If there’s one skill that I’ve truly mastered in my life, it’s abandoning new hobbies the second they become the least bit inconvenient. Some have called me a jack-of-all-trades, but even that implies a level of knowledge that I can’t live up to.
I prefer to call myself a joker-of-all-trades; I’m fine for playing Go Fish to entertain the kids, but when someone’s really looking to up the ante I get taken out of the shuffle.
I’m not alone though! Thanks to the pandemic, plenty of people have taken up new skills they don’t have any intention of sticking with, and many of the hottest quarantine trends have been food related. As we near the end of 2020, bread makers, charcuterie boards, and beer brewing kits all across the country are taking up residence in attics and basements, never to see the light of day again (or at least until yard sale season).
But even if most people opted not to continue with their sushi-making classes, one change that many people have stuck with is ordering more takeout food. Delivery companies have sprouted up all over the place in the past few years, but they’ve really blown up with the quarantine keeping many people indoors.
But with this new frontier of delivery comes new rules of order, many of which aren’t obvious. Fortunately for Echo readers, I happen to be an employee of a delivery service (well, a self-employed contractor with no benefits, but close enough). So, here are a few inside tips to make sure you get the most from your ordering experience.
Most apps have pretty sophisticated customization options. If you order your burrito at Chipotle double-wrapped with fajita veggies and extra cheese, you can do the same thing in the app (and I encourage it). But if, for some reason, the app doesn’t offer you a choice you really need, you still have options. If you want an extra sauce or some utensils, you can ask your driver for it via text; anything free that the restaurant can throw in the bag is easy to get.
If you want the food cooked differently (such as substituting veggies for meat), though, you’re much better off calling the restaurant directly. In most cases, orders go straight to the restaurant the second you put them in and are finished by the time the driver arrives, so if you want your kung pow chicken with no peanuts, you’re better off telling the restaurant that before they start cooking it rather than having the driver tell them when they arrive and waiting an extra fifteen minutes for them to remake it.
I’ll be honest with you; drinks are absolutely the worst part of delivering food. They’re heavy, messy, fragile, hard to carry, and, because they’re cold, have to be stored separately from hot food, which is a big problem when you only have two cupholders in your car and someone orders six Whopper combos, each with a bucket of Sprite large enough to fill a kiddie pool.
My reason for bringing up drinks isn’t just to whine about one of the only difficult parts of an otherwise very easy job, though; one of the best ways to save money on a delivery order centers around drinks.
Drinks are routinely one of the most overpriced items on any menu (because they’re pure profit; even large sodas usually only cost the company around five cents), but they are often even more expensive on a delivery menu. One local chain restaurant charges a staggering $3.50 for a cup the size of a small coffee, and they don’t even serve Coke products!
Fortunately, if, like me, you love a soda with a meal, many restaurants are beginning to offer a much more cost-effective option: a sealed gallon jug of soft drink. Not only are these MUCH easier to deliver, but they also often cost the same or even less than a standard cup of soda, serve several people, and will most likely leave you with leftovers.
If drinks are an annoyance about this job, navigating apartment complexes is a tribulation. Signs on apartment gates should say “Welcome to Maple Pines Townhomes – Abandon All Hope and Rules of Logic, Ye Who Enter Here.” In the rare instances that buildings I deliver to are labeled, they don’t seem to follow any coherent order; for example, you might see buildings A, B, and C followed by building I, then F, G, and H, then building D.
This may not be obvious if you’re used to driving to and from your apartment every day! I once had a customer tell me he was “in the apartment facing the pond”; when I arrived, the complex had 8 buildings, all of which were directly facing the pond in a circle.
If you want your order delivered before your driver gets so lost that they are eaten by the Apartment Minotaur, your best bet is to include instructions on how to find your specific apartment. The same goes with dorms; just include a message about where on campus your building is and how to get it to you. Try to think from the point of view of someone who has never seen or heard of the college before.
I had a UT student tell me she’d be at the door that was “to the right of the left of the gate;” I’m sure you can imagine how helpful that was for finding her.
One of the most unlikely stories to happen in a year already bordering on feeling like a mass hallucination is “Chuck E Cheese goes bankrupt then saves the restaurant industry.” Already teetering on the edge of extinction for the better part of two decades, the COVID-19 pandemic seemed to sound the death knell for the arcade-loving rat until the company decided to try something radically different: change their name, up their food quality, and pretend to be a real restaurant until this whole thing blows over.
Thus, “Pasqually’s Pizza and Wings,” a “virtual restaurant” only available on delivery apps that offers no clues as to their true identity (unless you’re a lunatic like me who knows that Pasqually is the drummer for the Chuck E Cheese band) was born.
Since then, Chilis, Applebee’s, Hooters, and many others have tried putting on a fake mustache and pretending they’re a hip new restaurant. Some local places are even running multiple virtual restaurants; one pizza place in Knoxville operates with at least five different names and menus on Doordash.
While this has been great for the industry, it has led to a fair amount of confusion with customers who feel deceived or think they’ve received the wrong order. If you decide to try delivery a new restaurant you’ve never heard of, don’t be surprised if it shows up in a familiar bag!
Look for a second part to this column with more tips soon; we haven’t even breached the complicated and contentious subject of tipping yet. Until then, happy eating, and think twice before you order unrefrigerated sushi!