Thursday, September 22, 2016

Millennials love sushi, cha and boba

Let’s say you’re a 53-year-old man standing in line to pick up a honey green milk cha bottomed out with plenty of boba, plus a serving of crispy dumplings. You’re clearly a generation or two older than everybody else, except the occasional parent tagging along with the gang.

Back in the day, this sort of social gathering might have taken place at El Torito’s during margarita happy hour; or at Bob’s Big Boy with a tableful of college buddies waiting for a double decker combo coupled with a thick milkshake.

Yes, there I stand waiting to order dinner for a customer of the Postmates food delivery service, where you do everything on a mobile app. I’ll be standing on the sideline waiting and waiting for that meal to be bagged with an attached receipt. On a good day, I find a stool to occupy while playing Sudoku, sifting through news, responding to a text and an email, maybe chatting with a restaurant worker; and waiting, waiting, waiting.

Millennials love sushi, cha and boba. It’s not all about the iced milk teas. Like I said, it could have been about drinking together; it could have been shooting pool, going to a dance club, a coffeehouse, or eating at the latest fast-food startup. It’s a place to go out on dates, hang out with your school buddies, co-workers, or your best friend. It’s much better than staying at home.

I got hooked up with Postmates after a college student recommended I go for it during an Uber trip to Cal State Long Beach. I was trying to get her to class on time and not get plugged up in traffic. She told me that her best friend was making more money delivering meals for Postmates than picking up riders for Uber. Hmmm….. very interesting, I said.

So I gave it a shot and attended a delivery driver orientation at a Postmates office near downtown L.A. In a room full of about 75 “new hires,” there was a woman in her mid-40s and me; the rest were probably 20-to-35 year olds.

The Cal State Long student had informed me that the food delivery company needed more drivers in the Long Beach area. That turned out to be true, and it was appealing to me. Demand for Uber and Lyft trips could typically be a bit soft outside of L.A., so having steady work from Postmates had its appeal.

Just like the roomful of attendees at the Postmates orientation, and about 90 percent of the riders I’ve dropped off for Uber and Lyft, most all of the Postmates customers are Millennials. They’ve used Uber and Lyft many times, and heard through peers that Postmates is a good one to try out. Tapping into special discount offers, including free meals, helps win some of them over.

After a few months of Postmates deliveries, the age gap became less noticeable to me. It became more about the function of doing the work.

For example, there’s a young woman behind the cash register helping me get the confusing dinner order figured out; or me waiting for my meal with a gang of Millennials impatiently waiting for the food to come up. There might be a 20-something customer texting me on how to get past the security gate and find his or her apartment, buried way back in the complex on a dark, poorly lit night.

It’s all about the food.

It’s clear young people in Southern California love Asian food and beverage – from cha to milk tea; from curry veggies to orange chicken; and yes, there’s more.

When I was in college, we all needed to try out Thai food or Vietnamese, which we loved. Years later, we’d go to a Korean barbeque for lunch during workweek, and try out the new P.F. Chang’s restaurant that fused Chinese with California cuisine.

I’ve yet to be won over by cha tea and boba (also known as tapioca pearls; boba, that is). I tried a fruit flavored tea drink packed with boba a few years ago; it doesn’t stand out in my memory beyond chewing the boba pearls.

Millennials love Postmates. They might use another delivery service, too, like UberEats, DoorDash, GrubHub, Caviar, or a local joint like a pizza parlor. It usually starts out for them by taking Uber and Lyft trips. They quickly get hooked using a mobile app to get their mobility needs met quickly and seamlessly. Once they pushed the button, the driver would show up within 10 minutes. One of their friends, or someone they’re sharing an Uber ride with, or their driver, recommends trying out Postmates. One or two meals later, they love it.

Postmates and the other new food delivery companies have basically copied the Uber and Lyft business models, linking up drivers to customers through their own proprietary software and mobile apps. They also bring a few restaurants and fast food chains into their network, throwing in a few discount deals to attract new customers into their marketing programs.

You can also find a couple of good stories about driving for Postmates in Tales of UberMan

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