Promotional photo of a box of food from Locale
Promotional photo of a box of food from Locale

Locale goes the distance to deliver ‘highly curated’ food orders  

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Food coverage is supported by a generous donation from Susan and Moses Libitzky.

Let’s say you’re a food lover who read the infamous New York Times article declaring the Bay Area’s bagels better than New York’s. But driving an hour or more to get to them just isn’t reasonable. And you don’t fall into a delivery area, either.

Now, if you want to try those bagels, your prayers have been answered. There is a new, Bay Area-based delivery platform that allows customers to order not just bagels and other baked goods, but also pizzas, dumplings and many more items, from a variety of restaurants in the Bay Area and Los Angeles. Jewish vendors include Midnite Bagel, Oren’s Hummus, Wise Sons and L.A.’s famous Jewish deli Langer’s, as well as Delfina Pizzeria, Burma Superstar and Greens in S.F.

There’s good reason for the noticeable Jewish presence on Locale (there was even a recent link to a page of Rosh Hashanah foods): One of its founders, Jonathan Friedland, 25, is Jewish and was born and raised in Los Gatos.

The son of immigrants from Ukraine who met in San Francisco, Friedland is fluent in Russian. He says his mother was the cook of the house, most often making Russian and Israeli food. And his family was always on the hunt for new places to try. When he was in high school, he and his friend Chris Clark would often drive to San Francisco to try new places. He did the same in Los Angeles when he was a student at UCLA, but he would only go one time because the distance and infamous traffic made getting there too inconvenient.

At the time, Friendland thought about what it would take for a restaurant to keep serving customers who live farther out,  beyond the small radius where delivery apps such as DoorDash would travel.

After graduating, he took a job in management consulting, but it wasn’t a great fit. “I was doing a lot of Excel spreadsheets, and I began feeling like I wanted something more out of a job,” he said. “I wanted to feel impactful on people’s lives in a positive way.”

The idea for Locale was born during Covid. He was living back in the Bay Area and he and his friend Clark, now his business partner, saw how esteemed Manresa Bread in Los Gatos was struggling.

“Manresa had crazy lines and wasn’t on any delivery apps,” he said. “Bakeries had such crazy lines because of their capacity limitations. They couldn’t produce as much during their peak hours.”

Since most bakery customers buy just a loaf of bread or a few pastries, it’s not enough to justify the added fee the delivery apps charge.

Friedland was a frequent customer of Manresa and offered to help. He set up a Google form offering delivery of its pastries and bread, and interest spread further than he expected. Soon, Oren’s Hummus asked to join his service, though it wasn’t even a service yet.

Our whole thing is about discovery. If you don’t know the restaurant, but still want to try it from far away, this is a much lower-risk option.

Unlike the more established delivery platform Goldbelly, Locale serves as the middleman and takes care of the shipping. It also allows for much smaller orders; a customer can buy just a half-dozen bagels, or a few pastries, from any number of different vendors. Locale consolidates all of the food in one distribution center and delivers it, once a week, for a flat $5 delivery charge.

“We realized we could have a driver put 15 orders in a car and drive from our facility in San Jose to Santa Cruz,” he said. “That didn’t make sense for delivery apps for one order, but for 15 to 18 orders, it made a lot more sense financially, and we could pay our drivers well, too.”

In addition to the restaurants on Locale, there are retailers such as the farm and meat company Stemple Creek Ranch and Four Star Seafood and Provisions, and produce from local farms.

While Friedland acknowledges there are many delivery services offering raw materials with which to make dinner, he said he saw them as a value add-on.

“People don’t come to us for those items, but with a flat delivery cost, giving more access to allow people to support local fishmongers or butchers or cheese shops or farms, people like the ability to support local businesses wherever they can,” he said.

In terms of the restaurants, Friedland said the point was to offer a “highly curated marketplace, to eliminate choice overload” for consumers. While vendors are now coming to Locale, it wasn’t like that in the beginning.

“A lot of those top-tier restaurants are doing just fine, and oftentimes their sales are more than they can keep up with,” Friedland said. “It took a decent amount of convincing at first, though less so now that more people know about us.”

For its first two years, Locale served most areas of California, fulfilling over 50,000 orders. Last week, it launched nationally.

For national customers who want to try the service, Locale will pick up the orders from each vendor, put them together with items from other vendors, and ship to the customer through UPS.

“If you really like one restaurant, you’ll spend $150 to get that food delivered,” he said. “Our whole thing is about discovery. If you don’t know the restaurant, but still want to try it from far away, this is a much lower-risk option to try a number of different places.”

Alix Wall
Alix Wall

Alix Wall is a contributing editor to J. She is also the founder of the Illuminoshi: The Not-So-Secret Society of Bay Area Jewish Food Professionals and is writer/producer of a documentary-in-progress called "The Lonely Child."