Food delivery driver do's and don'ts 

Food Delivery Dos and Don'ts

Maximize earnings without wasting time or gas as a food delivery driver

Wether you've been a food delivery driver for a minute like I have or just starting out, you have to develop your own strategy based on what's available in your area and literally how far you're willing to go.

When an order pops up, I look at the total it'll pay (obviously), how far I'm from the restaurant or store (I like to be within 2-3 miles because traffic in my area sucks) and the delivery distance.

By now, I also know if a restaurant is notoriously slow so I will not go there even if it's a good order. Shockingly many fast food places including McDonald's and Wendy's in my area are terrible so I stay away.

If you're looking for information on Instacart's dos and don'ts, check it out here. Or 5 things Instacart customers wish Shoppers knew, here.

Here's a list of Dos and Don'ts of the food delivery driver game on DoorDash, UberEats and Grubhub from my own experience and fellow delivery drivers I've spoken to.

DO get to know your area

Map with pins food delivery

Many food delivery drivers park close to restaurants we know are busy. I often do and I've talked to many delivery drivers who do the same.

It does not always work out that the restaurant you're parked in front of has an order ready but I usually park in a plaza with access to about 10-15 participating restaurants within a 2-mile radius.

That way you ensure speedy pick up instead of having to drive 3 miles to a restaurant in traffic.

Make your life easy to maximize earnings and minimize wasted time and gas.

A lot of times you'll learn the hard way whether a restaurant takes its delivery game seriously or not (hello long wait times) but it's also important that you do not go back to notoriously slow restaurants if they've been slow each time you've gone in.

Sometimes restaurants are busy, especially on weekends but if you go to popular ones that are slow every time you go in, just don't go there any more. 

I have a few in my area including fast food chains like IHOP where I don't even bother accepting the order. I often go out during the week to deliver when it's not extremely busy but I've never gone to any Wendy's in my area that had the order ready so I do not go there. Ever. McDonald's is a mixed bag but overall I avoid it.

Plus since it's fast food, the orders do not usually add up to much. On the other hand, there are dozens of local restaurants in my area that have nailed their delivery game and since their prices are higher than fast food prices, the total I make is usually quite a bit higher. 

The bottom line, get to know your are including local restaurants. Don't think fast food places are fast. It's usually the local places that really do a great job so take some orders at places that aren't chain restaurants as well and see how they stack up.

I have one particular place that's crazy busy, whose customers generally tip well and who most times has the order ready when I walk in.

It's a local Japanese place and I often park in the parking lot outside until an order pops up. If it does not, I'm parked close to 10 other decent restaurants so do not think it's cheating.

It's actually quite professional to scope out places beforehand.

This is harder to do on Grubhub since there are some timing issues where Grubhub releases an order to drivers shortly after the customer placed the order, thereby creating longer wait times for drivers but it works on DoorDash and UberEats.

DO drop an order with excessive wait time

Don't make dropping an order a habit because it has a ripple effect and may significantly delay a customer's order. However, if you walk into a restaurant to pick up an order and the restaurant says oh it'll be another 15-20 minutes, I'd make a run for it and drop the order especially if you have another order already in the car.

If it's still another 15-20 minutes, it will not have a negative effect on the customer's order since another driver will have plenty of time to get there after you drop it.

Grubhub is a little pesky about dropping an order since it goes against your stats so it tries to prevent you from doing so. DoorDash and UberEats make it easy to drop an order and you can just say "order not ready" or "excessive wait time" and voila, the order gets released back into the world. It does count against your stats on DoorDash but it's no biggie as long as you don't do it that often.

Be aware that if you arrive at a restaurant and announce you're there, the app also announces your arrival so restaurant employees can see your name. So if you think restaurant people do not notice if you drop an order, that's not the case. I actually usually let them know I'll be dropping the order and they're used to it anyways but I'm just an over-explainer so it makes me feel better.

The bottom line, do not make dropping an order a habit because it does have a ripple effect if the restaurant was just a few minutes (let's say 5 minutes) away from bringing out the order.

Restaurants usually speed things up when they know you've arrived so really only drop an order if the restaurant gives you a 15-20 wait. That's quite long since time is money in our industry and you have every right to drop that order, especially if the order is small to begin with. On weekends, a 15 minute wait time is actually not terribly but on weeknights it shouldn't take that long.

In summary, use your judgment and don't be a DoorDouche.

DO take smaller orders

I'm not talking no tip orders but small orders with a small delivery distance add up. I especially have gotten good at doing smaller orders with DoorDash. So let's say a $7 order (which I consider small) pops up with a 1 or 2-ish mile delivery and you're less than a mile away from the restaurant like the one below.

That's a great order because chances are it'll end up being slightly higher because that's just the case on DoorDash and if you deliver quickly on UberEats, the customers are able to adjust their tip later.

I don't usually do smaller orders on Grubhub as the wait-times are higher so it's not worth waiting 20 minutes for a $7 order.That's just the drawback of delivering for Grubhub.

DoorDash small but good order image

I do three or four like that in an hour and I'll have made $ 21 - $ 28. This is mainly during non-peak hours. On weekends, I wait for $10 + orders but during weekday lunches, the smaller ones from Chipotle, Panera or Chik-Fil-A do add up.

When I do an honest assessment comparing these smaller orders to one order that made me $25, I usually have to admit that the $25 took longer overall.

A $25 that had a 10+ mile delivery distance that takes you to an area without many restaurants can end up making you less $ an hour than doing four smaller orders nearby so use your judgment based on the area you live in.

Small orders aren't always that smooth but do not scoff at smaller orders (particularly on DoorDash) with a short delivery distance, especially if you know the restaurant will have the order ready.

DO track your earnings daily

At the beginning, you won't really have a strategy but tracking your earnings daily will help you understand what areas are busy during certain hours and days so you can develop a strategy for when you want to go out.

DoorDash daily earnings

Since this industry fluctuates, you want to make sure you hit your earnings goals each week to make sure you'll have enough money to pay your bills. I usually take Tuesdays off because Tuesdays have proven to be the least lucrative days consistently unless it rains or there's some other event that makes people want to order in. 

If you track your earnings each day, you'll know if you need to hustle a bit more on the weekend if the weekdays were slow and over time you'll be able to take certain days off in order to minimize wasting time.

And don't forget that you should squirrel away some money each week for tax season. I had to pay over $2,000 in taxes last year!

Check out my quick tax guide here. Boring, I know but essential!

DO focus on customer service

This comes as a surprise to some delivery drivers but this is first and foremost a customer service gig.

I literally made almost $20K in tips on Instacart last year because many customers adjusted their tip upward for my customer service skills so it's mind boggling how some of you do not consider this skill whatsoever.

On UberEats, I've had some customers notice my insulated bags and were so thankful that they increased their tips between $10- $15.

Customers who select hand it to me also expect you to at least say hello.

I once had a five-star review that said "said hello". Guys, seriously, some of you hand the order to the customer (I've been that customer) while looking down and clicking "complete order" or whatever app you're on but obviously that's not the service that will get you extra tips.


I know DoorDash doesn't really have customers adjust the tip later but UberEats, Grubhub and Instacart do. Plus your reviews matter except on Grubhub.

You don't have to be fake but usually a "hey how you doin'?" is sufficient for it to be considered good customer service.

This also goes for when you're at the restaurant.

Many drivers do not say hello to the person who is greeting you at the restaurant and just hold up the phone. I also hold up the phone so the person can see the name but I first say hello.

The bar for us is quite low so I really encourage you to focus on this aspect a bit more.

DON'T go overboard

With customer service that is. I've met countless people (I'm talking to you ladies) who went way beyond the standard customer service. I do not recommend that either. 

I was waiting at Chik-fil- A few weeks ago and a fellow Dasher started talking to me saying that she waited 45 minutes at IHOP a few days prior, which as I mentioned before is a chain I avoid at all costs in my area. As I said, not every chain is good and many local places beat certain chains when it comes to having their orders out on time.

I asked her why she did not just drop the order. She thought she had to wait (you do not, see above). Think about how much money you lose in a 45-minute time frame.

You don't have to be greedy but you have to be smart about your time. In other words, you have to have the mindset of a gig economist. Check out more info about the mindset of a gig economist here.

She also had another order where she drove back to Panera after delivering to the customer (it was a 10 mile distance) because they forgot the customer's cookie. OK, let me just tell you… NO !! You check for that stuff beforehand and if something is still missing once you deliver, that's too bad. Most restaurants seal the bag, which makes things much easier but even if they do not, you're not on the hook for missing items. 

If the restaurant messes up, the customer will get a refund so never go as far as to return to the restaurant for a forgotten item unless it's maybe a mile.

I once had a customer message me on DoorDash saying Chili's forgot an entire meal. There was nothing I could do. Chili's had checked off the receipt and it was a big order so there was no way for me to know it was missing an item. I made sure the drinks were there but other than that the bag contained about eight items, whereas my order only showed six so there was no way for me to know there was a missing item.

I politely messaged him back saying that he'd have to go through DoorDash for a refund. I was already on another order I felt terribly but the truth is even if I had gone back to Chili's, it would have been super confusing because I did not really know what was missing and DoorDash disables messaging after just a few minutes.

I would have had to pause my Dash and get the customer's phone number and coordinate with Chili's. That would have taken a while since they probably did not prepare the meal in the first place.

I definitely considered going back for that one since it was a whole meal but when I messaged the customer back a little later to see if they either re-ordered that meal or got a refund, the DoorDash app had already disabled our messages (thankfully DoorDash recently disabled the feature where customers can message the delivery driver after delivery).

The customer left me the best review the next day because he was thankful I messaged him back and that I showed concern. Sometimes that's all you need to do. I used to always message the customer back on DoorDash, whereas I know other drivers would not.

The other day, I was waiting for an order and a driver waiting for a Grubhub order started talking to me to let me know that she had been waiting 30 minutes already. I was shocked and asked her how much the order was that was worth waiting 30 minutes for and she said $11.

OK, so let's do the math on this one ... well let's not because we can see how that's not gonna be a profitable evening. It was Saturday too so she could have done two orders in that timeframe if she had just dropped that one. Grubhub makes it difficult to drop on in-app order but not impossible. 

So while the above were extreme examples of going above and beyond for a customer, I do like being polite and courteous to my customers even if I do not meet them in person. I usually leave them a small note when taking the picture to complete the delivery process like "You're all set, enjoy", which I simply pasted from my Notes app.

It's nice and it's such a small gesture but you never know if it makes someone's day. 

DON'T go to restaurants you know are slow

As I said, IHOP in my area is crazy slow and I completely avoid it especially after hearing other drivers' stories. There are a few other fast food places in my area that are not fast at all, Wendy's and Taco Bell and often McDonald's. I avoid those too because they also do not usually have high paying orders. 

Honestly, there are quite a few local restaurants in my area that have nailed the delivery game. They have their orders ready, which makes pickup a breeze and since their meals are more expensive, the tips are usually great.

After 1,000+ orders, I'm familiar with which restaurants are efficient and which aren't. This is obviously something you'll have to figure out on your own since every area is different and there are exceptions when restaurants are busy. One of my favorite restaurants to pickup from has really nailed the delivery game but of course there are times where I've had to wait. You do not have to write off a restaurant that was slow once but if there is a pattern, I'd say avoid it. 

In my area, there are really only two fast food places that are efficient: Panera and Chipotle, every other chain is incredibly slow.

DON'T take orders with insanely long delivery distances

OK so this is in line with the time is money theme and much like I do not recommend waiting for more than 15 minutes for an order (unless you're doing Grubhub), I do not recommend orders that have long delivery distances (12+ miles) and take you outside your normal area.

I'll only take longer distance orders if I know I'll end up in an area with lots of restaurants with orders that could potentially take me back to my home area. I also have an older car so I try to minimize how many miles I put on each week. It's still tons but I don't wanna take many long distance orders each week because of my car's age, gas prices and my concern about delivering food hot.

Only Grubhub pays for mileage from the restaurant to the customer (not for the return trip) and it's not exactly a ton of extra money so do weight the pros and cons of 12+ mile deliveries, especially if you do not have insulated bags.

Here's an example of a long delivery distance:

UberEats order with long delivery distance

This order isn't a terrible order per se since it'll make you $27 but the distance and the fact that it's a double order at two different restaurants (yes UberEats doesn't show you both restaurants, which is super annoying) make it horrible. I declined it because I just knew the food would be soggy by the time I delivered to both customers.

I'll never understand why customers order from places so far away because even with insulated bags, the food kind of just sits for longer than I would like. I'm talking soggy fries and cold burgers.

But that's just me. 

DON'T forget to track your mileage

Food delivery driver gas receipt

Track your mileage, preferably with an app. There are apps like Stride and Everlance that help you track mileage and allow you to upload gas receipts.

This is incredibly important because it will reduce the money you owe in taxes by thousands of dollars.

Yes, thousands. Trust me! You're on the hook for all of your taxes like you're self-employed so you have to be smart about this part.

If you're doing DoorDash and UberEats, you have to keep track of all your mileage from when you first go out to when you drive to a restaurant and deliver to the customer and driving to the next restaurant, etc. You'll get a mileage summary but that doesn't usually account for when you travel to the next restaurant or if you're driving to a busier area. The mileage tracker apps tend to be more accurate.

Instacart and Grubhub pay from the store/restaurant to the customer's but nothing else so you still have to keep track of anything after delivery. 

My mileage added up to close to $3,000 in reduced taxes! So important.

And here is a quick tax guide to help you save on taxes! 

In summary, always make sure you're maximizing your earnings. No matter which order you take, never take anything that's so small, it will not even cover gas.

You're literally in this for the money so each order has to maximize your earnings and minimize wasted time and gas.

Great customer service is incredibly important and may actually help your bottom line, but don't go overboard so that you end up wasting time.

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