Dining in is a company which delivers meals from many different restaurants to homes, offices, dorms and apartments. Dining in was established in 1988 in Boston, Massachusetts to offer delivery to restaurants which do not keep a regular delivery driver on staff.

Currently, Dining in service is available in 4 cities, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia and Dallas. The company delivers for over 700 restaurants in these four cities and is always expanding. The Dining in customer service staff coordinates anything from casual home meals to huge corporate luncheons or social gatherings.

Dining in drivers are dispatched by radio in a general territory (Dallas has four zones, North, Far North, Central and West). After being ordered (either by telephone or on the Internet), the customer has a one-hour wait (usually less)—30 minutes for preparation and 30 minutes for delivery. Some delivery times may be slightly higher for very large orders or long distances.

Ordering from Dining in

The delivery fee for an order from Dining in is about $6-7, which does not cover tax or tip. This might be a bit steep for everyday use for most people. Dining in service is perfect, however, for parties or office delivery, where the fee can be divided among a few people. Dining in also makes a great alternative to pizza or the ubiquitous Chinese food delivery for people stuck at the office or at home. A minimum order of around $23 is required.

Working for Dining in

Drivers for Dining in are independent contractors. They sign on and agree to certain terms, but they are not actually employees of the company. As such, drivers check out two-way radios and thermal bags (for a price) from the dispatch office. Drinks, menus, utensils and plates for the customers are provided, but the driver needs to have a good ice chest and keep it supplied with ice in order to keep the drinks cold. Drivers are expected to maintain their vehicles in good shape, keep up professional appearance and demeanor, retain a certain level of vehicle insurance and take care of their own taxes. All of this sounds a little worse than it actually is, as many (especially those of us who are otherwise self-employed) of us do these things as a matter of course.

As you might suspect, Dining in drivers don't receive benefits. As such, I would not necessarily recommend a job as a Dining in driver for a full-time occupation. It is, however, very well-suited to a person who is self-employed, sets his/her own schedule and needs to make a little extra scratch to pay the bills. The scheduling is almost amazingly flexible (yours truly works from two to four shifts per week, depending on if the bills are due and what the other job is doing), the people are largely friendly and the work is quite easy.

There are a few drivers I have talked to who do Dining in delivery as a full-time job. Some of these folks seem to be doing okay for themselves, others tell me that they are scarcely scraping by. The number of deliveries that a person does in a shift may vary wildly, as may the level of tips.

When all is said and done, it is possible, on a good night, to make around $10 an hour (more, on rare occasions), depending on tips. After doing the math, taking out wear and tear on the car, gas, etc. and figuring the tax deductions] I get for use of my car, my last year at Dining in has given me about nine dollars per hour of work, which is pretty good for a part-time job with a very low level of commitment. Having this part-time job has saved my bacon.

If you are a decent driver, can read a map well, are professional and punctual and have a reliable vehicle, a job with Dining in is a very nice way of making some extra cash on the side. Well, you do have to live in Dallas, Chicago, Boston or Phillie, otherwise it's a moot point.

Information is based on their website www.diningin.com and some discussion with people at the office. These notes are based upon a year of part-time work for this company. The policies and practices are supposed to be company-wide, and, according to the individuals I've quizzed at work, they are. I can only vouch for the Dallas branch, however.

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