Uber Eats Biker’s Viral Instagram Videos Reveal What DC Food Delivery Is Really Like

Josh Cavallero of BikingDC documents the good, bad, and wild of the city's food delivery scene.

Josh Cavallero documents the realities of being an Uber Eats bike courier as BikingDC on Instagram. Photograph by Bryan Abdallah.

Josh Cavallero—aka BikingDC—has amassed more than 110,000 followers on Instagram documenting his exploits as an Uber Eats bike courier. The 25-year-old started making deliveries last summer with a GoPro camera strapped to his head, giving people a behind-the-scenes glimpse at restaurant takeout operations, tipping realities, order mix-ups, precarious packaging, and a whole lot of Washington lobbies. Along the way, he documents a host of DC characters and close calls in downtown traffic—often while somehow balancing a drink on his hand. We asked Cavallero what it’s really like to navigate the city’s restaurant takeout scene on two wheels.

Tell me about why you started filming and wanted to share it?

I didn’t know a lot of people in the city, and I wanted to put the videos out there of me delivering to maybe find other people who were doing the bike courier stuff. I just wanted to meet some friends… I really do like to just create stuff, so this was a really good way for me to express myself. It just kind of snowballed.


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A post shared by Josh (@bikingdc)

What are your restaurant pet-peeves when it comes to picking up a delivery order?

You just rode a mile and a half to get to this pickup, and they haven’t even started the order. Now you’re stuck in a situation where you know it’s going take another 15, 20 minutes to cook, and that’s money being wasted. Do I cancel this and spend more time looking for another order? Or do I just wait it out?

Another one would probably be just poor packaging. Even though I am on a bike, everything is in my bag and it’s secure. So when I get there, if things are completely knocked over, I know that based off of my history of doing trips and stuff—unless something crazy happened on the ride—it’s not really going to be my fault.

What is the most annoying thing to deliver on a bike?

For me, I would probably say soups and pizza. I tend to not to pick up orders with soup in them because it’s just a recipe for disaster. And the pizzas are too big, it’s just awkward to carry. I never take pizza orders. When I get an order, I always check to see what’s inside of it. If it has above four drinks, or you can tell that the order has something in it that you can’t carry, then I’ll just cancel it.

I’m always amazed in your videos how small some of the orders are. It seems like there are people who just get a drink.

It blows my mind too. If somebody is really just feeling that Fresca drink from wherever, they’re going to just order that. It happens all the time. Like Tropical Smoothie Cafe, I’ll get orders for one smoothie—and not the food or anything else—all the time. Often, actually. One time I delivered a guy an orange Fanta like a mile away. It was really weird.

How do people tip when they order one drink? 

They probably will just give you a dollar or two because in their mind, they are like, ‘it’s just a drink.’ But, like, you had me come for just a drink.

What’s the average tip that you get?

The average tip is probably about $6 to $7. That would be for like two people’s meals and for the distance of no greater than a mile and a half.

What percentage of people don’t tip? 

I would say probably like 30-percent. But you know that the person is not going to because it’ll say ‘go three miles for $4.60.’ And you know that that’s just the Uber base pay and the person put zero tip on it. Over time with experience, you’ll kind of know what’s a really good order. Going one mile on a bike in a city for $10 is something I would instantly accept.

What do you feel like people should be tipping?

I guess 20-percent seems like an honest amount. If you’re ordering food from Southeast and you live all the way up in Columbia Heights and the guy pulls up on a bike and you gave the guy five bucks, that’s not okay.

Does being on a bike change the equation?

Usually people tip before, and then they complete their order. So I understand that sometimes they don’t know that [the delivery is on bike]. Often, people do see that I’m on a bike, and then they will add an additional 5-, 10-, 20-percent. I’ve had people add on $20, $30 too after.

How much are you able to make as a bike courier in DC?

A lot of that depends. I can make up to $300 a day if I’m grinding, top gear. That’s on good days though. There’s also days where it’s very slow, and it’s not sustainable. And that’s kind of like where I’m at recently. Like right now, I’m probably making $100.

How many miles are you putting in on any given day?

At least 10. To do the $100, probably at least 15 miles, 20 miles. Chinatown, Dupont, Downtown—those are my areas.


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A post shared by Josh (@bikingdc)

One of the wildest things in your videos is when you balance a drink in one hand and you have no hands on the handlebar. Have you ever dropped a drink?

I’ve never dropped a drink. Not one time.

This is like purely anecdotal, but I feel like half the time I have a drink with my order, it just never arrives. Is there any particular reason for this?

There are a lot of bikers who have admitted in my comments that they just ditch the drink. They leave it, they throw it out, whatever. And I’ve seen a lot of them say it as if it’s just so common. They’re like, ‘Oh, man, I never bring the drinks.’ I’m like, ‘What?! What do you mean you never bring them their drinks?’ I think maybe some of them are just straight taking it, and it’s easier to say ‘Oh, they didn’t give it to me,’ because it’s not in the bag. Usually they’re separate from the bags.

Beyond tipping, how do you think people can be better delivery customers?

You need to just be ready. Time is money when it comes to being a courier. If I’m calling you four or five times and I’m asking the lobby person if they know you, it’s this big whole fiasco. It’s just disrespectful. I find a lot of people doing that. So when I find that customer who does come and they’re at the door and I don’t even have to lock my bike up, I have nothing but respect. It really does like save me time and stress.

Any other tips? 

I know a lot of people don’t see the issue with this, but it’s a very big issue. If in your settings, you have it say ‘meet at door,’ and you then tell me to leave it, it takes away my option to take a photo. So then I’m just leaving the bag in a spot and swiping off as delivered, and there’s no photo verification, so now anything can happen. There’s a lot of scammers out there who will then turn around and report it not getting there or it may not actually get there. So if you’re going to put ‘meet at door,’ you just need to just meet the person.

I noticed you’re getting more into the food influencer game and doing some restaurant reviews. Do you see your account going more in that direction?

I have a lot of interests, and I have a lot of skills. I’m not limited to one thing, so I would like to be able to expand. I was picking up some food, so now a lot of my followers are happy to see me actually be able to speak on the food from the restaurants. I just feel like this is a good way for me to be creative in my own way. I don’t want to just be a food influencer. Being able to expand and grow and show so much more of the city, it just all works together really well.

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity. 

Jessica Sidman
Food Editor

Jessica Sidman covers the people and trends behind D.C.’s food and drink scene. Before joining Washingtonian in July 2016, she was Food Editor and Young & Hungry columnist at Washington City Paper. She is a Colorado native and University of Pennsylvania grad.