Episode 2: Helping restaurants make more money

In this episode, we discuss automation, how she came up with an idea, how she navigated different Glideapps developers, and how she ended with LowCode to build her app and launch it in the tri-state area.

From NASA employee to founder, Christina Reid came up with a unique idea for restaurants to donate food to non profits, or allow them to NOT throw food away, but rather make some money by selling it via an app.

Check out her app at CiboGroups.app.


Christina Reid: I know a lot of these, you know, owners and managers are, they want to donate or they want to give it away or they want to sell it, uh, you know, and going out and talking to restaurants. I learned about that.

Jesus Vargas: Hey everyone. Welcome to another episode of LowCode Podcast, today we have Christina Reid. She's a good friend, she works at NASA, can you imagine that? Uh, and then she has a very interesting app about, uh, helping restaurants don't throw away their food and helping nonprofit organizations get that food. Uh, so we'll talk about that today.

So Kristina, welcome, uh, welcome to the podcast, happy to have you here today. 

Christina Reid: Thanks for having me. I'm really happy to be here and chat with you. 

Jesus Vargas: So why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself, your background, and then we'll talk about how you came up with the idea for Cibo. 

Christina Reid: Yeah. Um, so hi everyone, my name is Christina.

Um, I live in Maryland, right on the border of DC. Um, so right now I am working at NASA Goddard in Greenbelt, Maryland, and I'm also working on pursuing my masters in space engineering at Sapienza University in Rome, Italy. 

Jesus Vargas: Wow. Is that in Italian? 

Christina Reid: No, I think that would be a whole different level. So my program is in English.

Jesus Vargas: It's a remote program or are you going to Italy now and then to do something? 

Christina Reid: So it actually, so my program started in person and I was starting my second year when COVID hit. So it kind of forced me to come back home, and since I've been home, we've been remote for a year. And actually I just got word that we're going back in person, this coming up semester, which will be my thesis semester.

So I'll be going back. 

Jesus Vargas: That's great, but are you going back to Rome? 

Christina Reid: Yeah, i'm going back to Rome for six months to finish my thesis.

Jesus Vargas: Okay. That's great. Uh, okay. So you came up with an idea to build a very unique app and help. I dunno, who are you trying to help? So tell us more about how you came up with CiboGroups, where did that idea came from?

Christina Reid: So I have a friend, um, I was out in Zurich. Uh, we were just there for holiday. And so in their co-op they have a whole bunch of different like baked pizza, and I guess around noon, they throw away the stuff that they made from the morning and make fresh stuff, uh, to have out for the afternoon. But food is perfectly good.

So my friend and I were like, we'll buy it. Like we don't lie, like it's not a problem. So that kind of just sparked the idea there of like, realizing that a lot of places at the end of the night, the food that they just have a surplus amount of. They're either tossing it, um, but I do think there are a lot more restaurants that maybe give it to their employees.

Um, so I try to come up with a concept where it's a happy middle ground where, you know, they can give it back to the community. They can get, uh, you know, money, additional, more money in their pocket, and they're really just reducing the amount of food that is being thrown away. 

Jesus Vargas: How much research have you done with the restaurants in terms of what they do with the food that they have?

Christina Reid: So it really comes from, um, kind of going out there and talking to them face to face or getting on a phone call with them, um, in regards to their statistics and how much they throw out a night or a week, uh, that I'm a little bit unaware of right now, but it does seem like definitely our coffee shops, you know, they are the big ones that are throwing away most of their yummy croissants. 

Jesus Vargas: Yeah. I know for a fact, because my sister had a friend or has a friend and they worked at Starbucks and I think they got a bunch of food, every, I mean, every day, because the expiration date was today or tomorrow. And then they gave all these free food to their employees, uh, and actually a lot of food. So that probably happens a lot in a lot of restaurants.

Christina Reid: Yeah. And it's, um, it's pretty interesting, um, it's a, it's an interesting thing, um, you know, especially for these bigger companies where, you know, after some years, you'll probably realize maybe we don't need 20 croissants, but yet, you know, it's production that still happened.

So, and I know a lot of these, you know, owners and managers are, they want to donate or they want to give it away or they want to sell it, uh, you know, and going out and talking to restaurants. I learned a lot that, uh, these owners at the end of the night, maybe like an hour before they close anyways, they already, um, are posting their foods at a discounted rate. 

They're selling their food at a discounted rate. So in the restaurant, you won't know unless you go. So now they have, so that kind of made me excited because now it's like, oh, now you're doing, if you're doing it anyways, now you have this platform where you can reach more people and let them know that, hey, come in and get some, some of our favorite foods.

Jesus Vargas: Right. Do you think, or do you know you there's already a platform that does that because the restaurant industry is huge so, I mean, you are very smart, but probably someone else had that idea before. Do you have seen something related, implemented already or not? 

Christina Reid: Yes I have. And this is a touchy subject for me, but, um, just cause it's, you know, when you think of an idea, you're just like, oh, no one thought of it.

But someone probably did. So there is another company, uh, they actually originated in Europe as a line of retrained year, but they started in Europe, I want to say 2014, but what really gets me is they did not come to the US until 2020. So I was like, oh, like totally, they beated me about this idea. But I mean, they, I, they seem great.

I've done research on them and seems like they have a really good team. Um, but I think there are some pros of working with a smaller company, especially, uh, the area, the community I'm trying to reach out to, it's like close to home, it's where I'm from, so. 

Jesus Vargas: So you're offering the restaurants, the opportunity to sell the food at this kind of price, rather than throwing that way or giving it away for free. Uh, so that's a very clear value for the restaurant, then for the end user, for the client, you're giving them their favorite food at a better price, right. And then we have a third type of user, which is the nonprofit.

Okay, um, so how does that user type work in the app? 

Christina Reid: So I came up with the nonprofit, uh, user as well as just kind of through that wasn't the original, uh, I guess approach or, or thought process of the app. First, I was just thinking business owner and user. And this actually came from talking to business owners where they're like, well, you know, if we want to reach different parts of the community, we would rather donate, you know. We have a solid community that can come in and, you know, they can come out on a day-to-day basis and get a croissant from Starbucks every day.

But there are some people who don't have that resource, who they don't have that opportunity and we would much rather donate. So I came up with, um, building, uh, working with low code to build that into the app. So it adds a lot more work. Cause you know, it's another group of people you have to get onboard. But I think it's an important feature to have on the app as well. 

Jesus Vargas: Because right now, the only way you're monetizing the app is through those NPOs. Right? 

Christina Reid: Well, so it's, so how I'm doing it right now is based off whatever the restaurant wants to do. So if they are interested in selling it, they can. Um, but if they want to donate, which most of them do. Then that's what, that's option to have. So I have one client who is, you know, ready to go on the app, but they want to donate.

So now it's getting these non-profits on, on the app, letting them know that, hey, you can, um, add up with these restaurants and get some food from local businesses and hand out to families that you're working with. 

Jesus Vargas: Right now, how do, how do these, uh, non-profit organizations collect food? Do they work directly with certain restaurants or is there like a, I don't know, an agency or someone who manages multiple restaurants and sends these NPOs to the restaurants or sends up food from the restaurants to the NPOs?

Christina Reid: So actually another thing that I learned, which this is kind of my favorite thing about building this app, or coming up with this concept is that, just what people are doing already. So another thing that I learned is a few restaurants and coffee shops, they are working with maybe one nonprofit near them, where either they will go and they'll donate whatever they have leftover, or they're working with an individual from that nonprofit and that individual come in and pick up the food.

So it's like, everyone's ready doing what the app is designed to do, but now they just have a platform where, you know, maybe they're going to, we'll use Starbucks, and that's the one place that they've been going, but maybe, hey, now burger king is at their disposal, disposable or at, at their hands, so they can get burgers too.

Jesus Vargas: Yeah. So yeah, there's, there's a lot of value as well for the non-profits because maybe they're getting food from a place that's far away from their location and now they'll see the restaurant next door and the platform and they'll be able to get food from there. 

Christina Reid: Exactly. Exactly. 

Jesus Vargas: So right now, how, what are you doing to grow your user base?

Because usually we've, I mean, we have, in terms of users, we usually have two types or three types of apps. Either, let's say, Ooh, um, Uber is a bad example. I don't know, you have an app where you just want people using the app, right? So you don't need a two-sided marketplace. It's just like people using your app.

Um, Grammarly, for example, right. It's a software and then they just onboard users and they say, they sell to users. Then we have a more challenging type of app, which is a marketplace type of app, Uber, right. So you need drivers and people who want to go places, uh, Tinder, like multiple people, right. So that there can be matches and all that.

In your case, you have three types of users, which is even more challenging, because now you need, I mean, actually for the restaurant, they just care about non-profits they see nonprofits end-users as one user type, right? Like consumers, either they're getting the food for free or paid. Um, so how do you, how do you get users to your app?

Christina Reid: So my approach to this, what I'm focusing on is kind of the big driver of it all is the restaurant, the business. Um, and so what I do, so I have my Instagram page, um, I'm posting, tagging just random locals around me, blowing up their DM. Um, my favorite thing to do is like, if I'm just out studying and I'm getting a coffee, I'll ask them like, oh, hey, quick question, like, what do you guys do with this? 

So I try to, I want to build that relationship first. And I honestly believe, you know, once I have enough, even if it, once I have, you know, a solid one, two restaurant that is consistently posting and I'm focusing on the DC, Maryland, Virginia area, where I'm from, getting people like the user to get on the app, I think we'll be smooth sailing from there.

Cause a lot of people like discount and stuff. So getting that, getting that, letting them know that, oh, hey, you know, uh, this cafe on 14th street is now on, on my app. You know, check them out if you want to get your everyday croissant, just at a discounted rate. And then from there kind of, cause the reason why I want to focus on the restaurant user hook is because when I come down to the non-profits, you know, I'm charging them a monthly subscription.

I don't want to start, you know, charging that monthly subscription, if there are options to choose from, is minimal. Like I would want to give them enough. Yeah. So I want to give them, you know, a nice amount of options to choose from. 

Jesus Vargas: Okay. Do you plan to, so you're gaining restaurants via Instagram and how will you get end users?

Will you, do you plan to run ads or word of mouth, or influencers?

Christina Reid: I haven't figured out yet, but I'm thinking, um, I've been thinking about ads. Um, so it's just finding the time to, to do that. 

Jesus Vargas: Yeah. So this app is built in glide, right? Uh, which as probably everybody that listens to us notice this no-code builder. Uh, how do you came up from an idea of building an app to finding these no-code or low-code tools to build your MVP?

Christina Reid: Yeah. So I'm actually, so, I think back 2020, um, my sister told me about a company that does something similar to what you do. And, you know, I was like, oh, let me try this. So, and you know, I enjoyed it, but, um, that's where I met you through that previous company, and when I finished kind of getting all the information I got from them.

Um, I still didn't feel, uh, no, I know my app wasn't where it needed to be. So I was working on, you know, developing myself and I would actually watch you on YouTube, but I'm like, okay, I needed it to just be robust. Like I'm wasting time now. And it really wasn't until my competitor, once they were in the US like, okay, trying to do it yourself, it's fun and cute. But I can't waste time anymore.

Yes. So I, um, I think from watching you on YouTube, you have your website there and then as like, oh, okay. 

Jesus Vargas: Why do you think? So, I mean, you've found about these other agency and then you came with us, but what's your opinion on these no-code or low-code tools? Did you ever quote the app like using traditional development software?

Christina Reid: So I've actually tried to like build an app using X code. And so I have previous software, um, developing feels like with Python and MATLAB, but it's more in a technical way. Um, you know, just taking equations and applying it to a problem and producing a solution. So I was like, oh, well, if I can do that...

So it wasn't... so it was like, okay, so what are other ways to, um, you know, be able to build an app? So learning about these no code app.

Jesus Vargas: And you think you have been limited, uh, in terms of whatever you, I mean, you've had a vision and then now you have an app.. Do you think these no code tools have limited use somehow? I mean, obviously everybody says I don't have in-app notifications, which is a fair point, but other than notifications, that actually your app, we solve with texts and WhatsApp and a bunch of other ways of getting in touch with people.

Do you think, or have you felt any limitations with no-code tools? 

Christina Reid: Honestly, no, not for my app. And I think, um, even, uh, in general, I did, I wasn't even really thinking of adding, uh, a hook that would, where the re every time a restaurant would post that it would put a notification, like the work came from the person just going on the app and seeing what's available. Uh, so honestly for my app, no. 

Jesus Vargas: That's interesting. Yeah. So in your app, uh, just to give our listeners or viewers a better idea in your app, we have, which is the first time that actually we did that. We set up WhatsApp messages for new orders, right? So when your order is paid or something, we send a WhatsApp message to the restaurant's number, right?

So they can configure their own WhatsApp number and they get a WhatsApp saying like someone, bought something you have, right, if I remember correctly. 

Okay. So, uh, so you already had that idea, you had an Integromat account, which is these automation tool. Uh, how do you find that? I mean, how comfortable are you with automation tools? How else do you use automation in your life other than in your app? 

Christina Reid: Well, so I'm all about automation. Um, definitely in my career path, you know, working, granted, so is my background at, at NASA, it's dealing with multi-billion dollar spacecraft that runs off automation. So I have 101%, uh, confidence in automation.

And also just, also see, and I, I also think that, um, maybe just over time, understanding that sometimes the automation might have a hiccup, but it's nothing that is really detrimental to the overall flow, yeah, so I, I'm um I, and I also, I also take each hiccup that comes from automation as a learning experience, because whether it's something that you might have missed, then that's an easy update that you can do. 

And that's a problem that, you know, you don't have to worry about again. And hey, like we all have, um, we all have software. We all have iPhones. We all have Macs. There are some times where maybe your Netflix just won't open. That lasts like two seconds. If you try to open it again, it's going to open.

So those like intermittent outages, again, it's not the end of the world. 

Jesus Vargas: Yeah, that's true. How do you think about new things? I don't know. Have you set up any Integromat scenarios, any automation for your personal life? How do you come up with ideas in terms of what, or even in your work maybe, what, what do you want to, what can you automate?

Christina Reid: So I haven't used, um, Integromat in my personal life, but one thing that I do use, uh, sometimes, if I have a script on my personal laptop where I'll just clean out old files that are older than from this year, um, two years back, and then, but so one thing that I, since I just built it for myself, one thing that I have to remember that I do is, you know, I might have a file that I always, I want that.

I don't always putting it in, taking it outside of that folder, where I run that script and making sure that it never gets deleted. And that's just, it's a nice, uh, you know, organization script just to keep me organized. 

Jesus Vargas: That's pretty cool. What else have you set up? Something like that? 

Christina Reid: Yeah. Most of the, in my personal life, most of my scripts have been just in regards to organizing my files.

Uh, in regards to work, uh, just really creating scripts where, so I'll just give a high level, um, working with satellite, um, on a day-to-day basis, you get a lot, a lot, a lot, a lot of data. And in the space industry, you have different, uh, groups that do different things. So all of the data that you're getting, it might not be pertinent to what, so I'm part of the flight dynamics team.

So I, um, there might be data coming from the intents guards to the ground where that might not be important to a particular script that I'm working on. So it's being able to comb through large amount of data, pulling what I need. And then developing a script to create a solution. 

Jesus Vargas: Okay. So you are an absolute expert on automation.

So [uninteligible] lab is just play. It's just a playground for you. 

Christina Reid: No, I mean, honestly going through it and cause I, you know, I've never used Integromat before and just learning that I thought that was super cool. And you know, I know, uh, that level of automation exists, but then when you see this operate itself, I was like, oh wow, this is so cool.

Like, it's just, it's always a warm, fuzzy feeling. 

Jesus Vargas: Yeah. Because I mean, something that comes up very often, with with friends and family and clients is that when we talk about automation, they don't know. It's hard to convert that word into something that affects you, right. So we're like people ask me, what are you doing?

We're like, we automate businesses and they're like, oh, okay. Moving on, right? You can see it's hard for people to, to, to think how can they use automation in their workloads in their business. Uh, so I always ask these questions because it's interesting to see how people... we might be automating a bunch of things, even though we don't think about that.

Uh, but the more you think about these repetitive tasks that you're doing every day or every week, you can start automating all of the things. And actually I spoke with some guy like months ago and he said, that they have a goal that every week they have to automate a task into their life, either personal or work or something.

Right. And at the end of the year, you have 52 automations working for you. And he started saving a lot of time and not making mistakes or being able to do something else. And I thought that was pretty interesting. So I think like having that, that, that thing, going on in your mind saying okay, find something that you're doing every now and then, and then write it down and then eventually automate that. I think it's very profitable. 

Christina Reid: Honestly, I totally agree. And I think even from this experience, uh, like even though I, I do so much automation in my work life on a, on a major level, coming you know, coming home and working on this as the smallest thing, like email campaigns, I was like, I've never, I've never used it before creating CiboGroups. 

So I was like, wow. So I don't have to send a hundred emails and change the name. So I thought... yeah. And I think that it's the cool, coolest thing and, cause a lot of the code that I do in my everyday life it's on, on Python and MATLAB. So I don't have too much experience, you know, with um, HTML C plus, plus when I see it working on the web browser and in your email, I think it's the coolest thing.

Jesus Vargas: That's pretty cool. How did you came out with the name for the app? CiboGroups. 

Christina Reid: So, I don't know if I mentioned this, but I think I did it. Yeah. So I'm getting my master's in Rome and I love the Italian culture. I love the food. I love the wine. I love, I love the food. So food, uh, uh, Cibo means food in Italian. So I, I, I started with that word food and kind of see how I could do a spinoff.

So I just put like food groups together. Cause it was just a different, a list of food groups that you can find on the app. So I just combined my, my background in Rome with, you know, a word, two words that we all know and, and came up with the name. 

Jesus Vargas: That's cool. Now what's the goal for, for your app? Is that something that's, I mean, since you, uh, work in something completely unrelated to that industry, are you planning to keep the app as a side business? Do you want to grow it and they will become your main business? Uh what's uh, like what would be a good goal that you would set up for next year for Cibo? 

Christina Reid: I love the work in my career path. So I'm definitely thinking just aside business. And since I am, you know, a small startup company, where I would love to kind of navigate more to, are small, um, like restaurants and bakeries and just really helping them reduce their food waste and, um, you know, increasing their revenue. So in the next five years, how I see CiboGroups is, you know, if I could have all the small local businesses in DC, um, Virginia and Maryland, and just have them on the app, that would be great.

And it's at a point where I'm relying on automation where I can do my day-to-day work and don't need to be involved too much, you know, just there, if there is an issue and, you know, users or businesses have feedback, uh, have questions, have any issues. Um, so that's the level I see it at. 

Jesus Vargas: That's great. So if people want to learn more about your company and your app, uh, where they can look you up?

Christina Reid: Yes. So my Instagram is cibo.group, feel free to DM me with any questions you can go on my Instagram. Um, I also post, you know, fun tips and ideas on how to reduce your food waste. Uh, I recently just made a reel on how to make a carrot cake from your, you know, not so pretty carrots. So you can find a lot of fun things there.

Uh, and then for the restaurant owners, you know, in the DC, Maryland, Virginia area, if you're interested in downloading the app, you can go to cibogroups.app, uh, you know, if you have any questions, like I would love to, you know, come in and set up a zoom call and show you how to work it. I want it to be as smooth and easy as possible.

Jesus Vargas: Okay, so there you go. If you go to a restaurant owner getting done with Christina, she'll explain to you how satellites work and she'll give you a great app.

Christina. Thanks so much. 

Christina Reid: Thank you so much, I really enjoy chatting with you. Thank you. .