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Giorgio’s corner: July-August 2016

Is your pizzeria getting ‘Uberfied’?


June 30, 2016
By Giorgio Taverniti

Topics

You either love Uber or you hate it. This is the feedback I receive from clients and friends alike.

I jumped on the Uber wagon very quickly, not only as a rider but also as a business owner. Through a delivery app called UberEATS, I have been able to expand my business to more clients, so it must be a win-win situation, right? Not exactly.

Although I embrace technology and the new applications it has offered through delivery companies like Uber and DoorDash, I am noticing the ripple effect of this double-edged sword.

I appreciate the services Uber provides to business owners to expand their clientele base. It’s an ideal solution to use this service to deliver to the clients your usual mode of transportation can’t serve. I would love to be able to deliver to everyone who calls in, but it’s not possible and I just don’t have the staff to go outside of my delivery area. I also don’t want to compromise the quality of the food being delivered by overextending myself and having it arrive later than normal or, in the worst-case scenario, having it arrive cold! Horrible!

Uber maximizes my delivery area and delivery times. This is a perfect solution, I thought, without seeing a potential downside to this amazing new app. After a couple of months, I started to experience difficulties in my business from being what I call “Uberfied.”

Delivery orders are a huge part of my business and I need delivery drivers for this part of my pizzeria to be successful. A great delivery driver who has a clean driving record, a friendly personality and likes their job is not easy to find right off the bat. However, the resumés usually pour right in – at least they did until our society became Uberfied.

Before Uber, I used to place ads for a pizza delivery driver on forums such as Kijiji, Facebook and Instagram and receive hundreds of resumés and calls within minutes. My inbox and voice messages would overflow with people wanting the job. My latest attempt to find a new driver was quite the opposite experience. I received barely a trickle of interest over four days: five people in four days. I was shocked. Could this mean people no longer look for driving jobs?

Then the pieces of the puzzle started to fall into place: Uber! All the potential drivers are being swayed by the advantages of working for transportation networks like Uber, which give drivers the chance to “be your own boss.” Driving for these companies is convenient for workers because they choose their own work schedules; they work when they want to and not when someone else tells them to. Because a driver can maximize profit by driving for several companies, their earning potential is never capped. There are no extra duties, such as helping with the dishes or cleaning the floors. Some of these companies can even add promised gratuities to the bill so drivers are guaranteed a tip.

These delivery services may offer workers opportunities, but how do they affect pizzerias that count on finding their own loyal drivers?

Although my pizzeria has benefited from the UberEATS app, those benefits did not come without a cost. It is simply not possible for me, an independent small business owner, to compete or match the earning potential and advantages an Uber driver can receive versus what they’d receive as my pizza delivery driver. I need drivers to work on specific days with set times based on my busiest periods. I cannot guarantee a tip, nor do I charge a delivery fee to my clients. My drivers can definitely earn income elsewhere as long as it doesn’t affect the days they have committed to my company. I am their boss and I may occasionally ask them to work later, start earlier or even help out with other small duties. The one thing I most definitely can guarantee is a free hot meal.

After discovering this minefield, I’ve taken steps to ensure I will not be without a loyal driver. I now not only post the positions on every social media platform but also advertise using old-fashioned methods like word of mouth and a sign in the window. This enables me to truly maximize my search and hopefully find local and loyal candidates.

The right candidates aren’t going to be swayed by the big-gun benefits. Instead they are looking to work for one solid, family-run business that offers set hours and pay and has a friendly atmosphere. I make sure they find in my pizzeria a business that is safe, stable, cares about every employee and ensures they receive a hot meal every night!


Giorgio Taverniti owns Frank’s Pizza House in Toronto, which has been in his family since 1990. A graduate of George Brown College’s culinary management and Italian culinary programs, Giorgio helped found a popular pizza-making workshop at the college and ran it for three years.