For the past 4 weeks I have been spending my days as a delivery cyclist for my restaurant, Mesa Salvaje. We made the intentional decision not to list ourselves on any of the delivery platforms for the duration of the national quarantine in order to maintain complete control over the delivery experience and not sacrifice a huge cut to the Apps. My experience is not alike that of any other delivery driver, but it has nonetheless been an enlightening experience. Here are some of my observations:
- I can estimate with a decent amount of certainty that about 50% of our daily deliveries will be within 10 minutes walking distance, 30% within a 10 minute bike ride, and the remaining 20% further away. I didn’t realize that we had frequent customers who lived so far away.
- Different customers have different patterns of ordering, but each individual tends to order in a predictable fashion. For example, some customers are organized and will schedule orders days in advance; some customers will predictably order a main course with a dessert, or with a starter; some customers are very concise and efficient both in ordering/receiving their plates, while others may want to chat for a while.
- The bigger backpacks designed for deliveries are exponentially better than a regular backpack for keeping food well organized and secure while cycling, but they can be heavy. I’m half-jokingly wondering if the $$ a bike delivery guy needs to spend on extra calories to make up for the energy spent lugging the backpack around the city might = the $$ in gasoline a delivery guy on a motorized scooter spends, especially with petrol/gasoline prices. Unlikely, but the extra calories that a bike delivery guy needs to consume is a real cost.
- This one is obvious, but I find it funny just how obvious it is when other delivery drivers are actually delivering vs. when they are just cycling back from a delivery or otherwise just waiting around. Drivers who are in the process of delivering cycle with purpose and speed (as one would hope), while the others exert the least amount of effort possible, and I fly by them even as as a mediocre cyclist.
- I like going to a repeat address – I know which route to take, I know exactly which building it is, where to park the bike, how to contact the customer when I arrive, what the customer looks like etc… Lots of precious moments of time are saved in each of those steps, and time is everything in the delivery game.
- Building doormen and doorwomen can take very different approaches to dealing with delivery drivers. Some clearly see themselves as a few notches above the humble delivery driver, and can be very rude – no greeting, lazily answering the phone, eyes rolling as I double check which exact apartment or name of the customer I’m delivering to. Others can be just lovely – a friendly greeting, an authentic smile, helpfully confirming that I am correct as I say a name that matches with a specific apartment number etc…
- The interactions between the customer and doorman/woman are also fascinating to watch. Some people clearly know their porter well and will have simple but authentic small talk upon coming down to receive their meal; other customers will be polite but basically accept their meal and head back upstairs. We are running a program where a customer can order a lunch for their doorman on top of their own order for half price, and it has been lovely to see the reaction of doormen and women who are being recognized by their residents.
- It seems to happen surprisingly often that if a couple is ordering 2 plates, the woman will take the order (and therefore I note the order in her name) and the male partner will be the one to collect the order when it arrives. My sample size is small, but I’ve had the cognitive dissonance of expecting a woman only to be received by a man enough times that it has been a noticeable pattern.
- I don’t know if it is just Mesa Salvaje customers, but people can be very understanding if there are mistakes or delays. I try and hold myself and my team to a higher standard than even the most demanding customer, but occasionally errors happen. To date, however, everyone has had plenty of patience, especially if we rectify the error in a timely manner with sincerity in our apology. I think it helps that we’re not on a platform and so they are speaking with us directly, rather than complaining through an App.
- Bikes are so precious to delivery drivers, and a punctured tire may mean multiple days without income. It is a huge difference to think of a bike as essential to one’s income rather than just one of many transport alternatives. Bikes are incredible.
Thanks for reading – remember to tip your delivery drivers!