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Drivers dish trade secrets

Delivery drivers deal with a lot on the job, from strange customers to physical injury.
Delivery manager Nathan Nato Coles collects orders in preparation to deliver at Mesa Pizza on Friday.
Image by Holly Peterson
Delivery manager Nathan “Nato” Coles collects orders in preparation to deliver at Mesa Pizza on Friday.

This fall, Dave Searle was attacked with a hammer.

The man who attacked him made away with $20 in cash, Searle’s bicycle — which he recovered after chasing the man down — and an order of Jimmy John’s

Searle, a Jimmy John’s delivery employee, has his share of stories from his time on the job.

Employees from restaurants around the University of Minnesota area, who deliver everything from sandwiches to pizza, on bicycles and in cars, have seen it all — injuries, odd customers and even run-ins with the law.

Their stories are as diverse as the customers they serve, but not always what those who haven’t done the job might imagine.

“There is no other job like it,” Searle said. “There’s no way I’d be a 26-year-old delivery guy if it weren’t for the bike. If you love riding a bike, it’s worth it.”

Street smarts

It took Robin Berenson, a Domino’s delivery driver, about three months on the job to learn all the tricks.

On one of his first routes, he visited a maze of an apartment building — a common obstacle for delivery employees.

He’s also learned the value of shortcuts, and the importance of bypassing the heavy traffic that GPS directions might lead into.

There’s also a lot to be said for knowing how to park efficiently. Many delivery drivers said parking is one of the job’s biggest challenges, and they sometimes settle for illegal spots.

For those who don’t drive, the skill set is a little different.

Dave Searle, who delivers for Jimmy John’s, relies on a knowledge base that ranges from knowing when to use riding gloves and where to safely stow his bike to the best route from a sidewalk to a building’s elevator.


An experienced driver like Nate Coles, who has worked for Mesa Pizza since September 2010, knows that fast delivery directly translates to the approach behind the wheel.

He can’t drive up to an intersection and hesitate when he sees a group of students dipping their toes in the crosswalk.

He said he has a “proceed with caution” philosophy that roughly translates to efficiency that verges on aggressive.

This includes things like changing lanes without doubt and creeping up to a crosswalk on a right turn.

“If you gotta drive the wrong way down a one-way for a few seconds for the sake of expediency, it’s for the greater good,” Coles said.

Having had little experience with the police, Coles said he feels officers have better things to do than stop a delivery driver who’s speeding or parking next to a fire hydrant.

The job also requires a sense of humor, Berenson said.

He’s gotten a lot of unusual tips, from $4 in quarters to a 93X radio station calendar, and he has found that the part he likes most about his job is “meeting all the interesting people.”

99 problems

Sometimes, the most interesting parts of the job are the worst at the time.

Two bicycle officers once approached Searle after he biked down the sidewalk from the Jimmy John’s where he worked to a one-way street nearby.

He ended up getting two $100 tickets — one for facing the wrong way while entering a one-way street and the other for riding on the sidewalk.

And two months after the hammer incident, Searle was asked to deliver subs to the train tracks near TCF Bank Stadium.

Like the previous incident, he was asked to bring change for $50, and Searle started getting nervous. But the customer went on to explain that he was a train conductor who was parked on the tracks and was just looking for a quick bite.

It seems that train people, much like delivery people, have their own little tricks of the trade.

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