When hunger hits, vacationers count on mobile wait staff to deliver

DIALING FOR DINNER

August 08, 1993|By Audrey Haar | Audrey Haar,Staff Writer

Sometimes after a long, hot day on the beach, it's difficult to muster up the energy to go out for dinner.

If the alternative of standing over a stove fixing a meal doesn't sound much like a break, vacationers can pick up the phone and dial one of the many food delivery services at the resort.

The options range from ordering carryout from a restaurant to using a delivery service that will bring anything from pizza to lobster tails to a front door or beach umbrella.

At home, delivery services usually require a telephone number and a street address. At the beach, the protocol isn't so formal.

Delivery people have learned to cope with people who only know they are on 28th Street and the corner "over there."

Then there are the people who order a pizza to be delivered to the beach, which can cause confusion for deliverer and receiver. There are lots of striped umbrellas and people in similar swimsuits.

"They all say, 'Over here, it's for us,' " says Tom Marengo, a deliveryman and manager for Pizza Movers on 28th Street.

In addition to auto deliveries, Pizza Tugos at 18th Street and 116th Street in Ocean City has delivery people who zip through traffic on bikes.

"We send cars and bikes out at the same time, and the bike wins every time by two or three minutes, easy," says Scott Heise, owner of Pizza Tugos.

Vacationers who want something more than a pizza can have a full meal delivered by Takeout Taxi.

Drivers for Takeout Taxi, who are called mobile wait staff, are radio-dispatched and will zoom over to a restaurant to pick up a waiting food order, separate the hot foods from the cold, pack the order in insulated containers, and deliver anywhere.

"Fifty percent of every place we deliver to, the table is set and they are waiting for dinner," says Charles W. Steele III, owner of the Eastern Shore franchise of Takeout Taxi.

Takeout Taxi publishes a booklet with the menus from 21 Ocean City area restaurants, with several more eateries to be added soon. "We try to have all types of cuisines," says Mr. Steele.

In addition to the food bill, the customer pays a $3.50 service charge and is expected to add a gratuity for the driver.

It's not just the beach-weary who use Takeout Taxi. Some people call and order dinner before they arrive home, so a meal will be ready when they get there, and others send dinners as gifts or to a sick friend, says Mr. Steele.

But for most people, the attraction of a delivery service is getting a restaurant dinner while avoiding the lines that inevitably form at most dining establishments during the summer. "Sometimes our drivers will go back to BJ's for another order, and the same people are waiting in line," Mr. Steele says.

Food delivery veteran Rob Maurer, 24, tackles the job with cool dispatch. Mr. Maurer, who has also delivered food in Columbia, says working in Ocean City is preferable. "The tips are better because people are down here to spend money and have a good time," he says.

He also says rainy evenings are a bonanza for delivery people. "When it rains, they give you better tips because you are all wet."

Mr. Maurer started his evening shift one recent weekday evening with a call for a 5:30 p.m. pickup of several hot appetizers at BJ's.

The apparent snack turned out to be dinner for Trey Alter, 15, of Hagerstown; his brother Steven, 8; and friend Steve Stauch, 15, who were staying at a Golden Sands condo. Trey and Steven's mom and dad had gone out for crabs that night and left the boys with money for dinner with the instructions, "Get anything you want as long as it's not too expensive."

The next call Mr. Maurer received over the radio had him heading uptown to Nick Idoni's House of Ribs at 144th Street for three dinner orders destined for apartments on 28th Street.

This was the first time Shirley and Chuck Wagner of Highlandtown had ever ordered a full dinner for carryout. At home, they usually order pizza and subs, Mr. Wagner says.

"We like Niki D's," says Mrs. Wagner, who also ordered dinner for her friend, Janet Gibson. "We can stay here and be comfortable. We'll be using it for two weeks," she says, calling out to Mr. Maurer as he left, "We'll be seeing a lot of you, hon."

Food delivery people also dish out advice to newcomers in town. "You have to know where everything is," says Andrew Du--, a deliveryman for Surf Side Pizza and Subs on 33rd Street. "They ask where the best drinks are, where to go for miniature golf and where to eat."

Delivery personnel also never know what to expect when the front door opens.

"I had a delivery to a man who was in a black cape and wearing a garter. I gave him the pizza real quick," says Erik Shuey of Surf Side Pizza.

Scott Heise of Pizza Tugos said one of his delivery people brought a pizza to a couple in a hot tub, and another time a female employee delivered pizzas to a room full of young men. "When she turned around to ask for the money, there were 12 guys stark naked," Mr. Heise says.

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