Techie turned pastry chef brings SF desserts to customers

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If you didn’t know better, you’d think Amanda Nguyen has a real sugar problem. Neighbor Bakehouse, B. Patisserie, and Saltwater Bakeshop’s pastry boxes take up most of the space inside his white van, while on the side are plastic bins filled with chocolate croissants and chocolate. other sweets in brown paper bags from Arsicault and Tartine bakeries. But there is a perfect explanation for the astounding assortment of desserts.

The van is part of Nguyen’s new business, Pastel, which launched in April and connects pastry shops in San Francisco and beyond with customers in the Bay Area. Pastel is not a third-party delivery app, but rather an online platform where customers can order baked goods from nearly 30 local small businesses. Every Friday and Saturday, customers take a short drive to collect their loot in the van at one of three Bay Area pickup locations.

“People come for treats in a big white van, and a lot of people joke about how their parents told them never to do that. [as children] but they are doing it now in their adult life, ”Nguyen said, laughing over the phone.

Pastel offers patrons pastries and more from the best bakeries in SF like B. Patisserie, Arsicault Bakery and Tartine Bakery.

Mariah Tiffany / Special for SFGATE

Pastel began as a solution to Nguyen’s main pastry business, Butter &. After finishing his job at Facebook in 2017, Nguyen started Butter & and focused his time on baking elegant wedding and birthday cakes, until big celebrations were called off during the pandemic. Nguyen turned to pandemic-themed cakes that had messages like “wash your hands” and “just vaccinated” engraved on edible gold leaf cakes.

The cakes sold out quickly and were featured on “The Kelly Clarkson Show,” but there was still a lingering problem even before the pandemic. Many of Nguyen’s clients did not live in San Francisco where Butter & is based, and she found that she “turned down business every day”.


“They would drive to town to pick up a birthday cake, then drive back [to San Jose]”Nguyen said of some of his clients. “During the four years I was running Butter &, we got phone calls and emails saying, ‘I don’t have time to drive. How can I get your cake? There really wasn’t a solution for these people. My fiance [Ted Moran] and I realized that [Pastel would be] something our business could benefit from. And then as we chatted with our friends in the industry, we realized that this was something they would be interested in. “

Amanda Nguyen owns pastries that her company, Pastel, delivers.  She created Pastel after realizing that her baking wasn't reaching many of her customers in the Bay Area.

Amanda Nguyen owns pastries that her company, Pastel, delivers. She created Pastel after realizing that her baking wasn’t reaching many of her customers in the Bay Area.

Mariah Tiffany / Special for SFGATE

Nguyen wanted to reach more of his Bay Area customers, but felt it could work in two ways. Either you grow Butter & by opening multiple stores across the Bay Area over several years knowing that this is a risky and expensive business, or you go for a third-party delivery app. But she didn’t think either option was ideal.

“I feel like a lot of the options that have developed over the past two years to serve restaurants and small businesses have trivialized the people who participate in them,” Nguyen said of third-party delivery apps. “[They] charge the merchant a 30% discount, but in COVID this has become a very big part of [business] sales, and I think that’s just not a sustainable way to grow.

Amanda Nguyen created Pastel after realizing that her pastry wasn't reaching many of her customers in the Bay Area.

Amanda Nguyen created Pastel after realizing that her pastry wasn’t reaching many of her customers in the Bay Area.

Mariah Tiffany / Special for SFGATE

In July, San Francisco became the first city in the United States to permanently cap delivery charges at 15% for restaurants. The move came after the mayor of London Breed first put in place a temporary 15% cap to help restaurants cut their financial losses at the start of the pandemic. Before that, many delivery apps charged restaurants up to 30%. So when Nguyen started Pastel, she wanted to focus on helping small business owners and decided on a 10% commission. Customers are charged 20% for orders placed on Pastel, plus a $ 5 pickup fee for drivers.

“The mind [of Pastel] that is, charging people for their work, ”Nguyen said. “The people who make these products are incredible craftsmen. They put so much time, effort and expertise into perfecting the products they make.

Pastel offers patrons pastries and more from the best bakeries in SF like B. Patisserie, Arsicault Bakery and Tartine Bakery.

Pastel offers patrons pastries and more from the best bakeries in SF like B. Patisserie, Arsicault Bakery and Tartine Bakery.

Mariah Tiffany / Special for SFGATE

At the start of Pastel, Nguyen and Moran, who helped launch, made door-to-door deliveries in the Bay Area using their VW Golf. With a small number of clients and companies to work with, it was fairly easy to get around. Food orders were stored in their toy car and divided into three basic categories: room temperature treats, refrigerated items, and frozen foods. But when business at Pastel started to pick up, they quickly overtook the car.

“We would park right outside someone’s house and then open the trunk to all these coolers, but I felt really crazy doing that in those neighborhoods,” Nguyen said. “When the car was really full, we just had to be creative about where we put the bags.”

Eventually, Pastel switched to a three-pickup fleet and stopped offering door-to-door deliveries to be more efficient. Nguyen said she, along with a team of drivers, goes to designated pickup locations like parking lots and parks every weekend where customers collect their orders.

Amanda Nguyen owns food products that her company, Pastel, delivers.  She created Pastel after realizing that her baking wasn't reaching many of her customers in the Bay Area.

Amanda Nguyen owns food products that her company, Pastel, delivers. She created Pastel after realizing that her baking wasn’t reaching many of her customers in the Bay Area.

Mariah Tiffany / Special for SFGATE

Pastel has also curated a list of popular pop-ups and established businesses in San Francisco. Tartine Bakery was one of the first partners and since then Pastel has added savory options like pizzeria Delfina and veal fat. There have also been pop-ups that include Batch 22 Bakery in Cupertino and Pastry in Place by Madera’s former executive dessert chef Lance Nitta.

“It’s really easy to miss a pop-up,” Nguyen said. “It’s really hard to get a pop-up to work because it’s so seasonal. But we are able to make their task much easier as many of them don’t have a website to place orders online.

Nguyen remembers the first time she approached Armando Lacayo, owner-baker of the Arsicault bakery, to establish a partnership with his shop. According to Nguyen, Lacayo had some initial hesitation and was not familiar with his Butter & cake business.

Pastel offers patrons pastries and more from the best bakeries in SF like B. Patisserie, Arsicault Bakery and Tartine Bakery.

Pastel offers patrons pastries and more from the best bakeries in SF like B. Patisserie, Arsicault Bakery and Tartine Bakery.

Mariah Tiffany / Special for SFGATE

“He said to me, ‘Who are you? What are you doing? What will be on this platform next to my product? Are your cakes good? I said, “I think so.” And he said to me, ‘We will have to meet.’ “

Nguyen admits to feeling nervous going to meet him for lunch. She was carrying a tasting box of butter cakes and to her surprise, Lacayo loved the sweets and agreed to join Pastel, Nguyen said. Nguyen also did not take Lacayo’s initial hesitation personally.

“Armando is a man of quality,” said Nguyen. ” There is so much [local business owners] having to do and branding is such an important part. The brands with which you associate your [business] with a platform like Pastel often makes a huge difference.

Pastel offers patrons pastries and more from the best bakeries in SF like B. Patisserie, Arsicault Bakery and Tartine Bakery.

Pastel offers patrons pastries and more from the best bakeries in SF like B. Patisserie, Arsicault Bakery and Tartine Bakery.

Mariah Tiffany / Special for SFGATE

Nguyen believes that keeping marks on Pastel works in two stages. Many of the platform’s customers moved from San Francisco to the suburbs and used Pastel to order treats at their favorite bakeries and stores. Along the way, they discover new brands, like pop-ups, that hold the same level of craftsmanship and attention to detail that Nguyen and the companies on the platform are looking for.

Pastel currently serves San Francisco, East Bay, the Peninsula and South Bay. Nguyen and Moran are working to expand into North Bay and add more businesses to their platform. Eventually, they can bring back the option of home delivery.

For now, Nguyen is focused on running her two businesses and said she was grateful for her experience in operating Butter &.

“My experience with Butter & makes my work with Pastel easier because I know my client very intimately, who are small business owners. Everything I do through Pastel will always be aligned with the interests of the small business owner because I am. Our mission is to make the lives of small business owners more enjoyable.

Pastel offers patrons pastries and more from the best bakeries in SF like B. Patisserie, Arsicault Bakery and Tartine Bakery.

Pastel offers patrons pastries and more from the best bakeries in SF like B. Patisserie, Arsicault Bakery and Tartine Bakery.

Mariah Tiffany / Special for SFGATE





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