Astoria Eats, a new Queens-based food delivery platform that launched earlier this week, is looking to provide a local, more cost-effective alternative so restaurants don’t have to rely on larger third-party delivery companies like Grubhub and UberEats.
Already, the platform has signed on seven Astoria restaurants including popular Bangladeshi establishment Boishakhi and Greek spot Zenon Taverna. For now, the focus is local, and the delivery platform is meant to be a precursor to a planned new food hall in the neighborhood. Queens blogger Joe DiStefano is spearheading the delivery platform and has partnered with a development group which hopes to bring the food hall to the neighborhood as part of its massive, proposed mixed-use development in the area.
Astoria Eats is launching at a time when restaurants have had to increasingly rely on delivery service due to the constantly shifting guidelines in the city amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Unlike major third-party companies that are known for their exorbitant fees, Astoria Eats is charging restaurants a nominal amount right now.
For each order made on the platform, participating restaurants pay a credit card processing fee of 30 cents and 2.79 percent of the food bill, a 29-cent flat fee per order charged by order processing system Bbot, and a delivery charge as determined by the restaurant. Diners have to pay a $1 administrative fee per order that goes toward Astoria Eats’ operational costs, and a portion or all of the delivery fee.
If a restaurant uses its own delivery staff, it can set a delivery fee independently. Astoria Italian restaurant Ornella, for instance, which is on the platform, charges its customers a flat $2.50 fee for the use of its hired delivery workers. A restaurant can also employ the Astoria Eats platform’s delivery integration with DoorDash and restaurant courier service provider Relay for a price that the restaurant can then decide to pass on to the customer. Astoria gastropub Mar’s uses Relay, and covers 50 cents of Relay’s $5.50 delivery cost, leaving the customer to pay the remaining $5.
In comparison, delivery services like Grubhub charge restaurants a 20 percent marketing fee, 10 percent delivery fee, and a processing fee that combines 30 cents plus 3.05 percent of each order — though a temporary pandemic-related law prevents these companies from charging more than 20 percent per order at present in New York City. On average, diners using Astoria Eats will pay a couple of dollars more per order than Grubhub or UberEats, and restaurants end up paying close to nothing in comparison.
In addition, Astoria Eats is absorbing some other tertiary costs for restaurants like paying for the tablets used for online transactions, the monthly subscription fee to Bbot, and marketing expenses for press coverage, advertising, and social media.
The new platform is a relief for businesses that have signed up so far. For Astoria Bier & Cheese, on Ditmars Boulevard, the platform means paying less to third-party delivery companies. Sales dropped 91 percent for the restaurant by last summer but gradually picked up during the holiday season toward the end of last year. The constantly changing COVID-19-related guidelines, however, have continued to make business unpredictable, says restaurant owner Rick White. He’s now relying on this new platform, but is also sprucing up his own restaurant’s website at the same time to allow for direct orders and deliveries so he’s never fully reliant on a third-party service.
“It’s been tough,” says White. “We’ve been trying to find a way to be able to reduce those commissions and fees. I think that’s really what we need to do more of just to keep our heads above water right now.”
More restaurants are set to join the platform in the coming weeks, including a pizzeria and a Greek restaurant, a spokesperson for Astoria Eats says. Though it’s not yet clear when or if the delivery platform’s corresponding food hall will ever materialize — developers are hoping for a 2023 groundbreaking on the overall project. The mega-development — helmed by Kaufman Astoria Studios, Silverstein Properties, and BedRock Real Estate Partners — has faced pushback from the local community including City Council member Jimmy Van Bramer, who denounced the development for being “wildly out of character,” for the neighborhood. Still, Astoria Eats is forging ahead for now.
“We envision this as a long-term initiative and we’re confident/optimistic based on the broad support we’ve received in the community for Innovation QNS [the development project] that the plan will come to fruition, so we’re not ready to speculate about what will happen if it doesn’t,” says the Astoria Eats spokesperson in an email.
DiStefano, who is charged with creating the line up for both the Astoria Eats platform and proposed food hall, tells Eater in an email, “I’m so excited to showcase the very best of Astoria’s diverse dining scene, from newfangled creations like the bonkers Mr. Crispy sandwich from Astoria Bier & Cheese to sumptuous traditional Bangladeshi biryanis from Boishakhi.”
Here’s a full list of all the restaurants on the platform right now:
- Astoria Bier & Cheese Ditmars Boulevard (cheese and charcuterie)
- Boishakhi (Bangladeshi)
- Duzan (Middle Eastern)
- Mar’s (Gastropub)
- Ornella (Italian)
- Tacuba (Mexican)
- Zenon Taverna (Greek and Cypriot)
Caroline Shin is a food and culture journalist and founder of the Cooking with Granny video and event series, where diverse immigrant grandmothers teach recipes and tell stories.