Canadian Pizza Magazine

Keeping your drivers safe

By By Julie Fitz-Gerald Canadian Pizza   

Features Business and Operations Delivery annex delivery driver safety julie fitzgerald pizza delivery driver

Safety is a big concern for pizzeria delivery drivers. Here is some valuable advice from operators and the police on how to keep your drivers safe this summer.
Whether it’s a hectic weeknight packed with after-school activities or a big game day filled with excitement and hungry friends, piping hot pizza delivered right to the front door is always a customer favourite. Delivery accounts for a large portion of the pie in this business, making the job of the delivery driver that much more important.

For pizza delivery drivers, safety is perhaps their biggest concern. An unfamiliar neighbourhood, a darkened house, a gut feeling that something isn’t right – these all represent real safety issues for your delivery drivers and for good reason. Canada has seen its fair share of violent pizza delivery robberies and even murders. In June, a 17-year-old Winnipeg boy was sentenced as an adult to life in prison for murdering 54-year-old pizza delivery driver Gerald Crayford after demanding that he hand over money and his cellphone. When Crayford tried to escape, the boy knocked him to the ground and hit him twice in the head with the blunt end of an axe. In July, two 21-year-old men in Nova Scotia were arrested and charged with first-degree murder in the 2010 shooting death of 27-year-old pizza delivery driver Donald Chad Smith.

Clearly, the safety concerns of delivery drivers are warranted, and as a pizzeria owner, it is your responsibility to ensure that proper procedures and training are in place to promote the safety of your drivers. Constable Victor Kwong, media relations officer with Toronto Police Services, says that in Canada’s largest city, robberies are the main crime against pizza
delivery drivers.

“When we say robberies, according to the law, it means the theft of something with force. That force can either be used or implied,” Kwong explains.

Kwong says there are a few things that can be done to promote delivery driver safety. “Make sure they’re checking in: that someone back at the office knows where their next delivery is. Other things include carrying only enough change [for the transaction] and if you do find yourself in the process of being robbed, it’s only money. Everyone has to judge their situation to their own abilities. However much money that pizza person has on hand is not going to be worth his or her life.”

At Agostino’s Pizzeria in Winnipeg, owner Agostino “Gus” Mauro has been making pizza for 30 years. To reinforce the safety of his delivery drivers, Mauro has several protocols in place, including the use of cellphones and mobile debit/credit machines for each driver. By using a mobile payment system, Mauro’s drivers no longer have large quantities of cash on them at any given time. If they do reach $500 in cash, they must return to the store to “cash in” before continuing their deliveries. “The mobile debit and credit has been a big hit for us. Ninety-nine per cent of our business is with mobile payments now,” he says.

With constant communication between the store and his drivers, Mauro knows where every driver is at all times, adding another layer of security. “They phone us after they’ve done their deliveries. If they’re not back in 20 minutes or so, our girl on the phone will call to see where they are.”

While the use of new payment technologies and constant communication are important factors in your delivery driver’s safety, age-old safety tips should not be overlooked. “We tell all our customers, especially at night, to leave the light on. And I tell my drivers that if they don’t feel comfortable going in, don’t go. I’ve been doing this since 1984 and we’ve never had a theft that way,” explains Mauro.

One of Canada’s leading pizza chains, Domino’s Pizza, also takes their delivery drivers’ safety very seriously. Cheryl Tower, director of corporate affairs for Domino’s Pizza of Canada, provided Canadian Pizza magazine with some of the ways that the company promotes driver safety.

“Keeping our people safe is the other area we focus on, not only by training them to be alert for diving hazards on the road, but how to keep themselves safe from crime. We don’t allow our drivers to carry a lot of cash. With a number of people using our online ordering system (which keeps growing), many of our customers are beginning to pay by credit card, further reducing the amount of cash our drivers carry. They are also not allowed to wear excessive jewelry, which could make them a target.”

The nationwide pizza chain also discourages its drivers from entering customers’ homes, regardless of the weather, and from leaving their vehicles if the delivery address is unlit or appears to be abandoned. “We would much rather deal with an angry customer wondering why their pizza is late versus putting our team members in danger.”

In our increasingly tech-savvy world, many pizzerias now use POS systems to track orders and map delivery routes. It is also a handy way to verify that phone numbers and addresses match up, a technique that Domino’s Pizza uses as an additional layer of security. “With today’s technology, we can tie a phone number to an address. If the address on the screen is different from the one the customer is giving to us, we treat it as an indicator that there might be an issue, so our team members are taught to verify the reason for the discrepancy.”

Despite best efforts, dangerous incidents can still occur. If one of your delivery drivers is the victim of a robbery, there are a few important steps to remember. “Life preservation is the first thing: getting out of that situation and then calling police,” says Constable Kwong. “If there is any type of evidence that can be forwarded to us, definitely maintain that evidence, meaning do not touch it. That could be as simple as the guy handing over some money to draw out the delivery driver’s wallet. If he still has that bill on him, don’t touch it anymore. We can use that for fingerprinting. Anything that’s evidence, try not to handle. And always call police from a safe location.”

Kwong also encourages pizzerias to share intelligence amongst one another regarding problem addresses or places where a robbery has occurred. “Sharing intelligence amongst even your competitors will only go to help each other,” he says.

Domino’s Pizza agrees and is prepared to act if a situation arises. “It’s rare, but if there is an incident against delivery drivers in an area (ours or one of our competitors), we will work with local law enforcement to determine if the area is safe or if we should curtail delivery. Our goal is to sell and deliver pizza to anyone who wants it, but sometimes we can’t due to safety concerns. Thankfully, those situations are very rare.”

By having a safety plan in place, you can be confident that your delivery drivers are secure while out delivering mouthwatering meals to the masses.

Julie Fitz-Gerald is a freelance writer and editor based in Uxbridge, Ont., and a regular contributor to Canadian Pizza magazine.

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