The idea of pizza delivery is, of course, very familiar: Just call up Domino’s, wait 30 minutes (or so), and you’ll have it at your door.
But what if you're craving a very particular kind of pizza—deep dish pizza, say, from the famous Lou Malnati’s in Chicago? And, to complicate matters just a tad, what if you don’t live in Chicago, or anywhere near Chicago at all?
Enter Goldbely. Cofounder and CEO Joe Ariel was born in New York, but began to get a taste for regional American delicacies when he went to college in Tennessee. "My eyes were opened to all these foods I didn’t have growing up—pulled pork, BBQ ribs, country ham, biscuits and pie," he says. Eventually, after founding Eats.com and running Delivery.com, he and three cofounders decided to launch Goldbely. The pitch was simple, if somewhat outlandish: a nationwide delivery service for delicacies and iconic dishes from all over the country.
Are you a New Yorker transplanted to Texas? Goldbely can still let you "have what she’s having"—pastrami on rye from Katz’s deli. Did you see an irresistible roadside burger on a Food Network show? Odds are Goldbely can hook you up (or is working on it). Can’t resist the latest outlandish food trend you read about online? Goldbely’s happy to send you something from Baconery, the New York bakery that makes everything with bacon. (Startups shipping bacon have a storied history, actually; "if bacon was a stock and you bought it five years ago, you’d be a happy man now," declares Ariel.)
"We want to basically know where every amazing bite is, and make those transportable," says Ariel. A few months ago, Goldbely struck up a partnership with Facebook to power gifts through the social network. Goldbely also recently joined up with Southern Living Magazine on a feature on its site: For a story on the South’s "tastiest towns," Goldbely made actually tasting those towns a matter of a few clicks, rather than a road trip.
"We let people travel with their taste buds," says Ariel, with the tone of someone only slightly embarrassed at having to repeat a cutesy slogan.
Most of you, probably salivating at the photos in the slideshow above, only have one question at this point: What took so long? Ariel is convinced that a number of conditions are met in 2013 to make now the moment for a service like this to truly gain traction. For one thing, we are "the Food Network generation," he says; there is a widespread culture of media-enabled food covetousness that has reached some sort of magical tipping point. And the rise of e-commerce generally has given precedent to a site like Goldbely, a one-stop marketplace for people to discover and order little gems from around the country. Ariel cites the likes of Etsy and Fab as giving him confidence in this venture.
The evolution of transportation and refrigeration technology also played a role. Goldbely ships three kinds of items. First, there are those that require no refrigeration at all (brownies and chocolates, for instance); these are rather cheap to ship. Second, there’s items requiring freezing; these require dry ice, which is somewhat more expensive. Third, there’s items that require being shipped on gel packs—"basically the equivalent of a mini refrigerator, usually in a Styrofoam cooler," says Ariel. Crucially to the viability of his business model, Ariel says that the prices on that micro-refrigerating and freezing have come down significantly over the last five years, as the technology has been refined.
And how about cost to the consumer? Inevitably, shipping delicacies across the country won’t come cheap. Ariel says, though, that he finds most users approach the site in a gifting mind-set, ready to splurge to make a nice gesture to someone, be it a business partner or a loved one. Rare will be the day that Sex and the City lovers around the country will order a Magnolia cupcake merely because they’re jonesing for it; more likely, those special occasions like birthdays or baby showers will drive such purchases.
Ariel says he’s drumming up further funding, and talking with "big players" (whom he declines to name, for now) for future partnerships. It’s conceivable that Goldbely could become something closer to a household name decidedly soon, should they manage to strike a deal with the Food Network, say. The site’s doing well already, though; in the seven short months since the startup launched, it has grown roughly 75% month over month, says Ariel.
What’s on the near horizon for the company are summer specials on the site touting great American hotdogs and great American ice cream parlors. And Ariel says he’s always welcome to pitches from vendors and foodies alike as to what delicacy Goldbely should feature next: "We’re crowdsourcing deliciousness," he says.