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Delivery drivers brave weather to meet public demands

January 29th, 2014 9:19 pm by Tony Casey

Delivery drivers brave weather to meet public demands

John Bishop is known for speedy delivery from Jimmy John's (Tony Casey/Johnson City Press)

When the snow piles up and schools and municipalities close down, the tendency is to hunker down and weather the storm. 

That is unless you’re a food delivery driver, where the snowy conditions could mean big bucks in your pockets.

“I’m one of the few crazy people here in Johnson City who wish it would be winter year-round,” said Matt McKenna, owner of Double Time Delivery, a small business that provides delivering options for restaurants that don’t already offer that service. 

How it works: A person will order from one of the restaurants, and, for a small extra charge, they can ask for delivery. The drivers will drive to the restaurant to pick up the food and deliver it to the person who placed the order, and Double Time receives the delivery fee.

Scroll down to see video below.

Scratch Brick Oven, Sahib, Marble Slab Creamery, Osaka II, Cranberries, China Garden, Jersey Mike’s, Chili’s, Fuddruckers, Alley Kat, Cakes in a Cup and more are in the list of restaurants for which Double Time delivers food. 

“Winter business is twice my summer business,” McKenna said.

That being said, he said he needs his drivers to be skilled enough to handle often tough conditions and traffic issues. He gives his 14 drivers the option of not driving if they feel the weather is too bad for them, but says they often brave the weather because of the amount of business. 

The biggest way the weather affects his business is when restaurants close and his drivers have nothing to deliver. Because Double Time covers such a big portion of the local map, starting down near Okolona Road and stretching up to the Boones Creek exit, while spanning all the way to Headtown Road near Jonesborough, there are many local spots and roads that could be unplowed and dangerous during snowstorms.

All typically goes well for McKenna, who jokes that one of his biggest fears is mayonnaise slipping onto a sandwich where “no mayo” was specifically mentioned. His skilled drivers can handle the weather and traffic and deliver meals from their restaurants.

John Bishop, a 21-year-old delivery driver for Jimmy John’s, boasts his swiftness in bringing meals to hungry customers. He says there have been multiple occasions where Jimmy John’s have taken an order, and just three minutes later, he was knocking on the door of the person who made the order, food in hand. 

He’s proud to tell how talented he is at delivering food. Jimmy John’s General Manager Aaron LaFond confirms Bishop’s skills, saying he’s known around Johnson City for being the crazy Jimmy John’s driver who runs everywhere. The restaurant prides itself on bringing sandwiches and subs to customers’ doors with the greatest of speed, so every second matters, but LaFond and Bishop both stress extreme caution for drivers to be safe out on the roads.

“Fast on your feet, not in the street,” is a store motto for Jimmy John’s, and LaFond said he’s happy to report that his drivers are some of the safest on the road, even in sketchy winter weather.

LaFond said snow changes everything with delivery times. The store’s delivery radius is only about two miles away from their location, or about a five-minute drive. When it comes to orders, LaFond said he doesn’t promise delivery times that his staff can’t accomplish, but says they’re known for exceeding delivery time expectations regularly.

He’s so serious about getting food to hungry customers that they’ve delivered food on bicycles in the snow. One way or another, it’ll get there, and that’s the way Bishop looks at delivery.

He boasts that he’s delivered 10 meals to Johnson City Medical Center with a spare tire on his sport utility vehicle in a blizzard.

“It’s never too cold to deliver,” Bishop said. “A trip to the emergency room would be the only thing that could keep me away from making my deliveries.”

Down the road from Jimmy John’s is Attilio’s, a Mediterrean restaurant known for its New York style pizza and chef specialties. Owner Gharib Nakouda said his restaurant’s position bordering JCMC and the Veterans’ Affairs campus makes its delivery business vital. Since Attilio’s charges nothing for delivery within a five-mile radius of its Market Street location, it does extremely well during the cold months when people don’t want to leave their houses for food.

On a drive-along delivery with Nakouda, he delivered a pizza and sub to AutoZone and a person on McKinely Road. As he approached the apartment, a nice young woman answered and told Nakouda she was trying their food because she’d heard such good things about it. Word of mouth was doing well for the up-and-coming business, and he’s always glad to deliver to customers, rain, snow or shine, even though the day before, Nakouda’s four-wheel drive SUV nearly spun out in the snow.

Not carrying food would make you think the urgency of delivery would be decreased, but for Johnson City Press carrier Pamela Bains, it’s quite the opposite. There’s only been one tiny stretch in the last 12 years where Bains was unable to deliver papers, and says she had her husband deliver for her. Other than that, she delivers in the worst kind of weather, typically from 1:30-4:30 a.m., and often until 6:30 a.m., when the weather is as bad as it’s been this winter.

The normal count on Bains’ route in Gray is 315-325 stops, with about 15 bundles going to Daniel Boone High School for its Newspapers in Education program. She doesn’t miss her drops for anything in the world, and has survived and even pulled her vehicle out of the ditch on multiple occasions in the snow.

Like other delivery drivers, she said she loves the work, being the only person out on the road.

“Sometimes I’ll only see two cars the whole time,” Bains said. “Which is good, because I have somewhat of a traffic phobia.”

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