Bay Area food delivery service Pastel to end operations after nearly 2 years – SFGATE

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Just shy of turning 2, Bay Area food delivery service Pastel is ending operations at the end of the month.

The news was shared in an email to customers, in which co-founder and CEO Amanda Nguyen shared that Pastel would end delivery operations on Sept. 30. She wrote that the move was “an incredibly hard decision to make.”

Nguyen told SFGATE that a few factors drove her decision to end Pastel in its current form. Mostly, customer habits changed during the summer. Pastel launched in April 2021 at a time when restaurants and food businesses were still navigating through fluctuating COVID-19 restrictions. But with most Bay Area residents fully vaccinated now, food deliveries at Pastel have become less frequent.  

“We saw more travel and people going out to eat,” Nguyen said. “That’s wonderful, and people are supporting business in a different way. The marketplace is not viable unless there are customers coming back on a weekly and regular basis.”

Pastel stood apart from other food delivery companies by working with a slew of popular Bay Area businesses such as B. Patisserie, Neighbor Bakehouse and Pizzeria Delfina, as well as pop-ups like Batch 22 Bakery and Pastry in Place. Beyond the vendors, it also charged small businesses a 10% commission fee, compared to the staggering 30% fee charged by other mammoth food delivery companies.

Amanda Nguyen created Pastel after she realized that her pastry shop wasn't reaching many of her customers in the Bay Area. Pastel is ending service on Sept. 30. 

Amanda Nguyen created Pastel after she realized that her pastry shop wasn’t reaching many of her customers in the Bay Area. Pastel is ending service on Sept. 30. 

Mariah Tiffany/Special to SFGATE

When Nguyen launched Pastel with her partner Ted Moran, it was initially to help drive sales for her pastry business Butter& during the pandemic. In an interview with SFGATE last year, Nguyen said she felt she was “turning away business every single day” when customers outside San Francisco asked if they could buy the elegant cakes without having to physically drive into the city.

“My fiancé [Ted Moran] and I realized that [Pastel would be] something our business would benefit from,” Nguyen previously told SFGATE. “And then talking to our friends in the industry, we realized this was something they would be interested in.”

At first, Nguyen said, she and Moran helped deliver restaurant meals from about 14 different businesses to customers around the Bay Area using their Volkswagen Golf. But when business picked up, Pastel swelled from 14 businesses to more than 80. The service quickly outgrew the VW Golf and what followed was a fleet of vans to help deliver meals to Bay Area suburbs.

Nguyen said that throughout Pastel’s short tenure, there were another 200 businesses added to the waitlist between September 2021 and May 2022. Nguyen gets emotional when she thinks about ending food delivery services, especially when she thinks about the small businesses that depended on her platform the most. Pastel merchants were saddened by the news of deliveries ending but were also understanding of the changing times.

“If you asked a lot of the makers what they liked about Pastel, they said, ‘They’re going to help me get my products into customer hands.’” Nguyen said. “There are some businesses that really rely on Pastel for income, so ending at the end of the month gives them some cushion.”

Although the outcome of Pastel isn’t what Nguyen hoped, she shared that the goal for her business has always been to build software to help small businesses operate more efficiently. Thanks to a former background in tech, she hopes Pastel can transform into a business that can help restaurants with online sales, production and planning.

From left, Pastel employees Anh Mai, Chris Morewood, owner Amanda Nguyen, Luiz Castanheira Jr. and Ted Moran pose outside a delivery truck. Pastel is ending service on Sept. 30. 

From left, Pastel employees Anh Mai, Chris Morewood, owner Amanda Nguyen, Luiz Castanheira Jr. and Ted Moran pose outside a delivery truck. Pastel is ending service on Sept. 30. 

Mariah Tiffany/Special to SFGATE

“The pandemic was a forcing function for small businesses to get online,” Nguyen said. “These systems already exist, but they’re only available to large enterprises. For Pastel’s pivot, we want to help small businesses find the best technology tools for them.”

And that’s something small businesses are looking forward to, Nguyen said. With just a couple of weeks left, Nguyen said Pastel has been busier than ever with “record sales.” Nguyen told her customers in the Saturday email that any unused gift cards will be refunded at the end of the month.

For now, Nguyen will focus on pivoting Pastel with the hope of relaunching in November. She’s also working hard to open Butter&’s first storefront in the Dogpatch and plan her upcoming wedding.

“I want to continue helping makers,” Nguyen told SFGATE of the restaurants and pop-ups she worked with. “The relationships aren’t ending.”




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