Delivery drivers help Lansing restaurants brave the coronavirus

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Homebase, a cloud-based time-tracking app, reported that the amount of hours worked in small businesses dropped 62 percent since March 17. With no clear end in sight to the coronavirus outbreak, small businesses have been forced to come up with creative solutions to help keep sales up. The easiest answer to this problem: delivery.

As the streets emptied and people quarantined inside, the number of delivery drivers on the road increased. Downloads of Instacart and Shipt increased by 218 and 160 percent, from mid-February to mid-March, according to Apptopia.

Restaurant delivery services like Grubhub and Uber Eats, however, saw a decline in downloads in the same period of time. In Lansing, local restaurants have started to offer their own localized delivery, independent from the apps.

The People’s Kitchen, an American comfort food restaurant on Michigan Avenue, rolled out its delivery service Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

General manager and co-owner Sophie Bell said, “It was a bit difficult to set up delivery. I spent several hours on the phone this week setting it up.” 

Bell ran into trouble with the point-of-sales company that People’s Kitchen uses. After sorting out those issues, she ran into problems again Saturday when delivery went live and had to go through another round of customer service phone calls. “But we got it!” she said. “All you can do is adapt.” 

The first day of sales otherwise went well, said Bell, although there weren’t too many orders. Customer satisfaction wasn’t an issue, though. “People who did get delivery were very happy to do so,” she said. Food orders were dropped off outside customers’ doors.

Bell said that delivery drivers at People’s Kitchen were advised to wear masks Sunday. She made that decision in reaction to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation that all Americans wear cloth or fabric face coverings in public. Drivers also wash their hands before they leave for delivery and always wear gloves.

Sean Alizada, owner of Lansing pizza joint Toarmina’s — also on Michigan Avenue — said that the restaurant is being extra careful about social distancing and other safety precautions. He only lets three workers into the restaurant at a time, and they switch off cooking, cleaning and delivery duties. This is so to minimize contact between them. After closing every night, they sanitize the whole restaurant. 

“Drivers are required to have hand sanitizer, hand sanitizing wipes and masks,” said Alizada. Like many services right now, Toarmina’s is practicing no-contact delivery. “I make sure we are following all the protocols,” he said. He said that everyone in the restaurant washes their hands and sanitizes their surroundings on a recurring basis throughout the day. 

Alizada says that, while Toarmina’s offers curbside pickup, delivery has been the most popular since the coronavirus outbreak.

With the virus spreading more each day, Alizada has started to grow worried about him and his fellow Toarmina’s employees. Going door-to-door during a pandemic is like playing a deadly game of chance. Alizada said that hopes he has taken enough precautions to protect the Toarmina’s family.

“The fear for for me is, what if someone gets sick?” said Alizada. “It’s a lot of pressure and anxiety.”

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