Empathy and profitability? Peninsula-born delivery company TuangoEats says a more personal alternative to DoorDash can achieve both.

A crustacean-heavy spread at Golden Crab House in San Francisco. (Image courtesy of TuangoEats)

TuangoEats connects restaurants and far-flung customers

If you live in or near Mountain View, you could be dining this week on Wagyu yakitori over sushi rice from Torima by Hina Yakitori in San Francisco or peking duck from Royal Feast in Millbrae without ever driving to or setting foot in these restaurants.

This is thanks to TuangoEats, a new local delivery service that helps restaurants bring food to customers who live miles away. Born during the pandemic, TuangoEats bills itself as a true partner to restaurants struggling during the shutdown — a friendlier, homegrown alternative to the third party delivery giants that have been maligned for charging restaurants steep commission fees.

Co-founders Dan Lee, Kyle Huang and Nick Dang launched TuangoEats in September. Lee comes from the tech world; Huang is a former sous chef and server with a culinary degree; and Dang ran an indoor amusement center and is a partner at SF Pizza Company. Both Huang and Dang lost their jobs when the coronavirus hit last year.

Tonkasu ramen at Ramen Zero in San Jose. (Image courtesy of TuangoEats)

“We decided to join forces and take action to find ways to help our peers in the industry who are struggling to make ends meet,” Lee said. “We want to build a service that brings true supplementary sales to restaurants without taking away their local customer base.”

Lee defines “local customer base” as people who live within five miles of a restaurant and are the business’ bread and butter. The limited delivery radii of companies like DoorDash and UberEats mean restaurants, particularly with their dining rooms still closed and public health restrictions in place, have a harder time reaching farther flung customers, Lee said.

But TuangoEats operates 13 pickup locations throughout the Bay Area where restaurants can deliver food every week, including in Mountain View, Palo Alto and San Mateo.(Most of them are in grocery store parking lots.) This means restaurants in San Francisco can reach diners on the Peninsula and vice versa. French fare from another participating restaurant, Palo Alto’s La Boheme, for example, is available for pickup in Mountain View and San Mateo this week. If a restaurant can’t bring their food to a pickup location, they can use TuangoEats’ own delivery drivers.

Rack of lamb with Cabernet sauce from La Boheme in Palo Alto. (Image courtesy of TuangoEats)

“If a person can place an order on Amazon from halfway around the world, there’s no reason why someone like myself in Fremont cannot order food or get delicious dishes from restaurants in San Francisco,” Lee said. “Food should be borderless.”

The company works with more than 25 restaurants and has more waiting in the wings, Lee said. Current restaurants include Poke Island in San Mateo, California Mochi in Mountain View, Joy Dumpling in Cupertino, Gooyi Gooyi in Santa Clara and Chili House, Cheung Hing and Harborview in San Francisco, among others. (Restaurant owners who are interested in working with TuangoEats can email [email protected].)

Beyond delivery, the company works with restaurants on menus, marketing and social media. They share super-specific feedback, like that people in Milpitas ordering from Soju Ramen in Fremont prefer a less salty ramen, in hopes of creating repeat customers. They talk with restaurant owners to understand how much food they can produce and at what times. Customers place their orders a week in advance, giving restaurants time to plan for staffing and ingredients.

“DoorDash and UberEats, they treat them all the same,” Lee said. “They treat them as they can pump out any order at any time. That is just simply not true.”

The peking duck at Harborview in San Francisco. (Image courtesy of TuangoEats)

TuangoEats has been profitable since “day one,” Lee said. The company charges restaurants a percentage of sales but works with each owner to set a “sustainable” rate, he said. Lee declined to share their fees but he said they don’t exceed third party delivery caps in effect in many Bay Area cities and counties, including in places where no limit has been imposed. Most regions, including Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, don’t allow companies to charge more than 15% on delivery orders.

“We believe in empathy and profitability,” Lee said.

Yuka Ioroi, co-owner of Cassava in San Francisco, said the restaurant also delivers through DoorDash and UberEats but that TuangoEats is “more personable.” The company comes with an existing, dedicated customer base (Lee describes them as passionate foodies who live to eat rather than eat to live). This has exposed new diners in the South Bay and East Bay to Cassava, Ioroi said.

Lee thinks the need for long-distance delivery will persist post-pandemic and hopes to have a TuangoEats pickup location in every city in the Bay Area. They plan to add 10 more this year.

TuangoEats opens orders on Wednesdays, with the pickup schedule posted online. Customers can place orders between Wednesday at 8 p.m. and Saturday at 7 p.m. for the following week.

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Elena Kadvany

A writer with a passion for investigative reporting, telling untold stories and public-service journalism, I have built my career covering education and restaurants in the Bay Area. My blog and biweekly newsletter, Peninsula Foodist, is the go-to source for restaurant news in Silicon Valley. My work has been published in The Guardian, Eater, Bon Appetit’s Healthyish, SF Weekly and The Six Fifty.

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