Food delivery driving isn’t what it used to be since the pandemic, though business is busier than ever with more people eating from home.
That’s what local food courier Jesse Westman has observed since he started driving for Uber Eats and DoorDash on and off for five years, opting for full-time hours since Sept. 2020.
The biggest difference from pre-pandemic to being in the midst of the fifth wave?
Delivery drivers don’t see anyone at the door anymore.
“Delivering in a pandemic is very strange,” Westman explains, adding he worked as a pizza delivery driver in the past and leaving food at the door during the winter was almost unheard of.
“Leaving food at the door still feels very weird for me. If it’s raining or extremely cold, I will call them to let them know I’m about to drop off, just so they can get the food right away or ask if they prefer to be handed the order directly.”
With the fifth wave of COVID ravishing the city, business has never been busier for food couriers — add in the recent cold snap, and Westman has been making more money than he was previously.
“Pre-pandemic, it was a struggle to break minimum wage, with a lack of restaurants offering deliveries, lack of a customer base. Now, more people are working from home and more restaurants are getting on board with delivery apps, so a living wage is achievable.”
His recipe for success
Westman averages 10 hours a day delivering food on both apps, and he usually gets an average of 30 deliveries from about 15 different restaurants.
As an analytical numbers guy, he’s honed in on where to get the best bang for his time, usually starting around 8 a.m. to get the early Starbucks orders.
Over New Year’s weekend, Westman completed 58 deliveries, with 27 different pick-up spots, the most popular being Starbucks, which he went to 13 times.
Westman, who drives a Prius to save costs on gas, delivered to all four quadrants of the city on one and a half tanks of gas. Despite driving a fuel-efficient car, it’s still the biggest expense.
“If you don’t drive a fuel-efficient vehicle, then the cost to work might take you under minimum wage,” he adds.
It’s all about hustling
While Westman fares well, he says other people might get more out of food delivery as a part-time gig as opposed to a full-time hustle.
“There’s no minimum amount of hours required, so you could do it just a couple of hours a week for fun or just to get out of the house,” he adds.
There’s no guarantee that drivers will always make enough money since the job is based on tips and delivery fees.
“The only way to make this work as a full-time job is by hustling and learning about your area. There are certain restaurants I will not go to because they don’t respect the driver’s time,” Westman cautions.
“This isn’t a pay-per-hour job so even a 15-minute wait in a restaurant is completely unacceptable. The only way to make a living wage is by putting in the hours.”
Freedom and flexibility
Westman left a job that paid him $32 an hour to work for himself delivering food because it provides freedom and flexibility to choose his hours and work schedule.
“I love listening to sports and being paid to drive from A to B while listening to the radio is fantastic,” he says, adding he knows he will never make over $30 an hour to do this job but he enjoys the work-life balance.
“Working a few extra hours a day is very easy when you enjoy doing what you do.”
Westman says it’s easy to turn the app on and off, and if he needs extra hours, he can take them; when he wants more time off, he can do that, too.
“I can also work in any city that has these apps, so even if I’m out of town, I can still make money,” he adds.
While Westman has been able to make a living this way, it’s important to note that not everyone has the same success. The job relies heavily on tips and Skip, DoorDash, and Uber Eats are often criticized for their business practices.