Industry News | January 28, 2010

Two-Wheel Meals

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When Papa John’s upped its staffing for a busy Halloween this past October, it deployed about 20,000 pizza delivery drivers across the country. But what was good for trick-or-treaters was bad for the environment: According to the Energy Information Administration, for every mile a car is driven it pumps a pound of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

That’s one reason among many that some concepts are switching to bicycles and other two-wheeled vehicles instead of cars for their delivery operations.

“It’s faster and we can go down streets like cul-de-sacs and one-ways that we can’t go down in a car,” says Mark Saldaña, co-owner of Good Neighbor Pizzeria in Portland, Oregon. “We also wanted to be eco-friendly. Good Neighbor Pizzeria goes further than just our name and our local ingredients, so it fits our theme.”

Ma Jong’s Asian Diner at the Park Downtown hotel in Sacramento, California, takes a more novel approach to bicycle deliveries: taking food to customers by rickshaw. It’s proved to be a great marketing tool. “People see them on the streets and think it’s very cute and call us,” says owner Alan Wong, adding that the service has brought in new customers.

But that’s not all. “It’s green, and we’re finding it’s just as fast as getting around by car,” Wong says.

Using bicycles is a great branding and publicity vehicle, according to Aaron Allen, owner and founder of restaurant consultancy Quantified Marketing Group, based in Orlando, Florida. “But make sure you’re not using an old, greasy, oily bike because all of those things communicate,” Allen says. “A bike is a nominal investment compared to a car.”

Also make sure your delivery guys look good, he says, “because everything is an extension of that brand personality.” Employees should have the restaurant’s logo on both their uniform and their bike, Allen says.

But delivering food by bicycle isn’t foolproof.

Insurance tends to be higher for an operator with bicycle deliveries than those in a car because of the greater risk of accidents, Saldaña says.

Plus, he says, Portland’s omnipresent rain is a challenge, as is snow in January.

“But you just get used to it,” he says.

By Amanda Baltazar