Chef/restaurateur David Chang may have avoided delivery at the Momofuku for years, but it’s more obvious now than ever that those days are over. Chang talked to Kelefa Sanneh at The New Yorker Tech Festival Friday about his new delivery-only, virtual restaurant Ando. Most restaurants that offer delivery end up selling about 80 percent of their food in-house and 20 percent delivery, but Chang thinks it should be something more like 60/40, though he's not sure about the ideal breakdown. With rising labor costs, he sees delivery as a way to spend less on front-of-house costs, reduce lines, and feed more people. In fact, it’s only recently that he’s appreciated the front-of-house dining experience. "As a cook, I've always just wanted to be judged by what's on the plate," he says.
The focus on food versus dining explains Chang’s interest in starting Ando. He also talked about Ando’s engineering food for delivery — a point that his team has belabored — and how cheesesteak and fried chicken delivers best. "I’m always amazed at the number of delivery places that offer melted cheese without the technology of a pizza box," he says. "It arrives in shoddy shape." And although those foods aren’t super Asian, Ando was created to have an Asian bent. New menu items like a vegetable curry follow along that line.
But he made it clear that one thing would never get delivered — ramen. Other Asian noodles like pho and Korean jajangmyeon travel better. Still, even those options are a while away. People aren’t ready for it yet, he says. "It just looks gnarly," he says. "Maybe in five years we’ll be able to do that kind of noodle." Ando’s available in Midtown East and recently launched dinner service.
Additional reporting by Matt Buchanan