How to Hire, Train and Retain Better Pizza Delivery Drivers in COVID-19 Era

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has changed how Americans get their food. Since March 2020, the demand for food delivery has been skyrocketing as more consumers stay in and stay safe. Now, with the first-ever coronavirus winter looming large on the horizon, pizza chains should prepare for an even greater surge in delivery orders as the cold weather keeps many more people at home.

Of course, high demand for delivery isn’t just restricted to pizza chains—or even the food industry as a whole. Nearly every business that transacts physical goods will be seeing higher delivery orders, especially as the holiday season picks up. Globally, online holiday sales are predicted to be 30% higher this year due to the pandemic, putting delivery processes under heavy strain.

Related: Nearly 90% of customers now order restaurant delivery

In short, your restaurant needs to get its delivery hiring and training in high gear ASAP to compete this winter. Even with high unemployment, it’s expected that finding quality delivery drivers will be difficult given the need in every industry. Here are a few ways to prepare your business to handle this extraordinary increase to delivery demand.

1. Increase your compensation and benefits. Unemployment is high, but for delivery drivers and workers, it’s a buyer’s market. With so many businesses looking to shore up their seasonal employees, applicants will have their pick of companies and will gravitate toward the ones that offer the most competitive hourly rates and other benefits.

Fortunately, your local pizza shop will mostly have to compete with other local businesses hiring these workers. Take stock of what your competition is offering for hourly rates and prepare to match them as closely as possible. In high-demand cities like Los Angeles, hourly rates range from $12 to $27. Restaurants have an additional advantage since their delivery drivers can typically accept tips as opposed to other delivery-focused industries, such as a driver for UPS.

While pay is one of the strongest motivating factors for applicants, there are other benefits your business can mention in your job listing. Can you offer free meals? How about scholarship opportunities for students? What is your paid-time-off and sick-day policy? Are there opportunities to move up in your business?

For example, Papa John’s often includes these benefits in their job descriptions:

  • Career growth
  • Schedule flexibility
  • Cross-training
  • Free meals

Talking up your company’s benefits can help you secure more applicants even if your rates aren’t the highest in town.

2. Hire quickly, but strategically. With such high demand for delivery workers, it’s more important than ever to get a head start and hire as quickly as possible. When businesses take more than 14 days from receiving an application to making a hire, that leads to a steep drop-off of available applicants who have had no issue getting hired somewhere else much faster.

Related: How leading pizza chains handle carryout and delivery

Also keep in mind that, while your pizzeria may receive more resumes this season due to high unemployment, most of these applicants won’t be a good fit for your business for one reason or another. But filtering through each resume will take you and your team time and effort, which can be especially draining for smaller pizza restaurants. This can ultimately lead to hiring “whoever comes in first,” which can result in bad hiring decisions that end up costing you more time and money.

this photo shows a newly hired pizza delivery driver handing a pizza to a customer
To speed up the process of hiring new delivery drivers, you need to have a seamless hiring process in place.

So how do you hire smart but fast? By having a seamless hiring process in place. Applications should be filtered as they come in. For example, do they have at least one year of experience? Do they have their own vehicle? The candidates that pass muster should be quickly set up with interviews, and the interviews that go well should immediately lead to background checks and driving record pulls.

Your hiring manager should have a smart process in place to deal with hundreds of resumes at a time. If not, consider an automated hiring platform that can do all of this without the need for already-busy restaurant owners or managers sinking time into the hiring process.

Domino’s, for example, uses automation in hiring to post to dozens of job boards all at the same time, filter out the bad candidates using smart screening questions during the applications process, and set up virtual interviews. All of these tools helped Domino’s franchises quickly hire 20,000 new employees across the country in the middle of the pandemic.

Related: Why third-party delivery is so controversial in the pizza industry

3. Include COVID-19 and winter training during onboarding. Hiring winter drivers already necessitates proper training, mostly in cities that experience rough driving conditions due to freezing temperatures. Even after you have inquired about their driving habits during the interview process (i.e., “How do you stay alert when driving long distances?”), your company should consider establishing a safe driving program.

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) lists out a 10-step program to help minimize crash risk that includes written policies and procedures, driver agreements and crash reporting. Your company can adopt these measures and use them for training purposes during the onboarding of new delivery drivers.

Of course, the other hazard this winter is the ongoing threat of COVID-19. With health experts warning about increased cases during the colder months, it will be more important than ever that your onboarding process include how to keep both your new hires and your customers safe from the virus.

Keep in mind that a single positive case with your delivery drivers can, at best, cause you to scramble to fill their shift and, at worst, lead to a shutdown for weeks as local officials investigate and conduct contact tracing. Rushing your new hires through the training process in a haphazard fashion is absolutely not worth the risk. Establish the right safety protocols up-front.

This winter, restaurants will have to take more precautions and invest in time and planning in order to meet the high demand for food delivery. Hiring the right number of delivery workers will be both more important than ever before and more difficult. Start now with these tips to position your pizzeria for the best success possible during a very different winter season.

Desmond Lim is the co-founder of Workstream, a hiring automation platform used by many QSR and pizza chain owners at companies like Domino’s, Pieology and McDonald’s. For more information on how Workstream can help restaurants hire faster and better, click here.