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Delivery Driver Tips and Tricks

Food delivery has recently seen an increase in popularity, causing many restaurants to adapt their menus to be delivery friendly. Because of this, it's important to make sure every delivery experience is positive and fulfilling. Whether you’re an experienced delivery driver or about to start your first day on the job, we've compiled a list of tips to help improve your delivery driver skills and make every driver safe, smart, and profitable.

1. Invest in Delivery Driver Gear

Delivery driver walking up to door with delivery bag.

Investing in the right equipment can give you an edge as a delivery driver. Some employers might provide you with basic equipment, but others might not. See if it’s possible to acquire the following items before you make your next delivery.

  • Insulated delivery bags: An insulated delivery bag is perfect for transporting food from the restaurant to your customer’s door, and it is essential for keeping hot foods like pizza, wings, and subs warm.
  • Use a cooler: If a customer orders a drink with their food, consider storing it in a cooler to keep it cold and refreshing until the delivery is complete.
  • Use a divider: Creating a divider for the back of your car allows you to physically separate each customer’s order from the next while you’re on the road.
  • Keep a takeout supply stash: Keep a stash of takeout supplies like paper plates, straws, napkins, and condiments in your car in case customers need them. These supplies are small enough to keep in the car, and might even fit in your glovebox or delivery bag.

2. Choose a Delivery Job That Works for You

There are two options available for businesses when it comes to deliveries. Restaurant owners can establish their own delivery service, or they can choose to partner with an independent delivery service. To be successful as a delivery driver, it's important to recognize the differences between the two and make a distinction as to which is more compatible with your lifestyle.

  • Your work schedule: The most glaring difference between driving for a restaurant and driving for an independent delivery service is your schedule. Independent services like DoorDash, Uber Eats, and Grubhub allow drivers to work on their own time, while a restaurant will schedule shifts for you.
  • Transportation: You may be lucky enough to land a job with a restaurant that provides a company vehicle, but more likely than not you'll need to provide your own form of transportation.
  • The hiring process: In most cases, you’ll need to go through a formal hiring process to get a job making deliveries for a restaurant or pizza place. Signing up for an independent driving service doesn't require an interview. In its place, drivers simply need to create an account, submit personal information, and wait to be approved.

3. Create a Delivery Kit

A delivery driver kit will help you stay organized and ready to lend a hand to your customers. Whether you’re transporting a large amount of food in your car or just want to stay on top of every order, consider keeping these materials on hand to improve your performance.

  • Keep a locked cash box: When customers order online or over the phone, they might not have cash on hand. Keeping a locked cash box can make it easy to give a customer change if they need to break a larger bill.
  • Buy a clipboard: A clipboard is useful for holding onto receipts and other important documents to prevent them from getting lost or scattered.
  • Carry a pen: Keeping an extra pen in your pocket or in the car can save customers from the hassle of looking for their own.
  • Use sticky notes: As a delivery driver, it's essential that you make sure each order goes to the right person. Use sticky notes as labels so they don't get mixed up.

4. Practice Delivery Driver Safety

As with any job, it’s important to prioritize safety over anything else. Understanding how to manage the risks that come with driving is essential not only for staying on time but for keeping yourself safe. Follow these driver safety tips to make sure every delivery you make is safe and successful.

  • Check the weather and traffic: Inclement weather can create hazardous road conditions, so stay prepared in case you find yourself driving through a storm. Research any road closures or alternate routes that might be available, and check the local weather forecast ahead of every delivery to avoid delays. Additionally, it’s recommended that during bad weather you drive 5 to 10 miles under the posted speed limit and leave 2-3 times as much space between your car and the cars around you to increase your reaction time in case of an emergency.
  • Keep your car in good condition: Make sure that your windshield wipers, tires, and defrosters are in working condition before you set out to make deliveries. Additionally, check your oil levels, gas tank, and tire pressure to avoid making emergency stops.
  • Keep important documents up to date: Always be sure that your car registration, proof of insurance, and driver's license are up to date. If any of these seem out of date, be sure to visit your local DMV, insurance agency, or mechanic and get them updated as soon as possible.

5. Improve Your Navigation Skills

Phone on dashboard showing navigation on screen.

One of the most important parts of making deliveries is knowing how to find your destination. Getting lost can increase the length of your trip, and if you’re late the customer’s food might be cold. Consider following these navigation tips to get from place to place efficiently!

  • Avoid unfamiliar areas: If you’re unfamiliar with an area, you might not want to make deliveries there. Independent delivery allows you to choose your delivery locations, so stick with neighborhoods you know well.
  • Use a reliable GPS: Make sure you're using a reliable GPS unit or smartphone app so that you always have a way of knowing where you are. Whether your destination is right down the street or miles away, having a strong reference of where you’re going can relieve some stress and make deliveries easier.
  • Find shortcuts: Make a note of any shortcuts or time-saving routes you could take in case of traffic, accidents, inclement weather, or other unforeseen delays. An alternate route can be a helpful backup plan when needed.
  • Remember repeat addresses: Be sure to keep track of repeat customers and their addresses to get more familiar with your route. It might be helpful to make a mental note of where to park, which house is which, or how to enter an apartment complex in order to find your customer faster.

6. Learn What Influences Your Income

One of the keys to being successful as a delivery driver is understanding what influences your income. Learning about these factors can help you grow an understanding of the delivery business, as well as take advantage of any opportunities that might increase your earnings.

  • Hourly wages: Many delivery drivers are paid an hourly wage. These wages depend on several factors including what state you live in, where you work, and how long you’ve worked there. For a full-time delivery driver, the average reported income across the United States is listed between $30,000 and $40,000 per year.
  • Where you drive: The location you'll be making deliveries in can have a strong impact on the amount of money you earn. Not only will restaurants located in larger areas get more orders, but independent drivers will have more options to choose from. In contrast, drivers in less populated areas may find it harder to make deliveries.
  • How often you work: Freedom to make your own hours and work on your own time can feel liberating. However, it could also cause you to make less deliveries. To maintain a consistent stream of income, be sure to make deliveries regularly.
  • Bonuses: Many independent services offer bonuses for completing a variety of tasks. For example, DoorDash offers a bonus for referring new delivery drivers. Additionally, delivering during peak times when drivers are in demand might help you earn a higher base salary per order.

7. Provide Excellent Customer Service

Bags in a car seat.

Even though you're not operating a cash register or working on the sales floor, there's still a great deal of customer service involved with making deliveries. Not only does great customer service produce repeat customers, but it can increase your chances of getting a good tip. Additionally, customers with memorable experiences are more likely to leave a review. Try to implement the suggestions below next time you make a delivery to provide unbeatable customer service.

  • Be friendly and express your gratitude: A simple smile and positive attitude can leave a lasting impression on your customer. Furthermore, expressing your appreciation can make them feel valued, so be sure to thank them for their order before you head back to the car.
  • Carry dog treats: Many drive-thrus offer dog-friendly treats, like Starbucks' Puppuccino or Dairy Queen's Pup Cup. You can do the same while you make deliveries by keeping dog treats on hand in the car or your delivery bag.
  • Check orders for accuracy: There's nothing worse than waiting on food only to realize you've been given the wrong order, so be sure to check each one for accuracy before you leave the restaurant.
  • Appear presentable: Practice good personal hygiene to improve your presentation and overall professionalism. Keeping your outfit clean, eliminating any odors, and appearing organized are just a few easy ways to stay on top of this.

8. Understand How to Correctly File Tax Returns

Filing tax returns can be confusing for everyone, especially as a delivery driver. Many moving parts influence how you file, what forms you'll fill out, and how often you pay taxes. To make sure you file your tax returns correctly, follow the guidelines below.

  • Determine your employment classification: Understand the differences between an employee and independent contractor. If you’re working as a delivery driver for a specific restaurant, you’re likely an employee. Conversely, those who drive for an independent delivery service are considered an independent contractor.
  • Keep track of annual earnings: One of the most important documents to have on hand when filing tax returns is a report of your annual earnings. Employers are required to provide you with a W-2 form stating how much you made in the last calendar year. In place of a W-2, independent contractors usually receive a Form 1099-NEC.
  • Determine what information to fill out: No matter what annual earnings form you get, you’ll have to file a Form 1040 when filling out your tax returns. Depending on your employment classification, you might have to fill out additional information such as calculated self-employment taxes.
  • Keep track of write-offs: Some employers might reimburse you for certain expenses, so it’s important to keep track of what you spend out of your own pocket for your job. You're allowed to write off expenses such as how much you spent on mileage, parking, road tolls, mobile phone fees, and any delivery supplies you might have purchased.
  • Determine how much you owe: If you’re classified as an independent contractor, the IRS still expects you to deduct taxes from each paycheck just as an employer would. If you owe $1,000 or more in taxes, you may be required to make a quarterly estimated tax payment.

9. Practice No Contact Delivery Methods

A man carrying delivery bags.

Though many businesses offered it before, no contact delivery has seen an increase in popularity due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This type of delivery involves leaving a customer’s order at their door or an otherwise specified location to avoid contact and practice safe social distancing. If you plan on making many deliveries in a day, this option helps limit person-to-person contact. Try to follow these tips to make sure your next no contact delivery goes as smoothly as possible.

  • Wear disposable gloves: Wearing disposable gloves while handling a customer’s food reduces the direct contact you'll have with them. This is essential for limiting the spread of harmful germs and bacteria.
  • Find the designated location: Make sure that you’ve found the designated location requested by the customer to avoid food getting lost or making the wrong delivery. If you put their order in the wrong place, someone else might come along and claim it.
  • Take a photo: Take a photo of the delivery order to indicate you've placed it in the correct location.
  • Notify the customer: Customers are usually alerted that their order has arrived when they get a knock on the door or hear the doorbell ring. In the case of no contact delivery, this might not be possible. Make sure you let the customer know that their food has been delivered and that they can now go to retrieve it.

Investing in ways to improve your delivery driving experience can be a benefit for both you and your customers. Next time you hit the road to make a delivery or find yourself looking for advice on how to improve your job performance, keep these tips in mind to make yourself a safe, smart, and profitable delivery driver.

Posted in: Foodservice Trends | Management & Operation | By Jason Kurtz
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