Delivery work’s not for faint of legs
Tristan Jimerson and Daniel Laeger-Hagemeister delivered sandwiches freakishly fast for Jimmy John’s. No one, Jimerson says, has delivery as dialed in as Jimmy John’s. Since the delivery zone for each store is small, the sandwiches sometimes rode in cars, sometimes in messenger bags via bicycles.
“Jimmy John’s was our training,” he says.
Leigh Antonett, 24, is the new generation of delivery drivers. In addition to delivering tacos for Taco Cat in Minneapolis, she’s an amateur racer, placing in the Top 20 of the Babes in Bikeland race, along with two other Taco Cat female riders. Antonett just received her college degree, but prefers her current job where she works out at work. (If you’re wondering why Tristan Jimerson isn’t in the photograph, as a ‘white dude who makes tacos,’ he and his partner are culturally sensitive to having their picture taken.
The two have passed on that knowledge to a fleet of former bike couriers who as victims of the shrinking demand for couriered legal work are now peddling food. Rather than compete with sandwiches and pizzas, however, the pair delivers tacos and burritos out of their storefront space, Taco Cat, in the Midtown Global Market in Minneapolis. (“Taco Cat” is a palindrome and has nothing to do with the tacos’ filling.)
Bike delivery is not for the faint of legs. Taco Cat’s bike fleet pedal around 40 miles per shift. “The courier business is a young person’s game,” he says, adding most of their riders are in their mid-20s to early 30s. The pay ranges from $16 an hour (including tips) to $28 on a good night. Couriers provide their own bikes (most own an average of six), their own helmets, custom messenger backpacks and are responsible for their own bike maintenance, Jimerson says. The job interview includes changing a tire quickly.
And yet, they have people willing to move here—from places like Chicago and Toronto—for the job.
The reason’s not hard to fathom. The hours are flexible, the benefits good and there’s no need at the end of your shift to hit the gym. Serious bike riders like time in the saddle, some are professional or amateur racers, he says. Currently, he keeps around 16 full-time and part-time riders busy.
Taco Cat doesn’t require uniforms or logos on the bags. When asked why, Jimerson pushes his oversized frames back up his nose and muses, “How can I say this?” Basically, in order to make up time, bike deliverers often take liberties with the traffic laws, and no business wants its logo darting in and out of traffic willy-nilly.
Because there is downtime in restaurants, the couriers are cross-trained. Rarely will a cook don a helmet and hit the streets, but the bikers often prep the line.
Delivery people are covered by workers’ comp and insurance is expensive. But in three years, they’ve only had one accident.
As food on demand becomes more popular, especially with milliennials —and drunks, as Jimerson will tell you—the need for trained couriers will increase, right at a time when there should be a glut of legal couriers. That’s marketplace correction, and while it may be the job of the future, Taco Cat is only hiring experienced couriers. With pros, the food gets there in mint condition, which has Jimerson grinning like a—you know—taco.