“We were just sitting at home with everybody else and, initially, as a business owner, it was just really frustrating not being able to do anything for you or your staff,” Allan Tea said.
“At the time, there wasn’t much support or COVID stimulus for employees, so we wanted to do something that would keep our staff busy, but also get food to people.”
Tea already had an existing dumpling manufacturing business that primarily provided the dumplings served in his and his family’s restaurants, so the infrastructure was partially in place to quickly erect his new endeavor.
Cali Dumpling Delivery soon began fulfilling orders in the San Gabriel Valley area and Orange County, along with cities in-between the two regions.
As Tea began talking with friends and other partners, the service areas began expanding to San Diego and then Northern California.
Today, Cali Dumpling Delivery is servicing many parts of California and also donating 100 bags of dumplings monthly to different nonprofits. For a $10 delivery fee, dumplings—with a 30-piece bag starting at $16—are delivered to customers’ doors, with delivery drivers getting to keep the fees.
At the company’s start, the model was a good way for Tea’s family’s restaurant employees who had been furloughed to get back to work and make a sizable chunk of their former pay through deliveries.
Now, with the company’s growth and restaurants reopened, Cali Dumpling is working with third-party delivery drivers.
The company is selling more than 5,000 30-piece bags of frozen dumplings per month, equating to 171,900 dumplings total. Tea is now projecting $2 million in sales this year.
There aren’t currently plans to expand outside of California, with the next area of focus to now grow the wholesale side of the business. The company already has about 20 wholesale customers.
“Now that we’ve established this brand of Cali Dumpling, we want to get it out there into different marketplaces,” Tea said. “We want to start pitching hospitality groups, hotels and even mom-and-pop restaurants, allowing them to add a really good, quality product item to their menu.”
The company’s dumplings are made from scratch by hand with 10 of the 15 workers at its South El Monte facility dedicated to full-time dumpling dough making and then wrapping.
Despite Tea’s familiarity with brick-and-mortar restaurants, he said opening a physical representation of Cali Dumpling isn’t currently the strategy.
He is co-owner of the Irvine Spectrum’s Hello Kitty Café with husband-and-wife Charlie and Urania Chien. His family also owns and runs the Capital Seafood and Capital Noodle Bar restaurants in Irvine.
For Cali Dumpling, he instead sees the demand for good dumplings something he can capitalize on in a big way with a different business model.
“It’s becoming harder and harder to find handmade, quality products. I’m not talking about the stuff you find in the frozen aisles. There’s a lot of that already out there,” Tea said.
Quality is what has earned Cali Dumpling a strong following to date and, to that point, the company is now looking for more licensed partners to help operate new delivery service territories in California. It’s also looking to grow its restaurant partners to buy and serve Cali Dumplings on their own menu, and also potentially house a display freezer inside their restaurant or lobby to sell Cali Dumplings via a profit-sharing model. Some seven of its wholesale customers currently have freezers to sell Cali Dumplings in their storefront.
Said Tea of his goal: “The bigger picture for me on this one is to grow into one of the larger, if not the largest, dumpling manufacturers that provides top-notch, restaurant-quality dumplings.”