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14 min read

    14 min read

    Wondering if driving for Caviar is worth it? Caviar delivery typically features higher-end restaurants, meaning more expensive orders and higher tips for drivers! Below, we’ll go over what it’s like driving for Caviar in our Caviar driver review and help you maximize your Caviar delivery earnings.

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    Caviar Driver Review

    We’ve talked a lot on the blog about the importance of diversifying your income with other rideshare services.  But over the past year, a lot of that focus has shifted to delivery companies.

    Delivery is a great option for drivers because it is a different experience and a different industry than rideshare.  And although the space is equally crowded with companies that you can work for, today I want to talk about one that’s been flying under the radar: Caviar.

    I recently signed up to do Caviar delivery in San Francisco to see what the company was like and how they would stack up with the competition. There is no doubt that a lot has changed on DoorDash and Postmates over the last year for drivers, and many say these changes have been for the worse.

    It seems like these two companies are running into a lot of the same same pitfalls as Uber and Lyft with lower pay, too many couriers and so forth.  But as it turns out, not every delivery company is the same.

    Caviar delivery review:

    • Very different from other delivery companies – typically higher-end restaurants
    • Expect to earn $20-22 per hour
    • Caviar is available in a variety of cities, including Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Philadelphia, LA, Manhattan, Portland, San Diego, Seattle and DC

    What is Caviar?

    Caviar is a delivery app operating in over a dozen markets that curates the top restaurants in a local area for delivery. It is similar to other platforms in that customers can order food on-demand from restaurants within their city.

    Caviar delivery tends to focus on higher end restaurants that they can develop a seamless partnership with, which allows them to fulfill orders faster.

    Caviar started as an on-demand delivery startup and was acquired by Square in 2014. Once Square IPO’d, Caviar by default became one of the few on-demand apps that operates within the scrutiny of a publicly-traded company. Square later acquired FastBite and added its operations as a feature of Caviar. In many ways, Caviar is Square’s play with restaurants to provide end-to-end services for payment processing, invoicing, inventory, and food delivery. Think payment-to-plate.

    On the driver’s side, couriers can deliver using their personal vehicles, motorcycles, scooters, or bikes. Caviar has some unique features that make it stand out against the rest of the crowd in the delivery and rideshare space. All of these differences are geared to make their platform better for couriers and customers.

    How Is Caviar Different?

    Here are the key differences that we found between Caviar and other delivery platforms:

    • There is no rating system. Drivers, you may now rejoice!
    • Couriers are paid on an “effort-based” algorithm (don’t worry, we’ll be putting this to the test!).
    • There is now in-app tipping on Caviar.
    • The details of your order (including how much you will be paid) are available before you accept the order. And they will not punish you for a low acceptance rate.
    • No carrying around a Pex card or cash. You only work with partner restaurants where you are expected by the staff. You confirm a secret code (kind of like James Bond but for delivery) and they hand you the food. That’s it.
    • Their delivery areas are generally smaller, and I found that this results in less deadhead miles.
    • Parking Ticket Reimbursement Program (!).

    The overarching theme with Caviar delivery is that they have built a system around making things less stressful for their couriers. It seems like they are really trying to address a lot of the pain points that couriers face while out doing deliveries with this set-up.

    As a customer, sure it’s nice to be able to order from any restaurant on the face of the planet, but when the courier shows up and the restaurant is closed on Tuesdays or only takes cash and you have to cancel the order, who do you think eats that cost?  The courier.  

    That creates a poor experience for all parties involved, but as a courier, it’s the little things that will really start to add up over time.

    It’s nice that Caviar has some courier-friendly features and only works with partner restaurants since that means no menacing looks, no wasted time and potentially a smoother pick-up process.

    Caviar Driver Pay

    Since Caviar typically services higher-end restaurants, Caviar delivery drivers can expect more expensive orders. This means drivers will typically earn more per request and more in tips.

    In our full breakdown answering the question ‘how much do Caviar drivers make‘, we found you can expect to earn $20-22 per hour as a Caviar delivery driver.

    Caviar Sign-up Bonus

    Right now, Caviar is offering referral bonuses for new drivers, although the bonuses do depend on where you live. Make sure to sign up with a referral code to get your bonus!

    Caviar Delivery Signup Process

    The signup process is actually pretty easy and it’s a lot shorter than other services that I’ve signed up for in the past. You’ll need to go here to create an account and enter in all of your pertinent information. Once you submit the form, you should receive an email inviting you to an orientation. Mine showed up within a few minutes. Then all you need to do is reply back and select a time.

    Landing Signup Page

    Step 1: Fill out this form and hit submit.

     

    Step 2: Check your email. You will be given dates and times available for orientation.

    Step 2: Check your email. You will be given dates and times available for orientation within a few minutes.

     

    Step 3. Bring all of this stuff to orientation.

    Step 3: Bring all of this stuff to orientation.

    When you go to the orientation, you fill out some more forms on your phone to authorize a background check, give them your bank information so you can get paid, and learn how to use the app. Make sure you bring a photo ID, the smartphone you plan to use, a copy of your vehicle insurance policy, license plate number (if driving) or a picture of your bike (if biking).

    The sign-up process may be slightly different in some places, but Caviar support says that most of the major steps are the same. If you have trouble figuring it out, you can simply respond to any email from Caviar and it will be routed directly to the local support handle for that city.

    Caviar Courier Orientation

    Depending on where you live, your Caviar courier orientation may be in person or remote. Right now, we would assume all Caviar onboarding will be done virtually, although when we first signed up in San Francisco, we did onboard in person.

    Caviar delivery orientation

    Kyle stuck around to answer questions about doing Caviar delivery at the end of the session.

    After introductions, everyone filled out a form to authorize our background checks, added any applicable information around our vehicles, and provided bank information for the inevitable 1099. Typical on-boarding stuff. We then delved into the meat and potatoes of the Caviar delivery orientation. Here is what we covered:

    • Coverage Area: Kyle showed us the coverage area for San Francisco, which was actually pretty small compared to other services. As a driver, I actually prefer this since it means less deadheading. I don’t want to end-up driving 15 miles outside of the city to earn $10 or $15 and then drive back empty handed. Most of Caviar’s coverage areas in San Francisco seem to focus on areas of high population and restaurant density, so think big urban areas.  In other cities, it should be the same.
      SF coverage area

      The coverage area for Caviar in SF is focused on the busiest areas.

    • Income: From our experience, Caviar drivers will earn around $20-22 depending on when and where they drive. Caviar said you could earn up to $25, which is actually pretty close to what we’ve found.
    • Tipping:  Caviar drivers keep 100% of their tips.
    • Scheduling; There’s no longer any shift scheduling with Caviar. Simply move your slider to ‘online’ and you’re live!
    • When/Where to drive: Kyle showed us a graph showing the relative volume of orders by time and day. As one might expect, the most popular times are lunch and dinner with very few orders at breakfast. Orders spike on the weekends and Sunday is their busiest day in San Francisco. We were also shown a heat map juxtaposed on Caviar’s partner restaurants to show that the vast majority of activity occurs in the Mission, FiDi, SOMA, and Marina. No surprise there.
    • You Need a Hot/Cold Delivery Bag: You will need to have a Hot/Cold delivery bag in order to operate on Caviar. It cannot display the logo of another delivery company, and you can buy a Caviar branded bag between $5 and $25.

    Is Driving for Caviar Worth It?

    Below, I’ll review what it’s like to be a Caviar delivery driver and whether or not driving for Caviar is worth it. First, what it’s like accepting and delivering food:

    As I noted before, Caviar doesn’t have a particularly large footprint, even in Silicon Valley. I had to drive up the Peninsula to a location where I could reasonably expect an order. I drove to Palo Alto and waited. Finally, I received my first order.

    C:UsersscumaPicturesSaved PicturesCaviarIMG_7372.PNG

    I clicked on the order notification and received instructions to go to Sancho’s Taqueria. The app showed the restaurant address, the neighborhood of the delivery, and a highly simplified map of the distance between the two. It also showed me my expected earnings ($7.50), which included my base pay ($5.67), peak pay extra ($0.34), and (not shown) an expected/already submitted tip of $1.49. I LOVE the transparent breakdown of my earnings.

    C:UsersscumaPicturesSaved PicturesCaviarIMG_7373.PNG

    Immediately I found the phrasing of ‘expected earnings’ questionable. Am I going to make $7.50 or not? If it’s base pay + tips later, ok. If you already know the customer tipped, tell me!

    At the bottom, I held the blue stripe for about two seconds to confirm the order.

    Upon creating the directions via a hyperlink to Google Maps, I drove the short distance to the restaurant.

    Here’s one way that the Caviar process differs from the others. I don’t go in there and say, “Hi, I have an order for ‘X’”, I actually call out the number, “I’m with Caviar for #46481”. Is it better? Is it worse? Neither. Just unique.

    Upon pickup I received a notification about delivery instructions.

    I Google mapped to the locations and arrived at 777 Hamilton Avenue. But…where’s 777? I saw 775 on the corner, but no 777. I called the customer, “Hey, I’m outside 775. Is this a duplex?”

    “What? I’m at a big apartment complex. I’m in the nearest building and I’ll come down when you arrive.”

    “I’m on a residential street with single-family homes.”

    “Are you at the 777 Hamilton Apartments?”

    “I’m at….oh, I’m at 777 Hamilton Ave.”

    “I’m at these new apartments and I’m not from around here, so I can’t really tell you where I am.”

    GAH! The app link to the address didn’t match the ACTUAL address. This happens from time to time on DoorDash, though usually with restaurants. Bummer that it happened on my very first Caviar order. I eventually figured it out and drove an additional 10 minutes to the correct address. The remainder of the dropoff finished without a hitch.

    Ten minutes later, I received my second order.

    C:UsersscumaPicturesSaved PicturesCaviarIMG_7384.PNG

    This order also highlighted my expected earnings ($9.55), which would include base pay ($7.13) plus Peak Pay ($0.49) and a tip. I completed this second order and received this notification

    C:UsersscumaPicturesSaved PicturesCaviarIMG_7389.PNG

    After a couple of hours of light volume, I finished up with a rather large order from Teaspoon. Again, the upside with expected earnings was a lucrative $15.47, although only $9.40 was guaranteed.

    Once completed, I signed out.

    C:UsersscumaPicturesSaved PicturesCaviarIMG_7405.PNG

    Driving for Caviar in San Francisco

    When we drove for Caviar in San Francisco, we found San Francisco Caviar couriers can earn up to $25/hour – excluding tips. The schedule was very easy to set and Caviar is highly transparent with earnings, pick up and drop off locations before you accept each assignment.

    You can read more here about our experience delivering for Caviar in San Francisco.

    How Much Money Did I Make with Caviar?

    The next morning, I reviewed my earnings.

    Ah! Exactly what I was concerned about. The Expected Earnings teased upon order acceptance weren’t always realized.

    Here’s the problem. While there might be a precedent for customer tip amounts, it’s not guaranteed and I don’t appreciate Caviar overselling my earning potential! Furthermore, looking at this from the corporate perspective, isn’t it risky to list each individual’s tip amount?

    If a driver knows they got stiffed on a seven-drink, 17-minutes away order the previous night, what happens if the same customer orders again tomorrow? Isn’t there at least a small chance a driver would make a snide comment, or worse, upon a future delivery? I wonder about these things.

    First day earnings:

    5:29-9:36pm

    4.1 hours on the clock

    2.5 hours on delivery

    5 deliveries

    $58.16 total earned

    $14.19/hour

    Yikes. Not a great first day. But as I kept delivering and working at different times, my earnings did go up and I found myself consistently earning at least $20/hour.

    In-App Dispatch Team

    I only needed to contact Caviar’s support one time while doing my deliveries. If you click on the message icon in the bottom left of the app, you can send a message for support while on a delivery via SMS. When I contacted their support, it took less than a minute to get a response from a live person.

    Parking Ticket Reimbursement Program

    Caviar has a parking ticket reimbursement program in most markets. For every 100 deliveries you do, you are eligible to submit one parking ticket. You start off with a ticket credit and if you use it before your first 100 deliveries, you will get another credit when you hit 100. You cannot stack them for each 100 rides.

    The program is different in each market, but here’s a sample of how it works in San Francisco.

    I’ll Definitely Be Doing More Deliveries for Caviar

    From the orders I did, they paid out more than what I would have made given time and distance as an Uber or Lyft driver. It is a different game, though, and there will be a learning curve at first just like with any job. I found that a lot of the experience depends on analyzing your jobs’ locations before accepting them and making a decision based on the details. You don’t get paid extra for taking longer, so the faster you can get the job done, the better for everyone.

    Ops were seamless and smooth and there were literally no problems with restaurants/customers. Text messages to Caviar delivery support were answered in under a minute.

    The entire experience was mostly stress-free, with the exception of traffic and parking in tight areas. Even these were less stressful because wherever I parked my car, it was only there for a few moments due to the fast restaurant fulfillment.

    I also enjoyed driving around without passengers looking over my shoulder or forcing a conversation while I blasted my radio as loud as I wanted. I kind of felt like I got my car back.

    Considering the pay and ease of experience, I am going to do some more runs, except this time on a scooter or motorcycle since the operations costs will be MUCH lower than Uber or Lyft and I will get more money. 

    If you would like to deliver with Caviar, you can signup using our link here.

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    Readers, what do you think of Caviar and would you drive for them?

    -RSG Team

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    Christian Perea

    Christian Perea

    In 2014, Christian left his job at a mental health center to drive full time for Lyft and Uber. Since then, he has driven for mostly Lyft with a little bit of Sidecar and Postmates thrown in for experimentation and Uber when he doesn't feel like talking to people. He likes to talk about Politics and Economics over a good beer to whoever will listen to him.