Friday, 4 July 2008

Is This The End of Free Pizza Delivery

Stacy Zournas can guarantee you'll get the freshest pizza in Lone Tree if you order it from her shop, but if you want it delivered, she also can guarantee you'll pay a fee.

Following the lead of the three big pizza makers - Pizza Hut, Domino's and Papa John's - smaller restaurants like Luca's Jersey Pizza Pasta are charging their patrons to bring a hot meal to their doorstep because gas prices and food costs are skyrocketing.

"We didn't want to do it but we had to because costs are going up left and right," Zournas said about the $2 delivery fee Lucas Jersey Pizza Pasta now charges.

The average cost of a delivery fee is about $1 per order for places like Pizza Hut.

Zournas, who up until four months ago only charged $1 per delivery, held off on raising the fee as long as she could, but nearly every commodity that comes to her store has a fuel surcharge topped on their order.

"We had to up it because we're receiving fuel charges from all of our vendors," she said. "I just wonder if we charge $2 now, what's it going to be next year? Where does it stop?"

Roma Food Products, Zournas's base distributor charges her $10 for their deliveries. The wine distributors charge $5 every time they come, and the people who bring carbon to run the soda and beer machines charge $4.50.

On top of vendor charges, Zournas said her ingredients are costing more, too.

Where she normally paid $12 for a bag of semolina, she now pays $23. She spends roughly $500 monthly on cheese. The cost of cheese has doubled in the last year, according to the U.S. Labor Department.

"The higher costs all link back to gas prices," she said.
So along with a higher delivery fee at Luca's comes increased prices.

Last Monday, the cost of Luca's 18-inch Meat Lover pizza jumped 10 percent to $19.99.

"We've been open for three-and-a-half years and never raised the price of our pizza," she said.

"My people are telling me I need to raise everything by at least 15 percent but I won't do that to my customers at this point. Customers are holding their dollars closer to them right now because everyone seems to have less money," she said. "But if I don't raise prices a bit I'm out of business."

So how is business since they began charging a delivery fee?

"Some people are complaining about it, but not many. Most understand that it's a luxury to have hot food delivered," she said.

"Mainly because customers now think it's a bargain to pay a few dollars than to spend their own gas money to go out to eat."

Pizza deliveries make up about 50 percent of the restaurant's business with drivers making about 400 deliveries a month. But hard times have caused the restaurant to drop the number of drivers from 10 to six.


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