Knights of pizza: a day in the life told through delivery

Knights of pizza: a day in the life told through delivery

Knights of pizza: a day in the life told through delivery
August 25
11:24 2015

Erica Wieting | Features Editor

@ericawootang

A hastily-parked red Mustang idles between the fading lines of a parking spot.

Thrown open, the driver’s side door lets warm evening air into the car. Sprinting into TJ’s pizza, 21-year-old pizza delivery driver Jacob Long retrieves a two-liter Dr. Pepper he forgot to bring on a trip to Clark Hall. He jumps back into his car and peels away from the parking lot, speeding down Denton’s bumpy roads faster than the posted speed limit.

“Usually cops are a lot nicer to us because they know we are in a hurry and they know we are on the job,” he said. “I’ve only gotten one speeding ticket and a bunch of warnings.”

Long has been a TJ’s delivery driver since August 2014, and now he said he has about 80 percent of Denton’s streets memorized.

“It helps because when you see the street name pop up,” Long said. “You know which area you will be delivering to.”

The perpetual construction on Denton’s roads make detours a necessity. Fortunately, Long has become acquainted with alternate routes so he can make it to his destination.

“University is the worst because it’s down to two lanes,” Long said. “Sometimes I go down Eagle and take Windsor, or I’ll take Cordell down to Malone.”

Longer trips mean more quality time spent with his car. Long said he can predict how many deliveries he can make on what he has left in his gas tank.

“I don’t worry about gas much anymore,” he said. “I have 48 miles until I’m empty. I’ll probably last until we close at 2.”

After the city-wide texting ban went into effect in May 2014, drivers have had to be wary of peeking at their phones while behind the wheel. As someone whose job depends on his car, Long is extra cautious of the potential distraction.

Hannah Ridings | Senior Staff Photographer

Waiting outside of doors is the only time delivery driver Jacob Long stands still on his night shift at TJ’s Pizza. Hannah Ridings | Senior Staff Photographer

“I’ve gotten in the habit of listening to the radio more instead of being on my phone while in the car,” he said. “I listen to NPR a lot.”

During his year at the restaurant, Long has come to recognize some familiar faces.

“I deliver to Tommy once or twice a week,” he said about a familiar customer on Chestnut Street. “I usually work four to five nights a week.”

With the summer months coming to an end and students moving back to campus, pizza demands have nearly doubled in the past week. The Denton County Fair was another reason for the spike in sales.

“It’s only been three days since students have moved into the dorms and we’re already busier than we have been all summer,” Domino’s Pizza manager Candace Vomvas said. “During the summer months, we run about half the amount of business.”

At midnight, after a long shift at TJ’s, cook Jacob Bounds takes a much-needed smoke break outside the building.

“We are coming up on 200 tickets,” Bounds said. “Usually during the summer we will be around only 100 or 120.”

TJ’s staff members said business at the restaurant has been steadily increasing since it opened.

“Everyone is realizing it’s the place to order from when you get out of the bars,” Long said.

TJ’s is open until 2 a.m. Thursday through Saturday, making it the perfect choice for designated drivers to grab some grub for their friends.

For Long, the recent increase in business means taking three orders per ride instead of his usual one. But the more pies he can deliver, the more tips he can get.

“A lot of people don’t realize that we make less than minimum wage,” Long said. “We make $6 an hour plus tips, and people take that for granted.”

Long has almost doubled his tips this week due to the rise in pizza demands. In an average night, he makes around $60 or $70 in tips. Now he pulls in around $100 per shift.

“$3 is average. $5 is a good tip,” he said. “20% is what you should tip.”

Hannah Ridings | Senior Staff Photographer

Jacob Long pauses in his car to check an order before heading into an apartment complex to make his delivery. Hannah Ridings | Senior Staff Photographer

Things can also get a little dangerous in the life of a pizza delivery driver.

Long said people often ask him for money because they know he probably has cash, and drunk people sometimes try to crash into him with their cars.

“In the sketchier parts of Denton we try to have bigger guys going out,” Long said. “People who we know wouldn’t be messed with.”

Once, when he was delivering to 33 Degrees North, the triangular magnet displaying the TJ’s logo on top of his car was stolen.

“I parked in the complex and went to take the order,” Long said. “When I came back down it was gone. The poor little guy.”

The dangers of the job don’t overshadow one of Long’s favorite aspects of being a pizza delivery driver: giving away pizza to people who need it. Homeless people sometimes stop Long during his routes to ask for money or food.

“We always have mess-ups in the kitchen,” he said. “So I’ll tell [homeless people] that they can stop by the kitchen to pick up a mess up.”

Editor’s Note: Reporting for this story was done by Kelsey Medina | Staff Writer.

Featured Image: Jacob Long looks at his ticket orders at TJ’s pizza before heading out to deliver. Hannah Ridings | Senior Staff Photographer

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