Welcome back to Restaurant Confessionals, where we talk to the unheard voices of the restaurant industry from both the front-of-house (FOH) and back-of-house (BOH) about what really goes on behind the scenes at your favourite establishments.
This time, we hear from a London cycle courier working for Deliveroo, a takeaway service that promises to deliver premium restaurant food in less than half an hour.
Black cab drivers call Deliveroo cyclists "fleas" because they say the city is crawling with us. "Is that a coffin on yer back?" one cabbie shouted at me, adding: "You're gonna fucking need it" before accelerating past within an inch of the massive box strapped to my back.
I get it. Deliveroo drivers are at the bottom of the road's food chain because we piss everyone off. We cut people up and take risks other couriers don't take—but we have to push on to meet the half hour deadline to pick up and deliver orders.
Last month, a cabbie knocked me off my bike and sped off, leaving me laying in the road clutching my wrist. Luckily it wasn't broken which would've been over game over in this job, but it caused £100 of damage to my bike's frame that came out of my pocket.
Having your own bike is one of only two "musts" to become a Deliveroo courier—the other is that you own a smartphone. Tick those boxes and you qualify for the weird half-day training at Deliveroo's head office behind the overpriced furniture shops on Tottenham Court Road.
I turned up for training at "The Roo HQ" (as they endlessly insist on calling it) four months ago. Seven of us sat in a stuffy room watching a corporate induction video drilling us on safety and the importance of taking off our helmet when presenting food to customers. Most drivers are recruited through Gumtree or word-of-mouth. There is no contract so it suits students looking for flexible evening work, but I know a couple of people who do it full time.
The worst deliveries are after midnight—85 percent of the customers are wasted. I've been squared up to, threatened, and chased down a street by a group of art students trying to get my branded jacket.
For the second part of the training, a middle-aged man watched me cycling around Soho to see if I pose a danger to other road users or, presumably, Deliveroo's lawyers. Then you're given your all-weather branded jacket, trousers, portable phone charger, and the massive thermal box.
I fucking hate that box. During my first week, I left part of an Indian order in one of its compartments and by the time I realised and got back to my bike, it had been stolen. Trying to explain that to the customer wasn't easy but it was nothing compared to the aggro I've had since when delivering food late.
I can't help it if the restaurant making the food is slow but even though I apologise, people lose it. One woman screamed in my face after I turned up with her order late. "Thank you for ruining the last dinner we will be having with our dad until April," is a line will stay with me.
The worst deliveries are after midnight when I'd say 85 percent of the customers are wasted. I've been squared up to, threatened, and chased down a street try by a group of art students trying to get my branded jacket.
I had one guy spit at me after accusing me of being "hours late" (I was on time). Then there was the time when no one answered the door but it was slightly ajar. I crept in to see a man was passed out in the hallway of his revolting flat. I left the pizza on the floor next to him and left.
Often customers will beg you to go and pick up non-Deliveroo extras for them, offering to pay massive sums. I've had requests for everything from Greggs sausage rolls to weed. There are so many stoned customers with the munchies, you could earn a fortune running a sideline in delivering drugs and booze.
I've heard other drivers tell stories about being bitten by dogs and one guy now walks with a heavy limp after a car knocked him off his bike. I wouldn't say there are many "perks" but I know one Deliveroo driver who uses it as a way to meet women—chatting them up before handing over the food. The company also lays on free lunches on Fridays and subsidised gym memberships to attempt to attract the best motorbike and cycle couriers in town.
But earning £7 per hour—plus £1 per delivery, £1.50 per litre of petrol, and tips—means the only people who'd stick this out are students and paunchy ex-Uber drivers who've lost their driving licence.
As told to Emma Ledger.