Yesterday was the first day of the new temporary normal. Restaurants and bars in Denver are closed to dining or drinking in. Is “drinking in” even a term? With the bars closed, I guess now it’s drinking in place.
I decided to take a bit of a departure from the more practical type articles for this series, using this to share my experiences and observations as I go out and deliver in this new environment. Yesterday, I shared that it was kind of difficult, seeing the faces of restaurant staff who just received the news that restaurants would be closed down for the foreseeable future.
I usually stay home on Tuesdays. It’s kind of my weekend. But yesterday, I just felt like I needed to be out there. Maybe it was curiosity. Maybe it was feeling a need to show some support. I don’t know. I just had to.
A different approach to deliveries
As I headed out, there was a part of me that just said… screw it. I’m not going to stress about profit per hour or any of that. I ditched the 40 cent rule – where I usually say a delivery has to pay 40 cents a minute for me to take it. I’m not putting any brain damage into evaluating deliveries, I’m just going to go out and experience.
Mind you, that didn’t mean taking everything that came in. If it’s a long drive to the restaurant, or it’s one of those 10 mile drives out of the area to deliver, I’m still passing. That alone still manages to keep my acceptance rate particularly low with Grubhub. And the $3 Doordash order that goes seven miles is still a hard no.
But that said, even if it was semi-reasonable, I just decided to take it.
Maybe my Uber Eats experience is changing me a little.
That’s not to say that I think that’s how we should approach things right now. I can’t blame anyone for deciding that the standard has to be even higher. Because we go from person to person to person from restaurant to house to restaurant to house and back again, that in and of itself puts us at a higher risk. It’s not wrong to expect hazard pay, and we can control that to some extent by what offers we accept.
If things are busy enough.
However, for me, my thought process for the day is, I just want to experience the day.
The mood is different
You can imagine that my experience is limited. Therefore I can’t assume that what I notice from a few places is how it is everywhere. However, I did see a shift in mood. Monday was very somber, but yesterday was more cautiously optimistic.
Obviously, the restaurants had a lot fewer people on hand. They didn’t need wait staff and usually needed fewer people in the kitchen.Maybe the mood was different was because these were the ones who didn’t lose their jobs. At least not yet, anyway.
Which is not to say anyone was callous or uncaring. I made a point to ask people how it was going, and one owner was nearly in tears saying it was so difficult sending people home.
I have to say this right now. I’m seeing a lot of criticism on social media of small business owners who are laying people off. They say they should keep paying people even if they have to send them home. I think they assume that if you own a business you are built of cash or something. How many of these businesses are just on the edge of survival? A lot of these places aren’t going to survive, and to tell them to keep paying staff when there’s no money coming in is to just guarantee that these folks won’t be able to come back.
And don’t begin to think that doesn’t weigh heavily on most of these owners.
A sense of determination
Having said all that, the other thing I saw was just a sense of determination. We’re not going to let this thing defeat us, we’re going to do everything we can to keep our doors open and get through this.
Some told me that business was booming. Others said that the numbers were way down. I noticed a bit of a pattern, that the ones who were booming relied more on delivery and takeout to begin with. For those who relied heavily on dine in customers and who delivery was kind of like a side hustle for them, I’m a little more concerned that they may not make it.
I’ve always thought it was important to maintain a good relationship with the restaurants that I pick up from. I’ve never understood the drivers who look at the restaurants as the enemy. Having said that, most drivers that I see that look at it that way seem to look at everyone as the enemy. I kind of feel for them, that’s got to be a miserable way to live.
You know, Monday I just had to hang it up early because it was so discouraging. Yesterday, I think I came home inspired. I mean, I know some of these places aren’t going to survive this. That’s difficult. Heartbreaking. But the inspiring part is, I came away knowing that some of these places that don’t have a prayer of surviving are going to survive anyway. There is such a determination and a strength of will, it’s just going to happen.
It was a surreal day.
Okay, this is just a surreal time period. It’s even a surreal time, period! (Punctuation is everything, right?)
It is so odd to drive so easily through the streets, not fighting traffic. Normally you approach the main roads knowing you have to wait for an opening before you can turn onto them, and don’t even THINK about turning left onto one of these. Yesterday, I could do pretty much anything I wanted without a wait.
That said, I was a little surprised how many cars were still on the road. It wasn’t a TOTAL ghost town, but still very different.
And parking!!!! There was parking available. EVERYWHERE. Except some of the residential streets. Everyone’s home now.
I’m trying to get a handle on how much sense it makes to keep delivering.
Here’s the oddest part.
I sat a lot more than I usually do. I thought things would get super busy. I’d sit for ten or fifteen minutes without an order from Grubhub, Doordash OR Uber Eats. I was almost tempted to turn on Postmates for the first time in forever, but there’s still a principle thing there.
The part that’s hard to figure though is, I met up with another Uber Eats driver and asked him how his day was going. He said it was crazy busy, nonstop.
And then just when you think it’s not going that well financially, a $50 double delivery comes in that’s short and quick. And then an unexpected $25 tip comes in on Uber Eats.
In nine hours being out there yesterday, more than an hour of it was idle. But the weird thing is, I still made enough that even compensating for the still time, I made well above my average for that time period.
I don’t know for sure what to expect. Are deliveries not up as much as I might have thought? Or are all the side hustlers suddenly going full time now that their main hustle has shut down for a few week, so there’s more drivers competing for those deliveries?
Curious about the days to come.
I’m wondering what it will be like. One restaurant manager told me he figured it might go okay for a few days but he was afraid of people running out of money. But how many people are going to get tired of cooking after awhile? Are more people going to try to deliver because they’re desperate? Or will they get discouraged by the slow times and go home?
I don’t know who it is that put the curse on us.
But we certainly live in interesting times.