By September 2022, the city’s restaurants had seen a degree of healing—on average, sales had returned to about 76% of pre-pandemic volume, according to research from dining industry software TouchBistro. But profit margins weren’t as positive, falling from 11% pre-pandemic to 10.1% in September, slightly behind the national average at the time (10.6%).
The primary goal of the sauces is to capitalize on the awareness Carbone has well beyond the city’s borders, said Tracy Garbowski, executive VP of marketing at Carbone Fine Food. After all, many of NYC’s most well-known eateries have positive reputations that extend far beyond the East River.
Take Momofuku, for instance. The restaurant group, which got its start with Momofuku Noodle Bar in Manhattan’s East Village neighborhood, started hiring for its DTC arm (which sells some of its ingredients, including its seasonings and air-dried noodles) in 2019. Although the brand started out as DTC, its products are now sold in national retail locations such as Whole Foods, Target and Publix, according to Momofuku CEO Marguerite Mariscal.
A stat that “really kicked off” the brand’s DTC efforts, Mariscal said, was that 90% of its social media followers didn’t live in cities where Momofuku operates restaurants. When Momofuku began the DTC business, it counted more than 2 million followers, stemming from its brand accounts and the social media following of celebrity chef founder David Chang.
“There was this captive audience that we didn’t really have anything to offer. And so for us, doing direct-to-consumer home cooking products was the best way to capture that community,” she explained.
Downtown Manhattan restaurant Via Carota is playing the DTC game. In January it rolled out a line of bottled alcoholic drinks called Via Carota Craft Cocktails. The drinks started as a way to bring the exclusive Via Carota experience to people who can’t make their way to New York at the drop of a hat, said Kendall Dickieson, social media consultant for Via Carota Craft Cocktails.
“It’s an experience that people want to get into because it’s very exclusive. If you go to the restaurant, you don’t know if you're going to get in or not,” Dickieson explained, describing the long lines of people who wait outside Via Carota hoping to get a table.
Although Via Carota Craft Cocktails don’t ship to every state, Dickieson said that social media commenters outside New York say they are happy to have the Via Carota experience at their fingertips.