might not normally purchase because of its unattractive appearance is sold for a fraction of the original price. 

Through these two experiences, Walters realized there was an entirely untapped market in leftovers. Though perfectly edible, Canada wastes about $31 billion in food each year according to a 2014 report released by Value Chain Management International.

At seeing this statistic, Walters thought, if capitalized through the right channels, he could play a small role in reducing food waste. 

And with this, the idea for Feedback was born. Walter’s mobile application provides a platform wherein consumers can see which restaurants have excess food left over at the end of the day and can purchase these meals at up to 80 per cent off. 

Once returning from Sweden, Walters got to work on his idea. At first, he focused on finalizing the idea behind the business model for the Feedback app, as well as completing the company’s branding and incorporation. 

“I’ve had to learn so much on the fly,” Josh told The Journal, describing the continuous learning curve of figuring out the specifics of developing an app.

 Even in the app’s early stages, it was clear to see his eagerness to get it off the ground. He considered leaving Queen’s before he finished his last semester, making the decision to complete his degree at the last minute, enrolling on the last possible day for classes.

“I decided I would graduate just in case,” Walters said with a laugh.  

Lacking substantial business knowledge — he’s a biology major — Walters knew he needed someone with a business background to help. With no hesitation, he brought his cousin Ben Walters on board with the idea. 

Ben, a former management consultant, assured Josh the idea was worth pursuing and became committed to the project full time soon after. 

The two have complimented each other since teaming up. With Ben looking specifically at developing their business side, Josh focused on the more creative aspects of the app. Once Josh finished his degree in April, they began to work full time on Feedback out of Ben’s Toronto apartment. Now living the typical start-up lifestyle, Feedback has taken significant steps towards its summer launch. 

Recently, the duo won a grant at the Creator Awards, sponsored by WeWork, an organization that will divvy out $20 million to various entrepreneurs over the year. The Walters cousins received $36,000 USD, which Walters told The Journal will be used to expedite the Feedback app’s development and begin marketing.

In addition to the monetary sum, they will receive free office space for a year in the Toronto WeWork co-working space, to open on August 1. 

The Walters cousins said they have spent the past month reaching out to restaurants in Toronto’s downtown core. Responses have been overwhelmingly positive, with anywhere from 30 to 40 restaurants from a variety of cuisines signed up. They hope to have anywhere from 50 to 100 by their launch date in September. 

Walters hopes the app will decrease the amount of food wasted in the city, as it provides an easy and straightforward means to eliminating excess food waste. 

“In today’s world we’re wasting [food] at a quite high rate — it’s shocking really,” Walters said. 

If it takes off, Walters hopes to expand to other cities and towns, including university towns like Kingston. Living as a student who was always looking for a deal, Walters knows other students would jump at the chance to take advantage of discounted food options. 

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