E-commerce firm hopes boom in at-home dining will outlast pandemic. ''We got customers from Alaska asking us what to do for leftovers. These are customers we would never have had.''

When the pandemic started last spring, Di-Fara, one of New York's storied pizza joints, had the same question as countless other restaurants across the United States : How would it make any money when customers weren't allowed through its doors?

One answer quickly emerged for Di Fara : Ship frozen [and slightly smaller] versions of its classic pies across the country in partnership with the eight-year-old e-commerce platform Goldbelly.

Sales picked up so much that the restaurant converted its two-year-old second location, in a food hall, to essentially be Goldbelly production line. Margaret Micles, the daughter of  Di Fara's founder, who had already struck an agreement with Goldbelly in December 2019, credits the platform with helping the pizzeria avoid layoffs.

It isn't just iconic pizzerias that have relied on Goldbelly to survive lockdown orders. More than 400 of  the 650 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.

On the back of that boon Goldbelly planned to announce that it had raised $100 million in new funding.

The question now is whether the trends that Goldbelly and its new investors plan to capitalize on   will outlast the pandemic, or whether the surge in at home dining will abate as more people feel comfortable eating in restaurants again.

''We're the first platform for food e-commerce, national e-commerce for restaurants and food-makers,'' Joe Ariel, Goldbelly's co-founder and chief executive, said in an interview.

''We're basically opening up a 3,000 mile radius for restaurants.''

The big question is whether the company has enjoyed a temporary bounce or cracked open a permanent new level of business. Even Mr. Ariel concedes that last year's growth rate ''is not going to happen forever.''

But there are some promising signs that eating restaurant-prepared meals at home is not going out of style. DoorDash, for instance, tripled its revenue last quarter, even as coronavirus vaccinations became widespread.

There is also the risk that Goldbelly's success may draw other rivals. While Mr. Ariel played down the prospects of competition - his company's name is being used as a verb, he said - some chefs did not write that off.

''We'll cook where the customers are at,'' said Mr. Samuelsson, whose restaurant Streetbird is on the Goldbelly platform.

But others, like Ms. Mieles of Di Fara, said they remained committed to the service. ''I think, honestly, Goldbelly is here to stay,'' she said.

The World Students Society thanks author Michael. J. De La Merced,


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