Bay Area pastry fanatics take our cake quite seriously. We drive long distances and cross bridges for the butteriest croissants at Arsicault, wait hours in line for the queen of kouign amann at b. patisserie, and obsessively scroll Instagram waiting for the hottest Basuku burnt cheesecake to drop. But what if you could spend that time Netflix chilling on a Friday night or sleeping in on a Saturday morning, attempting to keep up with the kids on TikTok or run the zoomies out of your pandemic puppy? And yet still wake up to the dream — your favorite cardamom buns on the counter, a fridge full of coconut noodle soup, and a freezer stocked with wild mushroom pizza, all racked up for the weekend.
Oh hey, we’re Pastel, a new startup that brings all of the buzziest Bay Area treats to your neighborhood — and helps you support small and local food businesses.
Pastel was founded by a small business owner during the pandemic. Amanda Nguyen is a former data analyst turned baker and the owner of Butter&, the boutique cake shop known for its beautiful buttercream cakes, which went viral for its sized-down quarantine cakes inscribed with “wash your hands” or “just boosted.” Although within the industry, Butter& is better known for taking care of its team, including above-market wages and mental health benefits. Nguyen’s fiancé, Ted Moran, was a product lead at Uber Eats, and together they understand the delivery game from both sides.
Many third-party delivery apps take as much as 30 percent from restaurants and makers, while customers are charged mysterious fees that can add up to nearly 40 to 50 percent, and the gig workers who deliver the food are struggling to get by. In contrast, Pastel is an online platform that lets you pick up a wide variety of treats at a neighborhood location near you. Every fee we charge is transparent: Our food makers pay a 10 percent commission, and our customers pay a 20 percent surcharge on every item, plus a $5 delivery fee for your order. Our drivers are company employees with benefits, and they carefully pack the treats and roll to the pickup spots in our fleet of vans. Delivery takes effort, and someone always eats the cost. But the difference with Pastel is that we’re partnering in sustainable ways with small businesses, and you can trust that your dollars are going to support the food makers.
In its first year, Pastel has been featured in SFGATE and the San Francisco Chronicle as both a fun way to get the buzziest pastries all around the Bay and an intriguing alternative to Grubhub and DoorDash. We still love bakeries, and now we’re also working with restaurants, pop-ups, and all kinds of cool food makers, serving up frozen dumplings, duck-fat tortillas, fresh pasta, masala chai, and so much more. As of publication time, we’re partnering with more than 60 small, local food makers. The assortment of goodies will surely grow, but at the end of the day, we’re here to help small makers grow their businesses by expanding their reach — as well as boost their voices.
Which is kind of where this publication comes in. Sure, every company has a blog these days, but we’d like to use this space to tell deeper food stories: Meet the people who are making your favorite food, by stepping into the home kitchen of a cottage baker. Dig into the dishes you’re obsessed with, so a pop-up chef can describe the details that make his beef shank broth so slurpable and delicious. Get the inside scoop on what’s new and cool from our makers, whether you’re looking to feast with a full holiday menu or can’t wait for the freshest seasonal specials. And take a seat at the table for some bigger conversations, thinking about how we can better support independent food businesses, and what it means to be a responsible delivery platform.
If you’d like to read along, watch this space. Sign up for access to Pastel below, to shop all the treats and get emails about new makers and the latest stories. And follow on your social media channel of choice (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok). Our story literally started with careening around the Bay Area in a VW Golf full of pastries, and we’ve already met so many interesting characters. We’re excited for what’s down the road. Thanks for coming along for the ride!