Since the coronavirus began to wreak havoc on the food industry, Pat’s King of Steaks, the 24/7 Philadelphia cheesesteak institution, has seen business at their window drop by 80%. Likewise a New York landmark, Ess-a-Bagel has seen retail business fall by 80% since mid March, when shelter in place rules took effect.

Countless small businesses like them have been forced to shutter because of similarly challenging numbers. But Pat’s and Ess-a-Bagel have continued turning out their specialties thanks to the online gourmet food store Goldbelly.

“We’re making 8,500 cheesesteaks a week for Goldbelly,” says Pat’s owner Frank Olivieri. The Philly stalwart has already shipped around 55,000 of their melty cheese-meat behemoths, flash frozen and requiring only reheating, since mid March; orders are sold out through the end of May.

Likewise, Ess-a-Bagel Chief Operating Officer Melanie Frost says her landmark stores are shipping around 500 orders, or 6,000 bagels, a day because of the company. “And we could do more. Thank goodness for Goldbelly,” she says.

Goldbelly has been around since 2013, helping food lovers procure authentic New Orleans king cakes and Texas pecan pie. Chief Executive Officer Joe Ariel started the company with around $3 million in funding from sources such as Intel Capital and the Silicon Valley incubator Y Combinator. It has grown steadily through word of mouth (and relentless online advertising).

But the site has seen accelerated growth since shelter in place rules took effect—it’s currently one of the few success stories in the food world during the pandemic. Ariel says business is up 200% through mid April compared to the same time period last year, although declines disclosing specific figures. “We’re seeing more demand than at Christmas, which is our biggest time,” he says, adding that the order size has gone up about 30%.

The service currently partners with some 500 vendors from Walter’s Hot Dog Stand in Westchester to Snow’s BBQ in Lexington, Tex. Since the pandemic, he says he’s been fielding hundreds of requests a day from places eager to ship their specialty. Newly activated is Manhattan’s most famous pepperoni slice, Prince Street Pizza, which is shipped frozen, ready to crisp in the oven.

“For local restaurants, we can help open up the rest of the country. People understand the value proposition of food e-commerce much more than they did a couple months ago,” says Ariel.

While apps like Seamless and Caviar can transport many of the foods Goldbelly offers across town, they can’t get a Langer’s Deli pastrami sandwich from Los Angeles to Boston. Potential competitors like and, specialize in curated packages such as cookies and cheeses, as opposed to the decadent dishes that might have starred in Man v. Food. For those small businesses who depend on expanding their scope beyond the now evaporated local traffic, the service has become a vital source of revenue.

Cooped-up, bored people are willing to pay a premium for indulgent foods that make them feel better, and Goldbelly is accommodating them, too. Especially those who might crave dishes from a place  they can no longer travel to—a cancelled vacation to New York can be evoked with mile-high deli sandwiches and black and white cookies.

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