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Pizza companies say driver safety key for delivery decisions

NATCHEZ — A shooting, robbery and other potentially dangerous situations in certain areas of Natchez are reasons three Natchez pizza companies only deliver to certain areas of the city.

Questions about Domino’s delivery service were raised by Ward 1 Alderwoman Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis at Tuesday’s board of aldermen meeting when she relayed a concern from a resident who recently could not get a Domino’s pizza delivered to the 900 block of North Union Street close to or after dark.

Arceneaux-Mathis asked Police Chief Danny White to investigate safety concerns in the area that would cause the company not to deliver there.

Domino’s Pizza supervisor Matthew Magee said Wednesday the company evaluates crime in an area or incidents that jeopardize driver safety to determine whether the company will deliver to that area after dark or at all.

The policy is not limited to Natchez, Magee said, and is used to evaluate all areas Domino’s serves.

Delivery areas must meet certain requirements, Magee said. For example, he said, Domino’s does not deliver on dead-end streets because it would be more difficult for a driver to maneuver away from a dangerous situation.

Domino’s also does not deliver to areas with a high number of abandoned houses, Magee said.

Pizza delivery drivers are frequently robbed, Magee said, by people who request deliveries to addresses of abandoned houses and wait for the drivers so they can rob them.

“At Domino’s, driver safety is extremely important, and we don’t want to jeopardize the safety of any of our people,” Magee said. “We stand by that firmly.”

Domino’s will also not deliver to certain areas if a driver has encountered a specific dangerous situation, Magee said, which are evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

A 2007 shooting at Cedarhurst Apartments on Lumber Street during which a driver’s back window was shot out and a 2008 robbery of a delivery driver on West Stiers Lane prompted Domino’s to no longer deliver to those areas day or night, Magee said.

Natchez Police Capt. Tom McGehee said the 2008 robbery involved a driver being robbed at gunpoint by a 15-year-old girl who was with a group of people.

McGehee and Magee reviewed Domino’s delivery map and drivers’ concerns about certain locations Wednesday, Magee said, so the company and the police could be on the same page about the situation.

“They’re doing this for driver safety,” McGehee said. “It’s something they do in all their stores, because all stores are concerned about driver safety.”

Deliveries will not be made after 7 p.m. to areas deemed unsafe for drivers, Magee said.

That time was adjusted in Domino’s system Wednesday to account for time recently moving forward an hour for daylight saving time.

Magee said residents who live in areas where delivery service is not available can still place carryout orders at the store.

Driver safety is also important to Papa John’s and Pizza Hut, companies that will also not risk the safety of their drivers to deliver to certain areas.

Pizza Hut area supervisor Delores Owens said the company does not deliver at all to Cedarhurst, Williams and Holiday apartment complexes and other areas where drivers have encountered dangerous situations.

“Everybody in an apartment complex may not have done you harm, but you have to be safe,” she said. “And, too, understand that the good  sometimes have to suffer for what the bad has done.”

Papa John’s general manager Shirley Westerfield said Papa John’s has similar policies to Domino’s and Pizza Hut and does not deliver to areas their drivers have had incidents, such as Holiday Apartments.

Pizza Hut also does not deliver to some areas for practical purposes beyond safety, Owens said. The store delivers to within 10 minutes of their location to ensure a fresh product gets to customers.

Pizza Hut does not deliver to Susie B. West Apartments, Owens said, because numbers are not posted on the building, which could mean a driver would likely spend too long trying to locate the apartments where he or she was delivering.

Pizza Hut also does not deliver to areas where they do not receive a frequent amount of calls for deliveries, Owens said.

“You may have a subdivision of 50 people, but if we get one order every two months, we won’t deliver out there,” Owens said.

Magee said Domino’s is thankful for the community’s business and wishes the company could deliver to all of Natchez.

“We’re sorry for the areas we can’t go to,” he said. “It’s nothing discriminative to those areas; it’s just a matter of driver safety.”

In the future, Magee said, he hopes any concerns about deliveries or other issues are relayed directly to the store.

“We’re more than happy to listen and work out any problems,” he said.

Arceneaux-Mathis said she believes unsafe situations for delivery drivers is part of a larger need to make the city safer.

That is especially important, she said, because Natchez is a retirement community, and retirees are likely to need food-delivery services.

“We need to get to a point where we can have these services so businesses can be profitable, drivers can be safe,  people who live in these areas feel good about themselves and can get what they want to pay for,” Arceneaux-Mathis said.