Pizzerias remain masters of delivery | News, Sports, Jobs

Andie Balenger | Daily Press Jakob Ross, left, cuts a pepperoni pizza to sell in slices while Kory Clements, back right, cuts vegetables for Main Street Pizza’s fresh salads. Delivery drivers have several store responsibilities in addition to the many delivery trips they make during a shift, including food preparation, oven operation and store cleaning.

ESCANABA — Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, there has been a societal shift in the way consumers receive everyday goods. Services like DoorDash and Uber Eats can deliver fast food and gas station treats right to your door. Several big-box grocery stores have set up pick-up services, employing workers to shop, scan, and load groceries into your vehicle while you wait in the driver’s seat. While these service features may seem like a new phenomenon, pizzerias have been holding back the delivery game for decades.

Brian Hammond, owner and operator of Oven King Pizza in Escanaba, has been in the pizza business since he was a high school student. Soon in his sixteenth year as a store owner, he says the demand for delivery drivers is higher than it has ever been.

“Pizza delivery has grown in popularity, and obviously the pandemic has played a huge role in that,” said Hammond. “We thought that after everything reopened, deliveries would go back to normal. But that’s really not the case.

Most pizzerias have three categories of workers: managers, internal employees and delivery drivers. Delivery work typically attracts seasonal workers, mostly college students in their late teens and early twenties, looking to make a quick buck during their summer and winter vacations. The number of drivers supervised varies from three to six, with up to three drivers at a time to ensure deliveries arrive on time.

Kory Clements has been a delivery driver at Main Street Pizza in Gladstone for four years. Of the 40 hours of work he averages per week, he spends about 30 on the road. To ensure the pizzas arrive on time, Clements described the delivery process as a mathematical equation – how to deliver “X” quantity of orders in “X” amount of time.

“Sometimes we have a few deliveries at a time, but it all depends on where those orders go,” said Clement. “It’s like a game. Sometimes strategizing that ‘this delivery should come first, then that one’ can be fun.”

The delivery process begins as soon as an order leaves the oven. After being boxed and separated from takeout orders, the oven manager will shout “delivery” to signify that a driver should be on the road. Once an order is bagged and tagged, drivers hop in their car, log their destination into a GPS, and set off.

While pizzerias are usually in a frenzy during peak dinner hours, delivery drivers can enjoy the 10-15 minutes of solitude that comes with cruising in their car. For many drivers, this is what makes the job so appealing.

” It’s freedom. You’re in our car, listening to your own music with the windows down.” said Clement. “You’re out there seeing some stuff and meeting some pretty cool people. It’s not something you get by working inside the store.

Along with the freedom to exit the store, delivery drivers also receive immediate cash payment for each day worked. With tips making up the majority of a driver’s weekly salary, they often come out of their night shift with a large sum of money in their pocket. For most drivers, it’s best to wait a week or two to see some form of compensation for their work.

“Immediate cash is nice. When you can walk out of here after a six or seven hour shift with $100 in cash, everyone would be happy,” said Hammond. “You could come to work without a dollar in your wallet and walk away with about $100.”

Most pizzerias charge a small flat fee for each delivery order placed, half of which goes directly to the driver as soon as he leaves for delivery. This charge has been increased in the recent past to help account for the impact that rising gas prices have had on drivers.

“Delivery charges are our gas and mileage, so it doesn’t matter what we get for every delivery we make,” said Clement. “Then we always keep any tips we receive.”

To keep delivery times as low as possible, while avoiding a backlog of in-store delivery orders, pizza restaurants usually have a delivery window that they try to stay within. This range often varies from a radius of 5 to 7 miles around the store. Because drivers adhere to these pre-determined parameters, repeat customers often look forward to seeing their favorite driver show up at their doorstep.

Po’s Pizza, a small pizzeria located at 1408 8th Ave. S. in Escanaba has been delivering pizza across town for two years. Due to the size of the restaurant, they only have one delivery driver, co-owner Dwayne Williams Sr., employed at this time. This limited staff, however, allows Williams to establish a relationship of familiarity and friendship with its regular customers.

“I have my regulars, but I still deliver to new people every week,” said Williams. “I deliver to a lot of elderly people who have difficulty getting around. And I will go out too, places like Hannahville, Ford River and Gladstone to meet people.

Although the job of delivery seems simple enough, getting a product from point A to point B, a pizza delivery driver’s responsibilities extend beyond their time on the road. Drivers spend their time in-store cutting vegetables, preparing toppings and assembling pizza orders. Essentially, they are the jack-of-all-trades when it comes to pizza.

“[Dwayne] does more than deliver. I ask him to press pizzas and he will help prepare them, put them in the oven and pack them,” Catherine Williams, co-owner of Po’s Pizza, said.

With drivers in demand, most pizzerias are eager to add qualified candidates to their staff. There are three conditions of employment: Drivers must be 18 years old, have a valid driver’s license and have a reliable vehicle.

“As a driver, you are on a mission. I kind of like the little gamble that comes with the job,” said Clement. “You never know what that person is going to give you. They might give you no tip or a $20 tip. That’s what makes it fun.

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