If You're Gonna Do Something, Do It Well
I've spent several years delivering pizza. It's not the best paying or most prestigious job, but I honestly love it. A lot of people end up delivering pizza at some point in their life, and it's a high turnover job. Often times people will do it for a little while as they look for other work. Others will do it for years. No matter what your situation is, you might as well get good at delivering pizza while you do it. I figured I would share some things I've learned during my time in the business.
It needs to be stated in plain english, delivering pizza will take a huge toll on your car. I think most people expect this, but the cost is more than you might think. You have to keep in mind the expense of maintenance and gas. At the end of the night, you often have cash. It can be hard to not spend it right away. But you have to think of it the same you would a paycheck. I factor my gas costs into my monthly budget, as well as setting aside one or two hundred dollars for repairs. In the last year I've gotten new tires, replaced the starter, had a coolant leak, replaced my battery wires, replaced the camshaft position sensor, gotten a bent swing arm repaired, and other minor things. You'll have to get oil changes fairly often. You will go through various engine fluids more quickly.
What kind of car you drive matters, but "what is the best car" is a subject for another time. I'll keep it short and say that anything reliable with good gas mileage that isn't expensive to fix is going to work well. There are a lot of Civics and Corollas out there that fit the bill. Driving something bigger can have it's advantages though. A few times a year we have large orders for our high school. One of our guys has a Jeep SUV and it can fit ~80 pizzas in it. Those orders get a big tip. Whatever you drive is probably fine, maybe just don't deliver in a giant pick up truck or a surplus tank.
Don't let the costs scare you away entirely. You can offset expenses by being smart. If you know anything about cars, this will give you a chance to put that to the test. If you don't know anything about cars, well, now's the time to learn. By doing whatever repairs you can yourself, you will save a huge amount of money. Not too long ago, a shop quoted me 700 dollars when I had them check out a coolant leak. My dad bought me a bottle of Stop Leak for a few bucks, and that fixed the issue.
You're also going to want to have access to a back-up car. We've had people quit because when they started having car trouble, they simply couldn't work anymore. Most of our long time drivers have another vehicle they can drive when they've got issues. More than once I've borrowed one of my parents cars while waiting for a part to show up. If reliability is a concern of yours, you might want to reconsider delivering.
There are some tools of the trade you'll want to consider to be an effective driver. They are pretty simple for the most part. In my car I always try and carry:
Pens. Lots of pens.
A jacket, gloves and a warm hat.
A Map or GPS (see below)
A large flashlight can help you read mailboxes. More importantly, a small one can help keep you from hurting yourself. This may not be an issue in a big city with light pollution, but where I live when it's dark during the winter, it can be really perilous walking to a front door. Not noticing small steps or large cracks in somebodys front walkway can take you down quick. I only use mine occasionally, but it's a good help when I do. Dropping an order and twisting your ankle because you missed a step will make you wish you had one.
You'll want to have a lot of pens in your car. Nowadays with online ordering, probably 2/3rds of all our orders are pre-paid with credit cards. It's nice since you don't have to carry as much money around, but people need to sign the receipts. You will go through pens like crazy. I keep a full box of them in my car, which only sets you back 3 or 4 bucks, but saves you a world of trouble. People will accidentally take them after signing, they will fall out of your pocket, you'll leave one in your other pants, whatever. Customers are usually unhappy if you show up and they have to go find a pen somewhere in the house to sign for you, so having a bunch will save you some trouble.
Cold Weather Gear
This is a general rule you should always follow, just in case you get stuck and have to wait for help.
Learning Your City
You're going to be driving in the same areas over and over again, so you should familiarize yourself with how the streets work. First, and most basically, learn your cardinal directions. I've had to teach this simple lesson to more than one new driver. This may sound silly to some of you, but if nobody had ever taught you, how would you know? Being able to find where north, south, east and west are will serve you well. If you know which direction you are relative to a main road, it's easier to find your way back should you get mixed up. Main roads almost always run east, west, north and south. Even if your city is laid out somewhat haphazardly, chances are there are intersections that cross at cardinal directions. Use that information smartly and you won't get lost (at least not within your delivery zone.)
Nearly all cities follow a logical numbering pattern. It varies from one city to the other, but I'll explain how mine works:
The numbers increase in value going from east to west.
They also increase in value while going south to north.
Odd numbers are on the west, even on the east.
Odd numbers are on the south, even on the north.
That is how my city works, yours might be the exact opposite. The numbers might get down to 0, then start going up in the opposite direction. Learn this. Knowing the flow of the numbers will help you determine what direction to turn when faced with two options. It will give you an idea of how far down a street the address is. You'll know which side of the street to look on based on if the address is odd or even. These are things that GPS can tell you, but having that knowledge in your head will help you a lot more in the long run.
I don't want to sound like a broken record, but learning number patterns is very important for delivering efficiently. The difference between house numbers is usually the same for the entire length of a street. 190, 200, 210 etc. It can also be as low as 2, or much higher. Sky is the limit really. Take notice of the first address you see on a street. Then, the next address you see, figure out the difference. Comparing that to the address of your order will give you a rough idea of the distance you need to travel to find your destination.
If you approach the street your delivery is on at an intersection, try to read a number on the right and the left. An example: you pull up to your road and can turn in either direction. Your house number is 100. On your right is house number 40, on your left is house 50. You go left. If you can only see a number in one direction, you can figure out which way to turn because you know what direction the numbers flow based on your cardinal directions!
Additionally, streets running parallel to each other tend to have similar number patterns. Being familiar with a different street nearby can help you figure out which way to go on the street you're heading to.
Sometimes, you won't have a good reference point and you'll just have to guess. The more experienced you get, the less you'll do this. But there's no shame in turning around.
I want to emphasize this, I suggest you don't use a GPS. At least, only use it if you get lost. In my opinion, GPS is a crutch. None of our long-term drivers use one regularly. I don't even keep one in my car anymore. Our store has a large map of the city, and as far as I know that's how other pizza places operate as well. Look, find out where you're going, and remember how to get there. If you have to write down the directions, that's fine, but try and do it without any aid as much as possible.
You know how people who've been waiting tables forever are good at remembering orders? By forcing yourself to work without help, you'll develop a similar skill. The more you deliver, the stronger your mental map of the city will become. When you don't have to spend a minute or two punching in an address before every run, you're going to save time. On a busy night, those minutes can add up, and you'll take a couple more runs than your peers.
This also helps with route planning. Since drivers often take more than one delivery out of the store at a time, knowing off the top of your head where everything is will give you a better idea of what runs go together. Sometimes, two homes will be physically close together, but their roads might not connect. You'll end up taking a long time to get from one to the other. Alternatively, if two homes are somewhat far apart but are connected by a long, low traffic road, you can zip between them quickly. Knowing these things will make you faster and ultimately, make you more money.
Keep a GPS for backup if you need it. Only use it if you get lost. Use an actual map instead if you can. You'll be better off, trust me.
Alright, finally. You've reached your destination. Let's deliver a pie.
As a general rule, you're supposed to park on the street if you can. Sometimes this simply isn't practical, like if the home sits on a main road, or has a really long driveway. If it's no harder though, park on the street. More than once I've parked in a driveway and wound up blocking somebody from getting in or out. Two times I've pulled into a steep driveway during the winter, and then got stuck trying to leave. I had to have the home owners help me get out. Once, I locked my keys in the car in someones driveway, and had to borrow his phone so I could call my mom and have her bring the spare (my phone was in the car). Another time my starter went out in somebody's driveway, and I had to sit there waiting for a jump. It's embarrassing. Avoid it if you can.
At the door, you need to be like a waiter. If you are good with people, it's going to come naturally and there's nothing I need to tell you.
If you aren't very good with people, here's a tip; have a few "scripted" lines, or things you do. Ask how they're doing. Wave to their kids. Say hi to the dog. If they mention the weather, have standard responses. When it's cold I'll say "Hey, that's why god invented coats." When it's raining, if they comment on it, I'll say "You know, I try not to let it bother me. It's all about attitude." A common thing to hear is a mom saying she didn't feel like cooking tonight. I'll say "That's why we're here ma'am" in a sort of boy scout, salute the flag, overly formal sort of way. They like that. Put your own touches on it. Try and make them laugh. Remember that there isn't any harm in preparing for what to say beforehand.
Honestly, most of my orders these days are credit card. This couldn't be simpler. Hand them the slip, ask for a signature, give them their receipt. (Keep an eye out and make sure you get your pen back. If they accidentally don't give you your pen, it's good for a laugh to ask for it back, and tell them you go through a lot of pens because people take them all the time.)
People can usually write in a tip on the credit card slip. Don't just stare at them while they do it. And when they hand it to you, thank them sincerely and look at it in the car. Everybody I've asked does it like this. It feels really uncomfortable to look right at somebody while they decide how much money to give you. It's why waiters and waitresses hand you your check and then walk away.
If paying cash, you should always offer exact change. Don't ask "do you want change back?" Instead say it out loud, like a cashier does. "Okay, out of twenty, I'll owe you 4.25." People appreciate it when you do that. I've been explicitly thanked for offering a woman exact change before. Usually they'll say how much they want back.
People who are hungry don't want to do math. When you do it for them, it makes it easier to say "just give me 2 back," or whatever it is they'll say. When you don't give them a figure, you'll end up counting it out one at a time, handing them the money, and then they'll hand some back. It's overly complicated and can be avoided almost entirely by simply saying "I owe you X back." It may not sound like a big deal, but it makes things go more smoothly.
One more thing, if the change is 5-10 dollars, offer them ones. If somebody wants to tip you 3 bucks, you don't want to hand them a 5, have them hand it back to you, then hand them 2 dollars. The less steps there are, the faster the transaction. Nobody wants to stand outside in the cold because you gave them a big bill and they have to figure out how to tip you.
Taking deliveries to a business can be good, or a huge pain in the butt. As a general rule, my best tips come from businesses placing large lunch orders. But there is a dark side. Of business deliveries I take, I would guess 75% don't give the name of the business. This happens when an individual orders pizza for themselves, which is most of the time. In my town, most of the stores and companies are congregated around two main hubs. If my order ticket lists an address in the 2-3 thousand range on a certain street, I can be fairly sure it's a business. The issue is, addresses are often hard to see on a storefront. If you're going down a main road with cars behind you, you don't have time to slow down and look. Plaza buildings often have multiple stores that share the same address, but with different suite numbers. If not specified, it can be aggravating trying to figure out where to go.
If your town has a mall, you will learn to hate it. Having an order with nothing on it but a name and the address of the mall can become your worst nightmare. Around Christmas time, this is multiplied 10 fold because of all the seasonal employees. Get a map from the information desk. Even having a business name won't help if you don't know where anything in the mall is.
All that being said; make it easy on yourself. If you think you're going to a business address, call the person as soon as you leave the store. Often the number they gave will be the number of the store itself, which will answer your question immediately. If it's a cell phone, ask the person politely if they are at a business address, and what the business is. Usually they get the idea and will specify their store next time.
I've covered the bulk of actually delivering the pizza, but there are a couple more things to say.
This has to be mentioned. It's the elephant in the room. As a driver, you're out there alone, and people know you have cash. "How to Not Get Robbed" is probably a topic for another time and another writer, but I'll say a little bit. Don't carry a ton of cash. Our store has individual slotted boxes you can put a padlock on. You drop big bills off in the store, then get them at the end of your shift. If you don't have something like that, maybe keep big bills in your glove box, or somewhere not on your person. Just be smart. Try not to walk down a lot of dark alleys holding 20 dollar bills in your hand and yelling "DID SOMEBODY ORDER A PIZZA?"
Working In The Store
You're going to have to do things in the store. You might as well get good at them. Learn how to answer the phones, how to make pizza, how to cut pizza. Pretty regularly I'll hear new drivers complain that they aren't getting many hours. Universally, those drivers are the most useless. They never learn how to do insider jobs, and as a result they just aren't valuable enough to give hours to. The turnover in this business is high. If you stick around and learn how to be useful when you aren't on deliveries, you are going to get as many hours as you want. Not to mention, just on a personal level, the insiders will love you if you can come in and actually help for a few minutes in between runs.
Keeping Yourself Entertained
Let me tell you the best money I ever spent: I bought a stereo for my car you could plug an ipod into. If you just listen to the radio while you drive, you're gonna lose your mind.
Two words. Audiobooks. Podcasts.
You take it from there. I can't think of a job better suited to listening to audiobooks and podcasts. Time will go faster, and you will better yourself at the same time. Best of all, podcasts are free, and there is essentially an infinite number of them. You could spend your whole life listening to podcasts and not touch half of them. It's an embarrassment of riches.
I started delivering because it was a job I could get easily. People find themselves in pizza delivery while they go to college, while they're in between jobs, or as a second job. I do it full time, and I've done it for years now. Whatever the reason, embrace it. If you're gonna do something, do it well. People are never disappointed to see the pizza guy. It can feel really great to walk into a party and literally have people cheer for you. If this is where you've ended up, hopefully I've given you at least one piece of information that will make your life easier. I love delivering pizza. It won't make you rich or impress people, but if you do it right, you'll enjoy yourself. You can't say that about every job.