InFocus: The Deliveroo Riders of St Andrews

The Saint interviews two Deliveroo workers to find out what it's really like to work for the company.

Photo: Marcella Denby

The latest addition to St Andrews’ takeaway industry is well-known by students and locals alike. Deliveroo has been active in St Andrews for several months, allowing students to fulfil their craving for restaurants such as Tailend, Nandos, and Pizza Express. Not many walks in town happen without a glimpse of a turquoise blur on a bike carrying someone’s food to their door.

The Saint interviewed two Deliveroo workers who were waiting outside local restaurant Burger on a cold, rainy night.

Waiting outside does not seem like the most attractive activity, but, as with Deliveroo workers everywhere, the two workers did not have an office or headquarters in which to wait for deliveries.

Deliveroo has grown rapidly since its founding in 2013. Based in London, it now has more than 20,000 employees around the world. Deliveroo started offering service in St Andrews in late 2016 and currently lets users order from eight local restaurants.

Publicity for Deliveroo has not been wholly positive. Apart from the fact that artist Stormzy has been given the first ever Deliveroo gold card, most news concerning the company has focused on unfair working conditions, which have also proved problematic for gig economy companies like Uber.

As with Uber, there are many stories of Deliveroo riders who are optimistic when first beginning work but later come to realise the disadvantages of being an independent contractor. As contractors, riders are self-employed and do not enjoy the same benefits as those categorised as employees.

Riders complain about working long hours and making little money because of the company’s pay structure. Riders receive a flat fee for each hour they work, but they can only reach their full earning potential when making multiple deliveries per hour.

Do these problems persist in St Andrews?

Asdaq Raja, a student and employee of Deliveroo, spoke about his experiences riding for the company.

“It’s really nice to work in St Andrews,” he explained, “because it’s relatively flat, unlike working in Edinburgh or London. When the students are here, it’s really busy. Raisin [Weekend] was super busy [because] everyone was hungover and didn’t want to leave their houses. Most of the time we go to DRA or ABH, but sometimes we get ridiculous orders. Once I delivered […] Blackhorn to someone who lives next to the Vineleaf.”

As far as wages go, the advertised rate seems attractive to students working to make extra money.

“The flat rate is £6 per hour, and then you get an extra £1 for each delivery, plus tips. It’s all done through an app, which tells you where to go and pick up the food. […] Once you have marked yourself as arrived, it will tell you where to go next,” Mr Raja said.

The work is by no means consistent. Mr Raja explained that on one Friday it was fairly quiet, as he had only eight deliveries in four hours. In contrast, a good day would be three or four per hour, although this apparently happens very rarely.

Mr Raja’s colleague, who wished not to be named in this article due to privacy concerns, is a local resident.

She recounts working 10-hour shifts with no deliveries at all, explaining that students make up an overwhelming amount of orders. When there are no students or no student appetites, there are practically no deliveries to be made.

Deliveroo can be expensive compared to other options. Any delivery has an order minimum of £15, or an extra charge of £2 will be added.

Comparatively, Dominoes has a £10 minimum. The same employee was also under the impression that restaurants only receive 20 per cent of the delivery charge, meaning Deliveroo profits a large amount from these add-ons.

Working for Deliveroo, there is no contact with any form of boss apart from the occasional phone call in reprimand. Mr Raja’s colleague admitted that, although she enjoys the work, she sees it as a bit of a joke of a job and feels bad for taking part in something that is publicised as being such a negative experience.

Halfway through the interview, Mr Raja’s phone began to buzz, and he was off to a restaurant as quickly as possible, most likely in an attempt to improve his monthly performance review from Deliveroo.

Performance reviews, he explained, grade the employees on aspects such as speed of response to a call and speed of delivery. Without Mr Raja, his colleague opened up more about her qualms with working for Deliveroo.

“One of the harder things is just hanging around in the cold,” she said. “In Edinburgh, they have a waiting zone called Portobello. [In St Andrews], mostly we’re just sitting in the cold at night. I reckon that Deliveroo could cover the rental of a small place where we could wait if they wanted.”

Despite having some contact with humans, she says that the process still feels impersonal.

“The entire company is basically online. We don’t have an office to go to, only a PO box at the DHL delivery place. When you get locked out of the Deliveroo employees app, that’s basically how they fire you. Now that they’ve centralised through Edinburgh, getting shifts is even more difficult, and they don’t give you a week’s notice for shifts, which makes planning anything, even doctor’s appointments, really difficult.”

As far as Deliveroo’s treatment of employees, the rider was hesitant to speak negatively, but speculated, “I feel like I don’t get any tips, and I don’t really trust in the contract. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was some part of the algorithm that new riders get more tips.

“We have access to something called a perk box, a corporate thing you have to sign up to. You can [get] little vouchers for places like Amazon. To be honest, it’s just something to sweeten employees, I think. It’s not really worth much.”

For Mr Raja, the job seems flexible and easy but tiring. It is suitable for student life in some ways but unsuitable in others.

Mr Raja said that one of the major drawbacks he sees in the job is that new riders are left to purchase their own kit. This includes the infamous jacket and food carrier, which amounts to about £150.

Costs are all taken out of employees’ first pay cheques (However, the cost is reimbursed when a rider leaves the company if they return the kit).

The same female rider explained her experiences with the payment system on Deliveroo, saying, “We are all self-employed, basically. We don’t get sick pay or holiday pay or anything like that. But you are supposed to get tips, so you’re aiming for about £10 an hour, even though the website advertises an average earning of £16 an hour. But that never happens.”

She added that riders typically work two shifts during the weekend: easy for students, but not as convenient for locals attempting to live an ordinary working life and pay constant bills. Deliveroo also offers no help, to her knowledge, with filing  the  necessary  tax  forms  for self-employed persons.

The experiences of both riders illustrate the relative advantages and disadvantages of driving for Deliveroo.

Given the large number of riders present in town, the service has clearly enticed members of the St Andrews community.

While Mr Raja acknowledges there are some negatives, he believes the company is a net benefactor to students seeking easy employment. His female colleague, however, went farther in her criticisms. When asked if she had anything more to add, she made a general plea: tip cash in hand, otherwise online tips made on the app can just be included in riders’ wage, and the Deliveroo workers have no way of keeping track of it.


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