Business and Operations
Delivering a profit
By Tom Stankiewicz
By Tom Stankiewicz
If deliveries are the bulk of your business, you’ll recognize how much you depend on your drivers to complete sales.
If deliveries are the bulk of your business, you’ll recognize how much you depend on your drivers to complete sales. You might have a pretty busy pick-up time, depending on where your store is located, but if you’re like many pizzerias, it’s delivery that is driving your business the most.
Delivering pizza has come a long way. I’m sure everyone has heard stories about deliveries done by bicycles, or seen old black and white photographs of the original owners personally delivering pizzas on their bikes 50 years ago. It’s safe to say that times have changed and the car has become the timely vehicle of choice, although with it comes a host of challenges with cars and drivers.
I have learned from conversations with my fellow pizzaiolos that there is more than one way to pay your drivers. Some hire them as regular employees, while others hire them as contract drivers. Some choose to pay them an hourly wage plus tips; others pay them per delivery plus tips. It really depends on what works best for your business and what your sales volumes are. For example, if your sales volumes are at the low end, you might have difficulty finding someone who would agree to being paid by delivery. It sounds very cost efficient for you, but it is not realistic for someone who is trying to earn money.
It is also important to consider what type of car the driver or your business intends to use for pizza deliveries. From my experience, drivers who have the most fuel-efficient cars tend to stay employed for the longest time. For example, a vehicle that has a four-cylinder engine is more practical for short and frequent deliveries than one with a six-cylinder engine. I always ask my new drivers what type of car they plan to use for the deliveries. I also ask if they have used the vehicle for this type of work before. If it turns out that it is someone who has a very fuel-inefficient vehicle and has never done deliveries before, I take time to explain to them the potential downfalls of the job. I have learned through experience that many people don’t realize how much money they will have to spend on fuel. They only think about how much money they will earn each day and hope for high tips from customers. The fluctuating price of fuel can take quite a bite out of a delivery driver’s paycheque. It will be interesting to see what the future pizza delivery vehicle will look like. More car companies are getting ready to produce hybrid and electric cars, and it seems like consumers are willing to buy them. This could lead to another evolution for pizza businesses, especially for pizza deliveries, as environmentally friendly vehicles become more pervasive in society. It will be a good change though: better for the environment and leaving more money in the pockets of the delivery drivers.
The reason I ask these questions is because sometimes, individuals will work for two weeks at the most and then quit, because by the time they subtract the fuel cost, it no longer makes sense for them to do it. For me, as a business owner, it saves time to not bother having to train someone who I know will not last more than two weeks. It allows me to concentrate on someone who will potentially work for me for a few months or longer. Overall, I have been lucky with my delivery drivers. Some of them have worked for me for years. At the same time, there are others who left after a few weeks or months, and the cycle of endless hiring never stops. It is one of those jobs that must exist to sustain our businesses, but unfortunately, individuals often seek it out as an extra bit of money or an emergency stop until something better comes along.
The last – but probably most important – thing that each business owner needs to discuss with his or her drivers is the driving itself. A valid licence and car insurance is an obvious must. However, it is also worthwhile to talk about the laws and basic rules of driving. You might be surprised how many people assume that the laws don’t apply to them because they are delivering a pizza to a customer. While it is true that we want them to be fast and efficient, the safety of everyone is the most important. Each employee needs to be reminded that speeding is against the law for a reason. It’s okay if it takes five minutes longer to complete your delivery. As the saying goes, “It’s better to be safe than sorry.”
Tom Stankiewicz has been in the pizza business for more than 15 years. He has been the proprietor of Bondi’s Pizza in London, Ont., since 2000 and is president of the Canadian Pizza Team.