While your intentions are good, you might still be missing the mark when it comes to these few points, according to delivery drivers.
delivery service man in green uniform handing fresh food to recipient and young woman customer receiving order from courier at home.
Credit: Getty Images / Tunvarat Pruksachat

The last two years saw a major surge in takeout and restaurant delivery due to the pandemic, and it now seems to have become a more regular part of our lives, even as we return to a new normal. Almost 70% of American adults said they're more likely to order takeout than they were prior to the pandemic, and 60% order out at least once a week, according to a report from Yelp. Combine the high demand with a labor shortage for both restaurants and delivery apps, and there can certainly be plenty of hiccups that require some grace and communication from the customer.

"Delivery drivers want to get [your order] right the first time, especially with today's gas prices, so they don't have to redeliver, or worse, have it come out of their paycheck," says Maurice Mercer, area manager of The TakeOut Bham. "It's important to realize that once you place your order on an app [or online], it's received on a tablet at a restaurant, the order is given to a person who prepares it, someone else may bag it up, and this all happens before it is received by a delivery driver."

Mercer says that driver professionals have to know the line of what their roles are—they can't open your food boxes to make sure everything matches your order and they can't call you several times when finding your house is difficult. We asked Mercer, and Luci Tucker, a delivery driver for Kats Delivery, to share the most common mistakes people often unintentionally make that can not only make a delivery driver's job more difficult but can also keep your food from coming the way you want it—and how you want it.

1. You turn your lights on but have no signage.

Both Mercer and Tucker say this is one of the most common issues with delivery. While it is certainly helpful to have your exterior lights on, a delivery driver still may have trouble finding you if you don't have easily visible mailbox or street address numbers. Especially since takeout occurs most often in the evenings, this can make it difficult for the delivery driver to find you, or can leave them with no option but to knock on a few doors.

If you live in an apartment, you may want to wait by the front door of your building when they are close, request that they drop it off with a doorman, or have them call you when they are close by. Doing so can help make your delivery as smooth as possible.

2. You plan to provide a cash tip but don't tell them ahead of time.

This one can hurt you as much as the delivery driver. Tucker says that drivers will often decide against picking up an order that has no tip promised to it—especially when gas is so expensive these days. While you may notice a delivery fee when you pay for your meal, little if any of that actually goes to the drivers themselves, and they'd love to know that they are getting a tip.

Mercer advises giving at least $5, but says that 15% to 20% should be a standard nowadays with how much work goes into delivery. For example, even picking up from a fast-food restaurant is difficult now, as many dining establishments are struggling with a labor shortage. This might cause some restaurants to close indoor dining or pickup, leaving the driver waiting in a lengthy drive-thru line with everyone else.

3. You don't let them know you need extra condiments or napkins in advance.

Depending on the restaurant, a delivery driver may assume you would like some extras. Mercer says it's important for customers to let a driver know which condiments you like and how many, within reason, so it doesn't leave them guessing and worrying that you may end up being upset if you don't get enough (or any) when you open the takeout bag. He just says to remember, especially if you're ordering from a mom and pop restaurant, that the driver may not be able to provide unlimited napkins, toppings or other extras. Plus, providing your requests in the comments instead of messaging them when it may be too late is the safest bet for getting just what you want for dinner.

4. You actively check the delivery app but don't answer the phone.

Tucker says it's great if you're following along with the delivery app you ordered from. You'll get a realistic idea of when your food will arrive and be able to grab it from your driver right away. But she says it's also important to answer your phone—even if it's a number you don't recognize—between the time you order and receive your food.

"If you order food and a number comes up that you don't know, nine times out of ten, it's me, not a robocall," says Tucker. "If a restaurant is out of something and we don't know until we get there, I'll have to be stuck making the decision to bring you brownies or no dessert at all if they are out of the cheesecake you ordered, and I want to make sure you're getting exactly what you want."

5. You think providing your address is enough information to get them to your house.

Besides needing clear signage, it's important to think through the directions you would give a friend or family member when visiting your house for the first time. If your house is at the very back of a large neighborhood or you live in a sixth-floor walkup, those are very important details for your driver to know. Your delivery time may be a bit longer if they have to drive through 10 stop signs after entering your neighborhood, and you also may want to be considerate that your delivery driver wasn't expecting to climb six flights of stairs when taking your order. In that case, you may want to let them know and offer to come meet them instead of leaving the decision up to them.

6. You try to be too low-maintenance.

Overall, most of these problems have a common issue: unintentionally making a delivery driver's job harder due to a lack of information. Mercer and Tucker say that it's easier than ever these days to have good communication with delivery drivers because you have a comments box, messaging capabilities and potentially even the ability to call them. Try to offer as much information as you can in the comments when you place your order to ensure that the delivery is as simple as can be.

For example, you may check a "do not contact" box, but if you don't offer any instructions, it may take extra time to figure out how to get your order to you. Plus, it's best to give as much detail as possible. Instead of just saying to leave food at the door, make sure to say it's because a baby is sleeping, so that the driver doesn't knock loudly when they drop off your food to make sure you know it's there.

Bottom Line

While your intentions are good, you might still be missing the mark when it comes to these few points. The next time your order food for delivery, make sure to think through some of these points to make the process smoother for both you and the business.