What it’s like driving for Deliveroo

A Deliveroo driver gives the lowdown on joining the fleet of motor and pedal cyclists seen scampering around London at meal times.

Mustafa* is a recently signed-up Deliveroo driver who’s been accosted by Courier for his perspective on working with the on-demand giant. It’s his first month and he only has nice things to say about his new employer. (Or, more accurately, the company he has a loose contract with as a self-employed driver.)

‘I worked in the kitchen of a burger chain, which was rough’ he says. ‘I saw more and more Deliveroo drivers coming in and out.’ He thought it was worth looking into the life of one of those drivers. People like Mustafa are increasingly fought over by companies like Deliveroo; polite and presentable people happy to do low-cost work without a contract. Mustafa is apparently a rarity as this is his full-time job. On-demand companies such as Deliveroo claim that the vast majority of their workforce drawn from the so called ‘gig economy’ is comprised of students and people looking to supplement their main income working a few evening shifts. Most are recruited through Gumtree or word-of-mouth.

Going it alone

Being self-employed was the first revelation for Mustafa. He has no issue with it. ‘I work whatever hours I want and don’t have a dickhead boss to answer to,’ he says. What about sacrificing things such as paid holiday, sick pay, paternity, notice period and other traditional employee rights? He shrugs and smiles indifferently.

He recalls going to Deliveroo’s head office behind the furniture shops on Tottenham Court Road station a few weeks ago. It’s here that Mustafa and scores like him are inducted on the ways of Deliveroo. Mustafa watched a training video and was drilled on the importance of taking off his helmet when presenting food to customers as well as several other nuggets on good service and safety.

Gear change

‘There was a guy I was chatting to when we were both signing up who wanted a bit of extra money to get an engagement ring,’ says Mustafa. After presenting his documents (including registering as a self-employed company for HMRC), a Deliveroo trainer hitched himself on Mustafa’s scooter for a spin around Fitzrovia to see if he was a danger to himself, others on the street and, presumably, Deliveroo’s lawyers. An array of all-weather clothing and equipment in Deliveroo livery was then presented: jacket, trousers, polo shirt and a case and phone charger to tuck into his bike seat.

Then came a series of containers that fit together like Russian dolls: the distinctive big black box fixed to the rear of the bike; inside of 
 which is a large reinforced thermal bag and, finally, another foil-lined padded container. Mustafa has to pay for the big box himself as part of his agreement.

Self funding

He’s also required to dip into his own funds for two pieces of kit pivotal to being a Deliveroo driver: a smartphone and a bike. Deliveroo leases scooters to drivers for £250 per month but Mustafa has his own. Again, he has perhaps a more enlightened view than Courier about the freelance economy and accepts that providing his own phone and bike is reasonable.

What about the money? He’s paid fortnightly on a wage of £7 per hour, with an additional £1 per delivery, £1.50 per litre of petrol plus tips. ‘It’s pretty decent,’ he says. ‘And I can always do more hours if I want.’

His phone pings just as he’s about to respond to our question on which restaurants are the biggest pains to deal with. He looks quizzically at his phone then asks where Bodean’s in Soho is. He stubs out his cigarette, slings on his helmet, fires up his Yamaha and waves as he whizzes off.

This story originally appeared in Courier Feb/Mar.

*Name has been changed