What I’ve Learned From Working For A Food Delivery Service For Six Months
Don’t quit your day job.
I have a pretty decent job. I make training videos on how to use some of my company’s products. I’m on a team of three people, and together we have made content that has accumulated over ten million views on YouTube. It’s a great gig, and compared to taking tech support calls, what I do today pays about twice my previous job. For a family that was dirt poor for years, and especially for a guy like me who isn’t highly educated, I’m both fortunate and grateful. Having said that, I have ambitions of becoming a full time creative, and I’ve come to the belief that I don’t want to take away from the money I earn for my family to acquire the things I would like to help realize those ambitions. I’ve resolved to earn money on the side for those things, and one of the steps I took was to join a food delivery service. I don’t wish to name that service, but not because I’m about to disparage them. I believe that what I’m about to say may apply to more than one of these services, so it doesn’t make sense to call one of them out. Also, the things I write here aren’t future-proofed. My opinion of this service today may not be someone else’s experience a few years from now.
At the outset, food delivery seems to have a lower bar of entry than a ride-sharing service. I drive a Mazda CX-5 and my record is clean, but one doesn’t necessarily need to have both those things. I’ve run across a good number of people working for the same service with ‘questionable’ transportation at the very least, and my knowledge about the latter qualification I derived from other websites and YouTube channels dedicated to side hustles.
One of the larger anxieties I had about ride-sharing was the nightmare stories about people in your car, and that was a dealbreaker for me. It was one of the chief reasons I chose a food delivery service to begin with. I did briefly think about being mugged on delivery, but food delivery services — at least the one I’m contracted with — don’t generally carry cash. The transaction is usually finished before I show up, so unless they tip me in cash I just have what I left the house with. Since I don’t usually carry a lot of cash on me, it’s not something I’m concerned with.
Since I started this gig in August, I have yet to have a bad interaction with a customer. I would like to chalk this up to having 30 years of front-facing Customer Service experience, but I think it has more to do with the fundamental fact that I have the food they want. I think being hungry makes you much more open to being nice to people who have the food. That’s what my cat tells me at 5 am when she’s purring at me and standing directly on my bladder. “HI. I LOVE YOU. FEED ME”. To be honest, I’ve only had one thing happen to me repeatedly since I started this gig, and it’s one that has picked up in frequency lately: Every night I’ve delivered for the past month, I have had at least one wafting cloud of pot smoke blow directly in my face when a customer has opened the door. Some of you may not find this unpleasant, but the smell of that particular substance makes me want to pitch up my lunch. It’s a supreme act of quality front-facing customer service that I can smile, hand someone their cheeseburger and wish them a good evening before I ruin their shoes. Somehow, I manage.
I probably shouldn’t have to tell you this, but if you think this is going to get you a full-time wage you’re going to have a big disillusionment. My best week was $202. Looking back at it, I made 22 deliveries and managed to get a decent amount of tips that week. First, let’s be clear: Tips are going to be where you make the most money. However, even if I was able to replicate that every week I’d make approximately $800 a month. Nothing to sneeze at to be sure, but you can’t live on that. It’s a supplemental income, and you shouldn’t look at it any other way.
Of course, if you’re running all over town you’re doing two things: you’re putting miles on your car, and pouring some amount of that money into your gas tank. As I mentioned earlier I drive a Mazda CX-5, and if I’m delivering every night I’m going to fill up at least twice in a week. Right now, that’s costing me between 50 and 60 bucks. Looked at another way, you’re needing to get to 60 bucks to break even. You can do that on a good week, but sometimes I’ve made only just a bit more.
I suppose that food delivery people can make a lot of money in a Megaplex like New York City or Los Angeles, but I suspect the majority of people who do this live in places like Virginia Beach. There are a few hot areas and periods where it’s dry. I met another delivery person a few months ago that told me they start at 6 am to get the “I ran out of diapers” and breakfast time crowd, and that they do rather well. I don’t know how well that works out because there’s one day a week I can sleep past 5 am, and I do.
What I have tried to do consistently is go to a central area I know has a reasonable amount of activity, and sign in to the delivery app. I try to keep my deliveries in the same general area, but occasionally I’ll get one that has me going to the other side of town. That may not sound like a big deal, but Virginia Beach is deceptively huge, and you can drive for almost an hour to get to the ‘other side of town’ in some cases. The quicker I can pick up and drop off, the quicker I can get another delivery. it makes sense to decline delivery opportunities that take me too far out of my defined area. Because I do that it leads to making less per delivery, but since I’m able to rack up more actual deliveries per shift, it makes up for that. Plus, the faster I can deliver someone’s order, the more chance I will get a tip out of that delivery.
When I make a delivery, I hand them their receipt and remind them to close out their order. I don’t tell them to rate or tip me, because I don’t presume that’s any of my business. However, I believe giving them their order, handing them their receipt, and reminding them to close out their order had increased the chances of that tip coming. I don’t know why that is yet, but I have a hypothesis that will take a little time to test.
All in all, I think this is a fun thing to do for a little bit of money on the side, and as long as you’re not chasing the money, I think it will stay fun.