Drivers in the Delivery Service Economy

Service matters more today than ever before

How can a driver make a significant impact on the delivered food experience in the same way as an excellent server can during a dine-in experience?


This thoughts was prompted by Jannelle Sallenave’s post yesterday (Head of Uber Eats in North America) who referenced a guest asking a driver for a little dance as they dropped their food off at their socially distanced door-step.

It raises an interesting consideration. Restaurants are giving up their kitchen to table ’service’ with off premise but drivers — who aren’t typically employed by either restaurant nor delivery service — are driven to give the best service possible.


This is because tips remain a key component of their compensation. A good delivery experience and the guests are far more likely to consider ’tipping’ the driver after the food is received.


However, drivers often get penalized if something is wrong on the order.

  • If an item is missing/ incorrectnot their fault;

  • If an item is coldprobably not their fault — if the delivery service has matched their location incorrectly the restaurant has managed the hold time correctly (e.g. their fire time was appropriately staged).

  • Or the the packaging is inadequate and food has leaked in some way— again, not the drivers fault.

There is a huge gulf between how to satisfy customers in a dine setting versus an off premise setting. Customer satisfaction in off-premise today remains a challenge because it’s not the easiest mechanism for consumers to reach the restaurant to complain or raise concern around their order. It’s also not like the restaurant itself where you can send the dish back and have it corrected within a few minutes. Often times, the 3rd party delivery platforms will issue a complete refund or re-make the dish costing the restaurant significantly.


The delivered food guest voice is typically heard after the whole transaction is complete and once the food has been eaten. This occurs through review platforms like Yelp or Google but one of the first prompts a guest will receive from restaurant or delivery service provider is on the decision on how much to tip the driver. You can guess but typically a poor service experience doesn’t result in high tips for drivers.


How would you feel if half your salary was cut because the other team down the corridor didn’t do their job correctly?

Ultimately, everyone loses out — the restaurant loses out on a return visit, the driver gets a low (if any) tip, and the guest whom received a poor delivery experience will be less inclined to use that platform again, or as often.

It strikes me that during these crucial times, should it not be more critical than ever to have hospitality and service central to the delivered food guest experience?

Restaurants understanding off-premise optimization know that if you treat the driver right, you’ll set them off in the right frame of mind to give great service and thereby present a great dish to their guest.


Many drivers don’t get given the time of day or any form of real human interaction with restaurant staff. They are looked upon with the disdain as if it’s the driver that is taking their huge commission charge away with them. Many wait staff think the driver is taking their ‘tip’ and don’t look upon them favorably either or at the very least, a distraction to their core role in supporting dine in guests.


That simply isn’t the case of course. Many drivers without huge volumes of orders to deliver, earn below minimum wage and dine in customers are not the customers that are ordering from home that night.


Treating Drivers right — both from the restaurant perspective and as a guest is important. Their role in this channel sits at the front & center of the entire eco-system.



Hospitality can exist for drivers — just differently from what we expect in a restaurant


But drivers can improve the guest experience too — they have significant role to play. How exactly?

  1. They maintain contact with the consumer throughout the experience — especially when any food is likely to be delayed later than expected.

  2. Checking to see whether the package contains the right number of items upon pick up.

  3. To form a dialogue with the consumer throughout the waiting period — asking questions around ‘extra napkins’ or ‘cutlery’. Referencing recent reviews or suggestions on what they like from the menu.

  4. And drivers should look to continue that dialogue through some simple friendliness at the handover point — or in these doorstep only times, by waiting in the car and offering a wave to the guest as they come to the door and pick up their food. This extra level of security will gain guests’ trust in the delivery pick up services and the restaurant too.

For it is trust that remains a critical component in growing delivered food volumes. How drivers, restaurants and all the support services in between, collaborate with each other to improve trust will go a long way to generating increased income for everyone.

I hope @nomadMike above gave a good tip to the driver that gave him a dance on the way to his dinner drop off last night. That driver deserves it for bringing their own service flair to the whole transaction.

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