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Chick-fil-A launches rest stop for gig drivers

Companies like Uber and DoorDash have made life easy for millions of Americans. Yet the lives of their drivers can be anything but.

This week, one company took a step toward improving food delivery driver working conditions — but it’s not a food delivery company.

On Wednesday, Chick-fil-A announced the opening of The Brake Room, a 5,000-square-foot pop-up lounge in New York City where local delivery drivers can rest, charge their phones and use the bathroom for free.

Currently, Uber, DoorDash and other large food delivery companies do not offer a place for their drivers to shelter between shifts. In fact, some drivers have even set up makeshift break rooms in parking lots to escape the cold, eat lunch or simply rest and recharge.

Located on the Upper East Side, The Brake Room will be open between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. EST but, like the company’s restaurants, will be closed on Sundays. Amenities include bathrooms, bike storage, Wi-Fi, outlets and beverages. Notably, it does not include chargers for e-bikes, which are used by the majority of the city’s drivers.

To get in, all drivers need to do is show proof of a completed delivery from any restaurant within the past week.

“In metro areas like New York City, we see the same food delivery workers come through nearly every day of the week, several times a day, and how taking an extra second to warm up between deliveries or offering a glass of water helps to fuel them on for their shift,” said Jared Caldwell, who owns and operates a Chick-fil-A restaurant on the Upper East Side.

Watch: Incentivizing the gig economy

Still, some drivers are skeptical of Chick-fil-A’s new rest stop, which is a limited-time initiative that will end in April. They worry that The Brake Room is simply a PR push by the restaurant to curry favor among local couriers.

“This sounds lovely, but I think this is just Chick-fil-A propaganda,” delivery worker Manny Ramírez told The City. “Our goal is to have something more permanent, and this is something they’re doing so that people can see the company’s good side.”

As it stands, a permanent solution has yet to emerge. Last fall, Mayor Eric Adams and Sen. Chuck Schumer announced a plan to convert some of the city’s vacant newsstands into rest stops and charging stations for delivery drivers. But the plan has encountered major resistance. 

Thus far, two planned rest stations have already been walked back after pushback from local communities.

Food delivery and rideshare drivers have for years fought for greater rights and protections, including reliable bathroom access and protection from theft and harsh weather. So while Chick-fil-A’s Brake Room addresses those concerns temporarily, it won’t move the needle for gig worker satisfaction long term.

For that to happen, either New York City will need to follow through on its proposals or companies like Uber and DoorDash will need to step up themselves. Unfortunately, the latter scenario appears unlikely.

DoorDash told The City that dedicated rest stops are not in its plans, while Uber declined to comment on whether it was considering them. Grubhub, meanwhile, made no indication that it would build its own rest sites but offered its support for the city’s newsstand transformations.

Given a resurgence in active driver numbers for these companies, they may not feel inclined to provide amenities like rest stops anytime soon. In that case, it’s going to come down to local and federal lawmakers to provide what those firms won’t.

Click for more FreightWaves articles by Jack Daleo.

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