Delivery-only restaurants, or restaurants without dining rooms, are popping up like crazy in New York City — and you might not even know that you’re ordering from them. Big names like Maple and Ando market themselves as virtual restaurants, but others have launched on common delivery platforms without noting that they don’t have brick-and-mortar storefronts. Here’s a breakdown of the major players in New York so far.
Green Summit Group
Restaurants: Runs about 10 virtual restaurants, with more to come
Where to Order: Seamless, deliverable to parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn
Running Since: 2016
Sample menu items: salmon shiitake salad, Tso’s chicken with quinoa flour fried chicken, loaded nachos
Restaurateurs Peter Schatzberg and Todd Millman started this fast casual restaurant group as a delivery-only focused group; both have backgrounds in brick-and-mortar restaurants. By the end of the year, they expect to have four to six commissary kitchens, including in Chicago. Each kitchen runs several restaurants that only exist online, including a salad restaurant called ‘Leafage, a Mexican one called Maya Blue, and a sandwich one called Butcher Block.
Schatzberg says he decided to pursue a delivery-only concept because he had trouble finding the right retail space for a new restaurant idea. They’re already turning a profit and wants to build eight commissaries in both New York and Chicago. He doesn’t see it as a grand, life-changing project, though. "There’s a misconception that what we’re doing is innovative when in fact it is incredibly difficult," he says. "By no means do I think this is necessarily a big, broad future for the business or the industry in general."
Concept: It’s acclaimed chef Michael White’s upscale Italian restaurant and steakhouse but in delivery-only form. A brick-and-mortar outpost of the Altamarea Group restaurant in Soho closed after three years in business.
Where to order: Caviar
Running since: It’s been available as a delivery only since December 2015
Sample menu items: fusili with pork shoulder ragu, ribeye with garlic-roasted marrow bone, rosemary fries
When the Altamarea Group decided to close Costata, they didn’t necessarily want to lose the $2,000 to $3,000 a week they got from delivery orders. "It’s meaningful dollars for really anyone," says Arthur Li, CFO for the group. They found that a lot of the people who ordered steaks and pasta from Costata weren’t always going to the restaurant, anyway. "For them, it doesn’t matter whether we have a restaurant or not," he says. "As long as we’re available online, it works for them."
They trained the staff over at nearby Osteria Morini to cook the Costata dishes. It wasn’t a stretch. Osteria Morini already has steaks on the menu, and the extra volume of 20 to 30 orders a week isn’t a huge burden on the kitchen. The infrastructure is there, the customer base is there — it’s the definition of a win-win, Li says. "It was a home run," he says. He’s not sure if the group would do a standalone delivery only restaurant, but it’s not out of the question, either. "We’re doing what we can to stay ahead of the curve," he says.
Concept: A Momofuku restaurant that’s a partnership from chef and restaurateur David Chang and start-up lab Expa, a company co-founded by Uber’s Garrett Camp
Where to Order: the Ando iOS app and website, currently delivering just to Midtown East
Funding: Expa has more than $100 million in funding, though it’s not clear how much of it goes toward Ando
Running Since: May 2016
Sample menu items: chicken tenders, spicy green bowl with chicken and grains, cheesesteak, mapo tofu
Star chef David Chang — who has long held a reputation for influential dining innovation — rocked the food world when he announced his newest Momofuku restaurant would be online-only. The concept: Chef JJ Basil, an alum of wd~50, creates a menu of food "that’s engineered to deliver," according to general manager Anoop Pillarisetti. They play around with the texture and pH of food to get the right mix, Pillarisetti says. "It’s little nuances like that that ultimately factor in," he says.
Chang has been thinking about delivery for years, and the relationship with Expa was fortuitous. Expa’s Hooman Radfar, a co-founder of Ando, says he had already been thinking about a way to do something like Sweetgreen, but capitalizing on the way people use their phones. Eventually, they want to expand drastically. Radfar says the technology will "transform the way people are getting food."
Concept: "chef-inspired meals," with big names like David Chang, Mark Ladner, Brooks Headley, and Dan Kluger
Where to order: Maple.com, for most of Manhattan
Funding: At least $26 million
Running since: April 2015
Sample menu items: roasted chicken and brie sandwich; green chile enchiladas; roasted chicken, avocado, and kale salad
Maple Kitchen was probably the first delivery-only restaurant in New York to gain traction as a concept. (It was not the first overall — the techies in the Bay Area already had Munchery and Sprig.) The idea is that the meals are restaurant quality, but for delivery. Besides a board packed with high profile chefs, Le Bernadin alum chef Soa Davies acts as the executive chef for the company.
The dishes span genres and come with cutesy yellow-accented packaging. It aims to deliver food within a half an hour, and like other companies with millions in funding, it touts use of tech to keep things fast. An internal app tracks timing of cooking, delivery, maps, and more. It’s one of the better known delivery restaurants in the city.
Where to Order: Deliveryonly.nyc, currently delivering in FiDi
Number of Partners: Four
Running Since: March 2016
Sample menu items: chicken tenders, Nashville hot fried chicken, fries, mac and cheese
Managing partner Tim Powell has worked in restaurants and hospitality in New York for two decades, including at national steakhouse chain Hillstone’s. He decided to start the project after he couldn’t find what he wanted for delivery on the Upper East Side. He started researching and realized that people ordered the same items over and over again — things like a house salad, chicken tenders, fries. He hired a former Per Se chef to develop the menu and prides the restaurant on making everything to order and from scratch, including all the bread.
Powell envisions having commissary kitchens across Manhattan, mostly in places where the residential density is higher. (Delivery Only focuses on dinner, although the team will be relaunching weekend brunch soon.) All of them would bear the Delivery Only name, and the menu will remain mostly the same, besides some rotating specials. Many of the orders are for families, and despite the "delivery only" line, Powell finds that running the virtual restaurant isn’t significantly different from running a more typical one. "You’re basically talking to a brick and mortar, without a dining room," he says.