Business and Operations
The Pizza Chef: Company delivery vehicles
By Diana Coutu
Good or bad?
By Diana Coutu
Long time readers of this magazine may recall a column of mine from
2007 about our experience lending a company vehicle to an assistant
manager who then totalled the vehicle in less than two months.
Long time readers of this magazine may recall a column of mine from 2007 about our experience lending a company vehicle to an assistant manager who then totalled the vehicle in less than two months. At the time we thought that this young man appreciated our generosity in providing him with a fully insured car. All he had to do was maintain it and fill it with gas. We thought wrong. To make matters worse, this former employee lied and attempted to cover-up a late night accident. This left our company holding the stink bag and a vehicle that had to be junked. We vowed to never again have company cars for anyone other than the owners.
Earlier this year at the World Pizza Championship Games in Italy, my husband and I had the opportunity to spend time with Michael Shepherd, our good friend on the World Pizza Champions team. We couldn’t help but talk about business and eventually we landed on the topic of delivery vehicles and sharing our story. It was a good debate. Shepherd has four company delivery vehicles and said that he wanted more. As owners, we already know that delivery drivers get the best deal. They don’t work in the hot kitchen, they (usually) don’t make any of the food, but they get to keep any tips from all the in-store staff’s hard work. Even with the cushy job, some drivers try to call the shots and refuse to take the far deliveries, insisting they will only take the close ones. Even though Shepherd’s in Ohio and we’re in Manitoba, we’ve experienced the same issues with drivers.
Both our companies have delivery fees that are paid by the customer. In our case, the money goes to the delivery driver to offset the costs of running and maintaining a vehicle. In Shepherd’s case, he keeps the money and it pays for the delivery vehicles. It’s the same money, only more of it stays in his bank account, which helps as cash flow is king. Shepherd sent us a spreadsheet he designed to help us figure out if it made economic sense for our company.
Two weeks after our return from Italy we leased a 2009 Toyota Yaris. Definitely not an exciting vehicle, but it wasn’t purchased for thrills. We needed a vehicle that’s reliable, good on gas and fairly inexpensive. After some research we felt the Yaris was a great fit. Learning from our past mistakes, we created a delivery vehicle inspection checklist which is completed every shift. If anything is out of place or damaged we know about it right away. We also made it clear that it’s not for personal use, and the only time it’s leaving the pizzeria parking lot is for company business.
Next we purchased a GPS trackstick for our Yaris. This is a little device that is kept in the car and records any and all movement, speed, distance and location. On one side there is a USB key that you plug into any computer and download the data held on the trackstick. It works in conjunction with Google Earth, which is very cool when you see it on the monitor. For a few hundred dollars we can see in an instant where the car went and how fast it was going. Are your employees driving recklessly? Do they know where they are going or are they getting lost? Are they picking up their friends along the way? Are they going through a drive-thru while on the clock? No more mysteries. This little device tells you everything you want to know and more.
The next thing we’ll do is have the vehicle wrapped bumper to bumper so it serves as a rolling billboard. This is a great asset for independents. Typically we don’t have the budget for billboards, TV and radio ads, but for the cost of one radio campaign you can have your vehicle wrapped and seen over and over again in the neighbourhoods you already service, as opposed to radio or TV where you have no control over who hears it. It might not do your company any good if it’s someone listening on the other side of town.
Some independents may be tempted to lease themselves a company vehicle. Hey, you work hard, don’t you deserve it? Of course you do, but the point of a delivery vehicle is that it’s used for deliveries and it’s out there on the road being seen. Many chains lease vehicles for the store managers, but you have to wonder what good a wrapped vehicle is doing parked behind their pizzeria for the majority of the day. As independents we need to utilize every asset we have. In our case a company delivery vehicle made good economic sense.
Diana Coutu is a two-time Canadian Pizza Magazine chef of the year champion, internationally recognized gourmet pizzaiolo, co-owner of Diana’s Gourmet Pizzeria in Winnipeg and a board of director for the CRFA. In addition to creating award-winning recipes, Diana is also a consultant to other independent pizzeria owner/operators in menu development, creating systems to run a pizzeria on autopilot, along with marketing and positioning to help operators grow their business effectively and strategically. She is available for consulting on a limited basis, for more information contact her at Diana@dianasgourmetpizzeria.ca .