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Pandemic changes home food deliveries

The Brandon Sun - 4/4/2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the face of food deliveries in Westman and beyond.

“Our deliveries have just taken off in every town that we’re in,” said Chris Thomas, president of Dash Delivers, a Brandon-based company that serves 30 rural markets from Ontario to Vancouver Island, including Brandon.

“With this (pandemic), every market that we have has just gone through the roof, obviously, because some of these poor restaurant owners are in dire straits with their dining rooms being closed,” Thomas said.

A Manitoba public health order that came into effect Wednesday prohibits all restaurants and other commercial facilities from serving food to customers in their premises. However, they can prepare and serve food for delivery or takeout.

Dash Delivers is adding five to 10 restaurants a day to its delivery service, Thomas said, and since the pandemic hit, every week brings a record number of deliveries.

Like other companies in the food-delivery business, Dash Delivers has had to change both its delivery and payment methods, he said.

Previously, drivers carried debit machines for payment at the door. That has since changed, and Dash Delivers now offers online payments as well as contactless delivery.

They are in the process of converting to online payment only in all the towns in which they have a presence, Thomas said.

“It’s working very well in the towns that we’ve already started to convert over to mandatory (online payments),” he said, adding they are moving quickly to abandon debit machines in communities where there are known cases of COVID-19.

They are now considering whether to continue with online payments only after the pandemic passes.

“Is it something that’s working only because it’s a necessity or is it something that we can just go on with that, and we don’t need the machines anymore?” he said. 

Meanwhile, customers either receive a text message or a knock on the door by the delivery person, who then backs away and watches as the customer comes out to pick up their order, Thomas said.

“There’s no contact between the driver and the client at that point,” he said, adding the food is delivered in disposable containers provided by the restaurants.

SkipTheDishes has also made changes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On its website, the delivery service said it is taking additional precautions in addition to the recommendations and guidelines set out by the World Health Organization and the federal government including:

• encouraging restaurant partners to seal all takeout bags;

• suspending the cash payment option for all orders and allowing only contactless payment options; and

• implemented contactless delivery on all food delivery placed on the SkipTheDishes network, limiting unnecessary contact between customers and couriers. In the event of an alcohol delivery, ID will need to be checked. Customers can leave delivery instructions as to where they’d like their delivery at checkout, entering notes in the Contactless Delivery instructions field.

Domino’s Pizza, meanwhile, has also implemented no-contact delivery.

When placing an order by phone, customers are advised that a delivery person will place the order in a carry bag on the front step, then move back while the customer collects their food. If completing payment during the delivery is required, the driver will provide further instructions, customers are advised. 

» brobertson@brandonsun.com