Little Star Pizza, located at Divisadero Street in San Francisco, recently marked its 19th anniversary in the most melancholy way possible: “With a heavy heart on this anniversary day,” owner Brian Sadigursky announced that he’s closing the shop at the end of the year.
“It has been a marvelous run,” he wrote in a November 19 post on Instagram, and said it had been “an honor” to have served the neighborhood. Sadigursky added that his Valencia Street store will remain open in San Francisco, as will another Little Star Pizza location in Albany, California. The Divisadero Street shop, which opened in 2004, was Little Star’s original location.
Sadigursky famously introduced his cornmeal-crust pizza to San Francisco and went on to launch offshoots that include Blue Line Pizza in the city’s South Bay area and The Star in the East Bay, both of which have multiple units. In an interview with SFGate.com, Sadigursky confirmed rumors that former President Barack Obama was a fan of his cornmeal-crust deep-dish pizza. However, Obama actually discovered it at St. Louis-based Pi Pizzeria, founded by Sadigursky’s former neighbor, who purchased the recipe from him.
In the interview with SFGate, Sadigursky bluntly explained his reason for shutting down Little Star’s Divasadero Street store: “Sales were down, and costs were up, and I wasn’t able to make it,” he said. “I’m just kind of done bleeding.”
The Divasadero Street location started offering in-house delivery in February of this year, apparently after Sadigursky got fed up with the costs of third-party delivery. In a February 28 post on Instagram, he urged customers to “get off the apps” and order delivery, for a flat $4.99 fee, directly from his restaurant. “To be blunt,” he wrote, “the delivery commissions [from third-party aggregators] are onerous and a [sic] existential threat to small businesses.”
In a June 6, 2023 post, he described the third-party apps as “parasitic.” He wrote, “We need the revenues, but there’s basically nothing left in profits after the commissions and marketing expenses.” He advised customers to stay away from companies like DoorDash and Uber Eats. “These companies will inevitably put a lot of small restaurants out of business,” he wrote.
According to SFGate, Sadigursky doesn’t blame his restaurant’s problems solely on third-party aggregators, but he said they hurt operators’ profits.
“The apps are triple-dipping,” he said. “They’re getting commission from the restaurant, they’re charging the consumer, and they’re getting [more money from the restaurants for] placement in the app. If you don’t play their game and advertise or do promos, they’ll find somebody who will and give them better placement. Consumers just don’t know about it.”
He admitted that third-party delivery helped the pizzeria survive the pandemic. Even so, he said, “At the end of the day, I’m paying them thousands of dollars in commissions, and I’m paying myself a big zero.”