- "It wasn't meant to be this way," says owner Dallas Gilpin of the Dutch Ale House in Saugerties. "It's been tough."
Now, as they sanitize everything within an inch of its life and put the final touches on their socially distanced dining plans, our Hudson Valley restaurateurs report that offering delivery has been a decidedly mixed experience. If their insights offer any clue, it's that that the mega-corporate, gig-economy model of delivery hasn't measured up to the standards food pros expect of themselves and their in-house staff.
The shortage of drivers and the ample coverage area resulted in epically long wait times. “You get an order on the phone and they ask how long it will take, you tell them 20 minutes, and when you click ‘done,’ that’s when they start looking for a driver,” says Hot. “So the driver says OK, but then they’re 20 minutes away, and if it takes them another 20 minutes to get to the customer, you could be looking at a dish that has been sitting for nearly an hour. That’s never going to be the same as hot and fresh.”
- Pandorica will be opening for socially distanced dine-in on June 26.
Hot finally closed for a brief time, to give herself a chance to deep-clean and rearrange Pandorica for socially distanced dining. But she’s planning to continue offering delivery, even after the pandemic abates and customers—quite a few of whom journey long distances to visit the timey-wimey restaurant—can once again come into Pandorica to experience its unique charms. But she'll probably still consider sending you an afternoon tea spread. "I am hoping things will calm a bit and GrubHub will get smoother,” she says. “I think delivery is a service people have come to want.”
- "I was an 'essential' business and I could have been having people inside, but I stuck with curbside to keep everyone safe," says Rashid Chambers of Grinds and Grains.
“We started working with them at the beginning of the pandemic, and it’s been helpful the last couple of months,” he says. “It cost us 10 percent, which is a good deal, and it just made sense. They deliver for around 80 percent of the New Paltz places, and being local, they get here within 15-20 minutes and get it to the customer in just a few more. With GrubHub, the guy wouldn’t come to the door—I had to go to his car—and then they'd forget something. With Carry-Out Kings, no issues.”
Beyond the hyperlocal advantage, Chambers’ positive experience with Carry Out Kings reflects the advantages of treating delivery as an important business in itself, rather than being farmed out to less-accountable and seriously underpaid gig workers dividing their time between multiple large corporate masters for survival’s sake. A help wanted ad posted by Carry Out Kings in May required five years of food service experience and the aptitude to fully master customer service, ordering software, and dispatch skills.
- At the Flatiron in Red Hook, owner Jessica Stingo sent her own staff out on delivery missions.
At the Flatiron Steak House in Red Hook, owner Jessica Stingo had her staff handle deliveries themselves. “I’d rather keep it in house,” she says. “Those services take like 30 percent. Doordash delivered for us for free when someone requested our food, but they never updated the menus, and our menu has been changing three times a week during this. It just wasn't working out.”
Having a staff member deliver was handier, and Stingo was happy to see her own people collect the tips. But she’s not sure she’ll continue to bother with delivery, which has been about a quarter of her pandemic business, for much longer. “We’ve been thinking hard about that and whether it will make sense to pull somebody away for one or two orders when we are opened up inside," she says. “We may have to up the minimum a little bit. It will probably not be something we can do at 7pm if we’re slammed.”