Customers, called "eaters" by Uber Eats, use an app to order food delivery from local restaurants.
Photo: Denise Civiletti

Uber Eats is in the process of launching in some parts Riverhead.

But the food delivery service is hitting some bumps in the road. There’s a shortage of drivers in this area, so even though delivery to several local restaurants seems to be an option for areas of downtown Riverhead, the service is actually pretty inconsistent, according to participating local eateries and customers.

The service allows customers to order from participating restaurants for home or office delivery using a mobile app. Uber charges both customer and restaurant a fee for the service. Once an order is placed and paid for online, it’s sent to the restaurant and offered to Uber drivers operating in the area of the restaurant and delivery point.

But often — especially at lunchtime, when downtown office workers might be interested in the service — there are no Uber drivers available or willing to handle the delivery.

That can leave the restaurant with an order it prepared, waiting for a delivery person to show up — to no avail.

It happens about half the time in Riverhead, Buoy One Restaurant owner Robert Pollifrone said.

An employee at Bagel Lovers reported a similar experience.

Pollifrone said if his staff prepares a meal and no Uber driver picks it up, he gets reimbursed by Uber. “I call them up to make sure I get paid,” he said.

Pollifrone has Buoy One locations in East Hampton and Westhampton and reports different experiences there.

“In East Hampton, it works like clockwork,” he said. “I guess because there are more people from the city out there and they’re familiar with the service, so there’s more demand and more drivers.

“In Westhampton, I’d say the orders get picked up about 70 percent of the time,” Pollifrone said.

“But in Riverhead it’s 50-50.”

Currently, areas of downtown Riverhead, as well as Northampton, Riverside and Flanders are grouped together in the “Hamptons” region, as far as Uber Eats is concerned.

Uber said in an emailed statement it is always working to improve reliability and it expects improvement will continue over time.

When a driver doesn’t respond, the “eater” (as Uber calls its food delivery customers) is notified and their payment refunded, the company said.

In addition to Buoy One, TGI Friday’s, Applebee’s, Friendly’s, KFC and McDonald’s participate in the Uber Eats program. Also listed as participating are Bistro 72, Sunny’s Riverhead Diner and Grill, Signature Bagels and Hampton Deli.

There might be more demand — and hence more drivers — as the service expands to deliver to areas north of Route 58, Pollifrone of Buoy One said.

The company says drivers, who are independent contractors, can work flexible hours, set their own schedules and “earn good money.”

Anyone interested in becoming an Uber Eats driver can sign up online

Reviews of the Uber Eats driver job on websites like Glass Door show a mixed bag, with most reviewers saying they appreciated the flexible schedule allowed by the job but also complaining about the earnings.

The amount an Uber Eats “delivery partner” earns depends on a few variables, including the delivery fee charged to the customer — which can vary depending on distance from restaurant to “eater” — surge fees that apply during busy times and mileage fees. Customers can use the Uber Eats app to give the delivery driver a tip after the delivery is completed. But tipping is optional and, according to some drivers, rare.

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.