Do Restaurants Push Delivery Drivers Orders Back?

Here at The Rideshare Guy, we take reader questions seriously, so when one DoorDash reader reached out to us about delivery orders getting pushed back, we had to look into it. Do some restaurants delay service for DoorDashers, Postmates couriers and others in favor of their own delivery orders? RSG contributor and Dasher extraordinaire Dash Bridges investigated and shared his findings, plus more Dashing tips, below.

We recently received a question from one of our fans on Twitter asking us whether or not restaurants are pushing delivery orders back in favor of other customers or higher priority orders. Here’s what this reader specifically asked:

‘Have you ever heard of restaurants, chain restaurants in particular, pushing delivery orders back, sometimes indefinitely?’

Wow! If this is really true, it’s a pretty steep claim. I’m a frequent visitor to the SF Bay Area Dasher Facebook groups. There are a lot of wild and infuriating stories out there, but luckily I haven’t experienced a lot of the extreme behavior reported. However, I have 4500+ deliveries to my name so I’ve seen a few things. Let’s explore what the reader said.

First: I’ve never seen nor read about a restaurant purposely holding back delivery platform orders as policy, for any reason. Nor have I seen behavior suggesting a restaurant would ice a specific Dasher. Restaurant management knows that Dashers check in on our apps when we accept an order, arrive at the restaurant and leave the restaurant. We have the receipts. Literally!

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4 Reasons Why Your Delivery Order Might be Late, Forgotten or Cancelled by Restaurants

However, there might be scenarios where delivery orders are deemphasized or underattended.

  1. Restaurant is understaffed or overly busy. Dealing with faceless DD support or grumpy Dashers is preferable to attending to inconvenienced diners. The in-house staff is watching! Their tips are dependent on a good experience, including reasonable food waits. I’ve arrived at a popular local restaurant only to have the manger approach me and say, “We’re too busy. We turned off our tablet. We’re not filling your order,” and I had to deal with the fallout.
  2. Technology. Tablets malfunction. Wi-Fi goes down. The DD app crashes (if it crashes on restaurants as often as it crashes on me…God help them!). Last month, I walked into a restaurant to learn my order wasn’t processed. Why? The FAX MACHINE they use to receive orders ran out of toner. The new employee had to wait for the owner to come over and replace the cartridge.
  3. Poor process/new process. DoorDash orders arrive differently than ones taken by a waiter. If there’s untrained staff anywhere along the process chain, orders can fall between the cracks, particularly if it’s a manual process. It’s uncommon, but it’s happened to me dozens of times over the years. “Order for Ramona, let’s seeeeeeee…(checks normal place, checks 2nd place, checks tablet, talks quietly to a colleague, types furiously, pulls a new printout)…. we’re making it. It’s gonna be a few minutes.” Depending on my own circumstances, I may wait or cancel my assignment. Another Dasher will come by later.
  4. Systematic deemphasis. As I understand, DoorDash takes up to 25% of the retail value of orders from the restaurants. So a $14.99 bento box only earns $11.24 when ordered through DD. Managers may instruct staff to defer to in-house orders first, and then work on deliveries. My impression is that Managers on duty just want to push orders through and avoid problems. Note: this is not the same as a personal slight or petty power move on behalf of a restaurant manager vs. a Dasher.

We Dashers spend a lot of time in our car, by ourselves, with just the app directing us where to go. There’s a lot of time to get into our own heads and think, “The app is mad at me because I declined the previous two orders.” “This hostess hates Dashers because she doesn’t make tips off of us. Etc. Etc.” With all due respect to our concerned reader, this isn’t the Karate Kid. The Kobra Kai restaurant managers aren’t messing with us just because they don’t like us. Side note: If you see the restaurant manager in the restroom stall, don’t do this.

What Can You Expect in Terms of Delivery Times as a Delivery Driver?

Thinking about the restaurants I pick up from, I reviewed past shifts and wrote down my last 100 completed deliveries. Those 100 deliveries included:

  • 69 different restaurants
  • 53 one visit only
  • 26 single-location privately owned
  • Locations with more than three visits:
  • Chipotle – 7 visits
  • Asian Box (California fast casual Asian street food chain) – 6 visits
  • Armadillo Willy’s (family sit-down BBQ chain) – 4 visits
  • Panda Express – 4 visits

The point is, I visit a huge variety of restaurants over any particular time period. Among my list of frequented locations, I can go to restaurants like Cheesecake Factory, which has a bad Dasher reputation, and have a good experience. When I started in 2015, I probably averaged (averaged!) a 10-minute wait at CCF. Now the average is closer to 4 minutes. Among all my restaurants, there are more ready-upon-arrival orders now than at any time in the past. That saved time now goes into increased driving distances, but we’ll tackle that issue another time.

Of course, there are other restaurant locations that are awful and remain awful. Even different restaurants in the same chain within the same region can vary. I can’t provide a blanket list of who’s good and who’s bad. It’s completely local, and doesn’t matter if it’s fast food, fast casual, local sit-down or a national chain. It’s based on that location’s management competency.

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Tips for Delivery Drivers to Maximize Their Time on the Road

Here are a few delivery assignments I try to avoid when dashing:

  1. Anchor restaurants at malls during dinner/weekends. The combination of full parking lots and possible long food waits usually overshadows the modestly-increased guarantee.
  2. Restaurants inside a mall food court. Similar to above, though you replace the long food waits with long walks inside the building.
  3. Fast food places when bars close. Have you ever tried to order Jack in the Box at 1:45 am? The drive-thru lines are insane!
  4. Pizza during sporting events. Pizzas are made to order and you can’t speed up the long cooking process. High possibility of serious delays.

Here’s what I see when I receive a particular order. With my experience, I can glance at it and quickly determine if it’s a decent order or a problematic one. For this order above, I look at:

  1. What’s my guarantee? $8.93. OK, not bad.
  2. What’s my experience been with this restaurant? AW’s has usually been pretty quick.
  3. Order size? Two items. Small, although at BBQ places, sometimes an ‘item’ is a $30 meal, but generally two items isn’t a lot of food, and therefore won’t lead to a tip that usurps the guarantee.
  4. Distance? 8.5 miles seems like a lot, but this was a weekend evening, and most of the route is on the freeway. That’s better than 8 miles of city streets.
  5. Also, I’m very close to the restaurant already, so mentally I’m  encouraged to simply accept and knock this order out.

For every order I receive, I run these factors through my head. Usually I find enough upside to accept. I accept more orders than necessary. I could be choosier if I wanted. And I’m not always right, but my quick analysis usually helps me avoid some bad decisions.

As I mentioned earlier, Dasher Facebook groups are a great resource to hear about bad restaurants and other experiences—good, bad, and hysterical. I encourage you to join yours. If there isn’t one in your town, start one!

Thank you for tipping in cash. Drive safely, everyone!

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