Grab yourself a snack because this blog post is about to make you hungry. What do Pat’s King Cheesesteak, Lou Malnati’s Pizza, Junior’s Cheesecake and George’s Stone Crab all have in common? You wouldn’t be wrong if you said iconic and delicious food. But they also all happen to have products available for sale on Goldbelly.

Maybe you have heard of Goldbelly, maybe you haven’t, but I’d like to think you will be hearing about it soon. Goldbelly was founded by Joe Ariel, a total foodie. Joe craved the specialties of Nashville where he attended Vanderbilt University. So he put his dreams into reality and back in 2013 he founded Goldbelly. 

The mission of Goldbelly is to bring comfort through food. Not a bad mission, right?

Goldbelly operates as an online marketplace that curates foods from local establishments and facilitates shipping across the United States. Think the Etsy of Food.  As of today, over 800 restaurants, bakeries, and delis are featured on the site and accompanying mobile app. 

When we think online marketplace many of us immediately think Amazon or Ebay, but there are more options like Goldbelly. Personally, I think online marketplaces are here to stay. “According to the 2021 online marketplaces Report, 62.5% of all global online spending occurred via digital marketplaces in 2020, which was a 29% increase in gross merchandise sales.” People are comfortable with purchasing things online. The key to marketplaces is their convenience and accessibility.  

We would be naive in our thinking, if we didn’t associate some of the growth of marketplaces to the pandemic. A recent New York Times article highlighted, “More than 400 of the 850 restaurants that sell food on Goldbelly’s platform have joined since the start of the pandemic, an influx that the company says has more than quadrupled sales over the past 12 months.” Furthermore, “The average order size has grown roughly 20 percent over the past year, and Goldbelly’s work force has swelled to more than 130 people, including a new chief operating officer and chief financial officer.” 

Goldbelly was a lifeline to restaurants that were forced to shut down during the pandemic. Restaurants could dramatically increase their footprint. Furthermore, Goldbelly packages could be prepared during off-peak hours thus not taking away from any lunch or dinner business they may have had. By now you probably know, I am always trying to highlight technology used for good so I would be remiss if I didn’t highlight Goldbelly’s Local Legend Fund. “The fund’s mission is to bring 100 restaurants back to life, to resurrect beloved local shops that have had to close due to unexpected challenges, including the pandemic…” The fund allows restaurants to stay on their feet and some of the Legends are even selling their products on the platform. 

Is this here to stay? Are people still going to want restaurant quality food at premium prices in their homes? 

As I prepared this blog, I searched high and low for any insights on Goldbelly. What technology do they use? Perhaps, AWS cloud computing for their website? Maybe machine learning and AI is used to categorize, tag and price all of their product offerings? What about RFID for tracking packages? I came up drier than some day old bagels from Russ and Daughters. Yes, they’re available for purchase on Goldbelly. 

Goldbelly provides the boxes and cold packs for shipping orders, which helps restaurants ship directly from their premises. So maybe they’re a logistics company and not a tech company after all? After our class presentation and discussion on logistics and the shipping industry, this has me slightly worried. We are talking about perishable foods, you don’t want your Jenni’s Ice Cream to be melted! Yes, another item for purchase on Goldbelly!  Hopefully, robots can solve the problem and ensure that your cousin out in California gets their Legal Seafoods Clam Chowder and Mike’s cannolis.  Furthermore, before we even worry about shipping food, we should probably worry about if the restaurants even have the staff on hand to prepare the food to be shipped. I digress. I also think every company is a tech company. 

With that being said, if anyone has any connects; here are a few questions that I would ask Joe Ariel and the  Goldbelly’s team:

How did you scale your business during the height of the pandemic?

Is this just a fad or is home restaurant dining here to stay?

What is the process of becoming a Goldbelly merchant?

Are restaurants more worried about the technology aspect or shipping their perishable products nationwide?

How will artificial intelligence and machine learning help Goldbelly grow?

What is the hardest item to ship?

Do you have any plans for international expansion?

How many repeat customers do you have?

What keeps you up at night? What gets you excited for tomorrow?

What is the number one product on Goldbelly?

What do you think? Is there any food that you can’t live without? Has anyone ever ordered anything off of Goldbelly? What was the experience like, did your food arrive fresh? How did it compare to the real deal?

Full confession, I haven’t order anything yet but I am real tempted now!

Sources:

https://www.goldbelly.com/

https://www.adweek.com/performance-marketing/the-growth-of-online-marketplaces-in-2021-and-beyond/

11 comments

  1. As a “foodie” this article really grabbed by attention. I think some of your prepared questions are spot on. Number two I think is the million dollar question. Is this simply a fad or as the pandemic changed the consumer to want something like this long term and turned Goldbelly into a long distance Grubhub. Time will tell. I also wonder how this can be scaled. I think of the restaurants you mentioned in the title (still dying to make the trip to Philly for a cheesesteak) and wonder if they have operations in place to ship at scale like this. I suppose some of the well known places probably do and maybe already have online shipping but your mom and pop shop from your hometown might not. An interesting business model for sure.

  2. I first saw Goldbelly when I tried to order the best Boston Cream Pie from Omni Parker House, it was there! Now, this was the week I moved here last Summer and when Parker’s Restaurant was closed, so you can imagine how expensive this was. Despite the free shipping and $15 off, I couldn’t get myself past checkout. I do however think this is a fantastic business for those overseas that miss their favorite food, or to simply gift someone a taste of your city. I like @rjperrault3‘s description of Goldberg as a long distance Grubhub. I feel as though it’s meant for long distance shipping purposes, it will generate majority of its’s sales domestically or even locally.

    1. Interesting you talk about your experience with this – my first concern was cost. If we’re talking perishable, time-sensitive foods, that shipping becomes extremely expensive, let alone the rest of the logistics and the food product itself. This would be an opportunity for a carrier to differentiate itself to enable more Goldbelly-style businesses to thive if they offered a premium service that measures and transmits realtime info on location, temperature, and more (FedEx SenseAware ID chip).

      Now, i wonder how profitable a company like Hello Fresh is… same type of model of cross-country shipping perishable goods, but they also have to create and store those goods, which Goldbelly doesn’t. The difference is, they have volume, which should make up low-volume on your $10 at-home meal, but does Goldbelly need to charge $50 to ship a low-volume $9 Pat’s cheese steak to California? is that sustainable?

      1. Allie, bravo! You even had me chuckle a few times.

        In response to this Goldbelly vs Hello Fresh comparison, I’d like to point out that Hello Fresh is a subscription model. They’re able to pre-plan their perishables, and that is a lot less risky. Goldbelly, on the other hand, seems to be running into the problem Kevin O’Leary has bit at on Shark Tank: perishables, like those from Wicked Good Cupcakes, are a headache. In fact, in June 2021, the cupcake co (out of MA!) was purchased by Hickory Farms – a company that specializes in shipping gifts! Thus, I think @barrinja1 is onto something here with his mention of the FedEx SenseAware ID chip. I’m excited about Goldbelly, but not so sure it’s scalable or even all that viable.

  3. Those questions you laid out are spot on, and along the same thought track I had when first aware of Goldbelly. There are so many questions regarding shipping logistics, specifics on their business plan target demographics, barriers to entry as a supplier, etc., that seem to be very difficult to answer.

    If the shipping logistics are able to guarantee food is delivered just as intended, then I think this business has the potential to be very successful in the long-run. People just hold such an emotional tie to their local foods, that I think paying a premium to get your all-time favorite meal shipped to you from across the country is just too profitable to fail. Will be interesting to track their progress!

  4. I too, like @bccryptoassets, tried to order something from Goldbelly once and couldn’t get myself past the sticker shock at checkout. Having lived in multiple places and craving certain things you just can’t get anywhere, I really love the idea of this but I’m also curious about the business model and if it’s sustainable. I would be so curious what the customer segmentation looks like. To your point about online marketplaces, do you think someone like Amazon will scoop Goldbelly up soon…?

  5. Really appreciate your sense of humor and references here, Goldbelly sounds like an awesome company. One of the biggest problems with shipping these famous foods is the cost and they certainly seem to be addressing that pain point. I’ve personally had a Giordanos pizza turn into a tomato explosion inside my luggage after a delay coming back from Chicago once. Just haaad to try and bring it home. The problem with ordering such local favorites from far away is that they just never taste the same, I think a lot of that comes down to the packaging used so sounds like Goldbelly has a good handle on that. The tough part is trusting each store to turn into a master shipper of perishable goods by joining. I was just about to tweet about your blog directly to Joe Ariel on Twitter so thank you for reaching out! So cool how many companies and individuals have responded to our class’s tweets this semester. Can’t wait to hear what they came back with..

  6. Love it! Let me know if you get a response

  7. Goldbelly is a company I first heard of during the height of the pandemic. While at home, I tended to get my foodie fix by watching YouTube videos of chefs, restaurants, and of course replays of Anthony Bourdain clips. When I saw restaurants that looked interesting, I would visit their website to fantasize about eating some of the best pizza in Brooklyn or amazing Korean food from Los Angeles. I came across Goldbelly on these restaurants pages and realized that I could get this food delivered to me! I found this to be very impressive and an innovative response by restaurants during a difficult time. I have never actually pulled the trigger and purchased anything, but I could see myself doing it in the future.

  8. First I’ve heard of this, and I was originally going to say I don’t understand the concept when you could just go to the specific restaurant’s website you’d like the shipment from. I have relatives that have ordered mike’s pastry kits from their website a few years ago, and it was around the $50 mark for the kit and shipping. Looking at their website now, and they’ve partnered with GoldBelly and stopped their own in-store shipping site, although still have the remnants of some of the pages. It’s now become $70-80 for shipping the same product. Maybe I’m a one-off, but I’d think regardless of the cost, I would already know what food and restaurant I want shipment from and would rather order from the place directly instead of paying a middle man for this marketplace. Although you could argue, there are definitely businesses that never had a country-wide shipment platform before goldbelly, which I would think is probably because there is little to no demand for in the first place. Curious to see if they can continue this growth.

  9. Loved your post! I have been temped several times to order from Goldbelly but every time I sit down to place an order the items are always sold out. I like having the option to order your favorite foods from across the country and do understand logistic and shipping challenges the company might face which result in the high shipping cost, but to Christina’s point I am surprised Amazon hasn’t tapped into this yet! If they are able to reduce the shipping cost while not compromising on the quality of product delivered, It can prove to be more successful than it already is!

    A lot of towns and cities don’t have access to most restaurants via GrubHub or UberEats because of their location. I think that’s the biggest flaw which can be fixed with a service like Goldbelly

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