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Should I Hang Out in Hotspots for Doordash, Uber Eats, Grubhub etc.?

Are the common hotspots for Doordash, Grubhub, Postmates, Uber Eats, etc. the best places to hang out to get good delivery offers?

IS there a best place to hang out?

I've been thinking about this one a lot. I think the best place is wherever the best place is.

Yeah, that's helpful. Thanks for nothing.

Determining on a map if Doordash Hotspots (or Uber Eats or Grubhub) make sense.
Map of restaurants in Denver Area to get an idea for hotspots for Grubhub Doordash Uber Eats

Understanding hotspots for Doordash, Grubhub, Uber Eats etc., was one of the hardest questions for me to figure out when I got started.

It's probably easier if you live in the midst of a lot of restaurants. While I do have a nice little row of fast food places close by, when I first started out very few were doing delivery of any kind. If I just turned on the Uber Eats app, all of the deliveries that came in were several miles away. In fact, that's how I got started and all of a sudden I was covering all four corners of town, driving a LOT of miles and not making much money. This wasn't going to work.

I had to figure out where to go. What was the best place to go? Should I go downtown? There's a lot of restaurants there but parking is horrible. What about suburbs? Parking isn't a problems but the restaurants are a bit spread out. What's the best option?

Thinking about what worked for me

One of the first You Tubers I found when I got started was Elijah of the App Lifestyle. He had put together quite a series of things to help people get started with their deliver work on Uber Eats. Elijah has been on this podcast before. One of the most helpful things I found from him was a video on Hotspots, and he talked about what he called Money Spots. There was some good information there that still applies.

Over time I cobbled together advice from different people. I looked at different ideas. Then as I got to know my market better, I started paying more attention to what was working for me. Here's the thing: what works for me won't necessarily work for you. I have a comfort level in some areas that some won't be as comfortable. I'm sure there are places that some people can make a killing where I'd be spinning in circles. So the bottom line is, I don't think there is a best place to go. I think what I want to do is share a few steps that worked for me, talk through those, and maybe you can use those to get a feel for what is the best place for you.

The reality is, for me there's not always one way that always works. There are some days I just say screw it as far as picking a spot, I'm just taking orders and going where they lead. Sometimes that works incredibly well. Sometimes it leaves me languishing. But here are the things that worked for me:

  • I started with the areas I knew
  • I developed an understanding of the kind of delivery that works best for me.
  • Then I gathered ideas from others
  • I got to know my market
  • I put together my own approach

Maybe these will work for you. Let's talk about these.

1. Start with what you know

I found out right away that when I got something that took me into downtown, that was like a black hole for me. That's because I didn't know the area. Denver is an odd place – it is this traditional north south grid for the most part, all except for downtown and this whole downtown area sits with streets at a 45 degree angle. You can drive a street and cross two different 14th Streets – one is the east-west 14th street and then you come across the angled 14th street. There's a river and the interstate down one side and figuring out the entrances into downtown and where they go is a bear. On the grid, you have your street numbering going east and west and I can tell you one street where in one block you go from the 1000 block west (so 10 blocks) to the 1200 block east.

And then there's the parking.

I avoided downtown like the plague for awhile because I didn't know it as well as I thought. I'd only lived here ten years by the time I started delivering, and I worked jobs that took me around town a lot but I realized real quickly there were some areas that even with GPS, it was best to avoid.

One of the best things that happened to me was deciding to focus specifically on certain parts of town, areas I already knew. I think that did two things for me: one it helped me transition from taking everything to limiting myself to orders that were within a good range – that helped in many ways. But it also helped me focus on the restaurants in those areas, to learn the ins and outs, get comfortable with the back ways into a shopping center or an apartment complex, and then eventually spread my wings to get to know other things.

The crazy thing is, now I go downtown as often as is reasonable. But that only came after a process of learning.

2. Get an understanding of what makes a good delivery.

One thing I realized was one of the reasons I struggled finding a good place to go was that I didn't know for sure what I was looking for.

I'm very much against the grain on a lot of things delivery related. When people are down on Uber Eats, I find they can be one of my most profitable options. I found out a lot of people like me hated downtown and realized that's a great place to go. A popular sentiment out there is only take high paying deliveries, and I found that a $5 delivery that I can get done in ten minutes is worth more than most $20 deliveries that get thrown out there. As I got to understand what exactly made a great delivery, it made it easier to start evaluating certain areas.

Most people focus on the dollar amount of a delivery. I started realizing the more important measure was profit per hour. I mentioned that $5 delivery done in ten minutes: That's a $30 per hour pace, with extremely little vehicle cost. That $20 delivery that takes me forty-five minutes and ten miles is making less per hour.

I really think if you start thinking in terms of profit per hour, you're going to be so much better at picking the best places to go and the best deliveries to take. You can learn more at a couple of places here: Episode 8 talks about how to measure performance and how to calculate profit per hour. Episode 9 gets into the 40 cent rule, which is a quick and easy way to evaluate a potential delivery. As you get an understanding of what is really allowing you to make the most money, it's going to make it easier to start evaluating what areas of town to work in.

3. Get some input.

As I centered into a particular area but started getting deliveries that would take me out of the area, there was always that question: Should I double back to where I was, or should I take orders from where I dropped off? Because the thing is, I could be dropping off somewhere and get a ping to pick up a block away. That made more sense than going back, didn't it?

And some of those areas, I was getting some nice paying offers.

That's when I started paying attention to advice from others.

As I realized some of the good areas, that's when I found Elijah's advice on money spots. Those little pockets of restaurants that always seemed to be busy and often had good payouts. Okay, that's some good advice!

There were a lot of things that I learned through the school of hard knocks. Sometimes it helps to learn from other people.

Where to find that advice

Of course there's always search. There's a possibility you may have found this article by doing just that. Google has been nice to me lately in pointing my site out to people. I hope that what I share on the website and in the podcast is helpful to you.

One thing I would invite you to do is follow me on Twitter. That has a very self serving ring to it. I mean I have to admit, having followers is fun but I haven't poured much into growing them – I think I just passed 100. That's pretty tiny in the Twitterverse. But this isn't about following me as much as maybe it helps you find some others as well. There's been this fun little growing community of drivers out there lately. The cool thing is it hasn't been as heavy on trolls as some of the Facebook groups that are out there. So I'm hoping that maybe by following me you can come across a number of people who really throw some good ideas out there as we all interact with one another. Just search for EntreCourier, there's not a lot of people with handles quite like that.

There are forums and Facebook groups. There's a lot of very bitter, even nasty people, who hang out there. If you're good at filtering that kinda stuff out there, sometimes you can get some good tidbits. I hang out there more to find out what questions people are asking than anything else but I gotta say, it's hard to come away without feeling like I need a shower, you know?

Here's a couple of tidbits I picked up.

I mentioned the people on Twitter. Here's a couple of ideas I've seen for some twitter users that have popped up that I'll throw out there.

One that I wouldn't have thought about was from a guy who calls himself Uptateyankeehustler. He kind of reverse engineered the ‘where to go' idea. Most of us think about centering on the restaurant. He said that what works really well for him during lunch is “I look for clusters of Lower end merchants that are near to large apartment complexes, Office complexes and business like factories or hospitals.” Paying attention where there are larger groups of people, with the idea that a lot of people are going to order from nearby. I actually kind of like the against the grain approach here. A lot of people focus on higher cost restaurants. But the thing is sometimes those fast food and fast casual places can be low hanging fruit. You might not get as much money but if you're going a short distance you can get things done very quickly.

Advice from the Master Dasher

Someone else who has been active with a focus on Doordash deliveries is a fellow blogger who's just getting started. The Master Dasher is constantly putting out ideas and tips for how to work the system on Doordash deliveries. He's got an article on hotspots that points out that sometimes the hotspots shown by the apps may not be the best guide. It's another against the grain approach that works. The thing is, when an app say in some way ‘hey we need people in this zone' then everyone flocks to that zone. All of a sudden you have more couriers than you do orders and things get real slow.

His advice is pretty simple: “In my experience, your best bet is to create your own Hotspot.” He suggests finding where all the clusters of restaurants are, and picking spots that are close to a number of clusters. Go read his article – he explains it better than I do. After looking at it, I realized that some of the places that work best for me fit perfectly within his explanation.

Using tip #2 to evaluate #3.

The first time I saw Uptate suggest his strategy, he was questioned a little. Why would you hang out closer to the customer than the restaurant? But his concept didn't exactly do that, instead it chose restaurants BASED on where a lot of people were and not as much based on larger clusters of restaurants. And while most would run away from lower paying deliveries from low end restaurants, there are factors that work out here. The stores are close to the customer. That means it can happen quicker. A lot of these low end places have food ready quickly. That means you're not stuck with long waits. You could probably knock out three or four deliveries per hour, make more and drive far less than someone who is only taking high dollar deliveries.

You're going to get a lot of advice. You're going to see a lot of stuff about don't deliver from this or that restaurant because it never pays enough. But if you have your own idea about what a successful delivery is and you apply it to the advice you see, that makes it a lot easier to weed out the good ideas from the bad ones.

4. Get to know your market.

I'm not sure this one is necessarily in the right place in order. This one actually kinda fits before and after each of these. When you know the restaurants in Uptate's example are quick, for example, you know it can be a good place to go. When you know the traffic in one part of town is awful, that helps you.

Here's one thing that I did. A long time ago I started tracking every delivery. How far, how quick it happened, what I got paid, and the profit per hour on that delivery. Once I figured out how to do that, I started keeping track by neighborhood. I was able to run the numbers on all the main zones of town. The results blew me away. I figured out that some of the suburbs I preferred were the worst paying. I made more per delivery. But I was driving so far and taking so long to do them that they lost their advantage. I discovered that downtown was far and away the most profitable.

Once I figured out that downtown paid so much better, I made it better still. I focused almost exclusively on downtown for awhile, learning all the loading zones and all of the usually-available parking spots. I figured out the routes that were less congested, and when it made more sense to walk an extra block than to drive and find parking.

In step number 1, I mentioned start with what you know. Inevitably you'll have deliveries that take you out of that zone. Use that opportunity to get to know other zones a little better. Learn the ins and outs and it's going to do wonders for you.

5. Create your own strategies around hotspots when it comes to Doordash, Uber Eats, Grubhub and other platforms.

Here's the crazy thing. After all this, with what turns into a 30 minute podcast episode (or longer) on how to create a strategy, I more or less don't have much of one any more.

Personally, I don't focus on one place. I definitely don't deadhead back to a zone before taking orders, unless I've dropped off somewhere that doesn't have many restaurants around them (and generally, I'm declining orders that take me into those territories anyway unless they pay well enough to justify the return trip). My approach is more about picking up something close to where I drop off. I'll drive a couple miles to a busy spot for my first delivery, and then it just matters what pops up close to where I'm dropping off. It's only if I've gone a couple minutes without a good offer that I start heading towards a ‘personal hotspot.' I evaluate each delivery based on the potential profit per hour and, as I mentioned, factor a possible return trip or deadhead into that evaluation.

That may not work in a lot of markets. There are some places where you can't go from one to another to another that easily once you get outside a hot spot. There are markets with much more dangerous areas than mine. It's all about knowing your market and knowing whether deliveries in certain parts of your market meet your criteria.

One extra note about dangerous areas.

I write and record this while my city and many others are in a curfew situation due to unrest and rioting.

I've started and stopped writing about that situation a number of times – maybe now I'm getting a little off topic. You know, I figured there were going to be a lot of people searching for advice or stuff about delivering in the midst of civil unrest. I felt uncomfortable writing about it just for getting traffic.

There's a lot of deep hurt out there that's been brought to the surface. I have a lot of mixed feelings about what's going on. I was initially angry at the rioting because frankly, the violence was taking the conversation away from the issues at hand. But you know something? The worst or dumbest things I've ever done in my life were tied to extreme emotions. I don't think they change who I am as a person though. So I can't cast judgment when others act out of extreme feelings. There are so many people who matter – every one out there has a name and a story and a reason to be out there, and they all matter. I want to honor them.

That said, I'm not delivering in areas that are likely to see violence. I'm not delivering in zones close to the curfew areas because these apps aren't good at weeding these orders out. It's important to know what's going on out there. That can be events like what's happening now, or maybe it's sporting events, or maybe it's the annual 420 celebration that clogs up downtown. There's a big marathon through a lot of town each year that usually wreaks havoc on getting around. Stay in tune to what's going on.

More than anything, I keep going back to this: Understand what really is a good delivery for you, and why. Once you know that, you can usually put the pieces together to develop a great strategy on where to go.

Could this help someone else? Please share it.