As the fanfare dies down over Chick-Fil-A’s temporary new delivery worker rest stop on the Upper East Side, the apparent public relations mission of the infamously conservative christian fast food company was by all means a success, with coverage on TV stations and websites coast-to-coast, even as the ‘The Brake Room’ itself is a flop. Off limits to anyone but delivery workers with at least one trip in the past week, an Upper East Site reporter delivered a salad for $2.50 to bring you this report.
Getting inside ‘The Brake Room,’ which opened last Thursday at 1477 Third Avenue, between East 83rd and 84th Streets, would be tougher than we hoped because Chick-Fil-A has security guards at the entrance, checking workers’ profiles in delivery apps like Door Dash, Uber Eats, Postmates and Seamless to ensure only authentic delivery workers were using their space.
First, we signed up for Door Dash, filling out our name, address, phone number and Social Security number — which was asked in order to conduct a background check. After going through that process, Door Dash told us that we were waitlisted because there was too much interest in delivering in Manhattan.
Undeterred, we immediately downloaded the Uber Eats Driver app and filled out the same exact same paperwork. Two days later, we were green-lighted to work for the app that technically employs no delivery workers because we’re all independent contractors and not employees.
Even with the stamp of approval by Uber Eats on Monday, we still had to make a delivery to get inside ‘The Brake Room’ to see how the rest stop was being received in the community.
Despite a message on the app telling us Uber Eats was very busy with lunch orders, only a handful actually came through over the course of a few hours.
Several were pickups from the Upper East Side’s Chick-Fil-A, located at 1536 Third Avenue, between East 86th and 87th Streets, for delivery to other neighborhoods, like East Harlem, Harlem or the Upper West Side — all of which paid the delivery worker only five to seven dollars for taking up as much as a half hour of their time.
Finally, we settled on an order from the salad shop Chop’t, located on Third Avenue near East 78th Street. However, we’d only make $2.50 before taxes for delivering a salad to an apartment building two blocks away — not enough to buy a 20-ounce soda.
We made the pickup at Chop’t with no problem — in fact, its scary how you can just walk in and take pick-up orders from the shelf without anyone asking questions if you just do it confidently.
Upon arrival at the building, of course they had one of those ‘virtual doorman’ call box systems that requires you to shuffle through pages of tenants until you find the apartment you need. However, when you selected the unit and hit ‘call,’ the box just reset to the main page. The hungry Upper East Sider who ordered this salad would now have to come downstairs to pick it up.
Finally, we had completed our first delivery, earned $2.50 cents — a quarter short of enough for a subway or bus fare — and had the proof of work we needed to access ‘The Brake Room.’
Heading inside, we were immediately greeted by three security guards stationed at the door. After showing them the completed delivery within the Uber Eats app, they welcomed us into the space and requested we tell our friends (other delivery workers) about the rest stop.
Before entering ‘The Brake Room,’ we were required to sign a waiver — of which we were not provided a copy — and then given a brief tour by one of the employees inside.
A single, gender neutral bathroom is located near the front of ‘The Brake Room,’ while the rest of the well-appointed space felt more like a fancy co-working operation than rest stop for busy delivery workers.
Easily listening tunes pumped softly through speakers stationed throughout the large, open room peppered with furniture and art, in addition to multiple outlets to charge your devices — that’s if you remembered to bring the brick with you, we did not see many USB ports available.
Free drinks are available to delivery workers who make it past the bouncers, including a refrigerator filled with bottled water and a coffee kiosk where Chick-Fil-A workers will make you a fresh cup of joe.
On Monday afternoon, Upper East Site saw a trickle of delivery workers go into to ‘The Brake Room,’ with no more than four or five men sat scattered throughout the space, playing on their phones, at any one time. Instead, they were largely outnumbered by Chick-Fil-A employees throughout the building, giving tours in multiple languages to delivery workers that straggled in.
A counter near the front corner of the rest stop was filled with individually packaged Chick-Fil-A chocolate chip cookies which are free for delivery workers to enjoy. However, unlike the fresh-baked variety at the Upper East Side restaurant, these cookies were stale and hard as stone.
Next to the rock solid cookies sits a pile of small pencils and stacks of anonymous surveys in different languages that Chick-Fil-A hopes the delivery workers will fill out during their respite.
“Does The Brake Room make you feel more cared for?” reads the first of six questions on the survey, while the second similarly asks “Does The Brake Room make you feel appreciated as a delivery worker?”
The survey goes on to ask whether delivery workers needs are being met and how many times they’ve been to ‘The Brake Room,’ before careening into a strange territory with question number five:
“After experiencing The Brake Room, how do you feel about Chick-fil-A, the brand that brought it to you? Circle all that apply:
- I think Chick-fil-A is a brand that cares about me
- I would work as a delivery driver for Chick-fil-A
- I would consider eating at Chick-fil-A
- I don’t know”
Needless to say, after one visit to ‘The Brake Room,’ we just don’t know.
Since delivery apps like Uber Easts, Door Dash and Seamless prioritize delivery workers closest to the pickup restaurant, those we saw inside ‘The Brake Room’ didn’t stay more than a few minutes.
However, we did spot plenty of delivery workers and their ebikes still stationed outside of Chick-Fil-A two blocks away, as well as in front of Chipotle and McDonald’s on the next block.
Through April 13th, ’The Brake Room’ is open to delivery workers from 11:00 am to 7:00 pm Monday through Saturday. The rest stop is closed on Sundays.
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This is some real Woodward and Bernstein reporting. Bummer your delivery customer didn’t have a doorman. It’s rough out there!