How a small NYC grocery delivery business is coping with a 400% surge in demand during the coronavirus pandemic

  • The coronavirus has forced grocery delivery drivers on the front lines of the pandemic.
  • Mirchi, a small New York City grocery delivery service with around 10 employees, is struggling to keep up with a 400% increase in demand.
  • The company's founder said that "by day three, all of my employees were burnt out."
  • View more episodes of Business Insider Today on Facebook.

Since the spread of the coronavirus in the US, drivers like Remy Quezada Rodriguez are on the front lines of the pandemic, delivering food to Americans hunkered down at home

Rodriguez works for Mirchi, a small New York City grocery delivery service specializing in South Asian ingredients. Lately, the company has been inundated with orders of rice, spices, and other goods.

To keep up with demand, the company's founder Naresh Mulchandani hired four new employees - a big move for a small business with around 10 total workers.Advertisement

But even with the extra hands on deck, it's been hard to keep up. Mirchi used to deliver 50 to 60 orders a day, but since the beginning of March, as the coronavirus began rapidly spreading across New York, it's been getting as many as 250 orders every day - an increase as high as 400%.

"By day three, all of my employees were burnt out," Mulchandani told Business Insider. "We were kind of prepared, but not in our wildest dreams to be prepared for, like, five times a regular volume." 

But as panic buying leads consumers to clean out local store aisles and virtual shelves alike, he expects it to only get worse.
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"The same customer placed an order today, and then tomorrow again, and then you know, two days from now again," he said. "And that's not exactly ideal, because that panic buying would take up a delivery slot, and the driver going to your residence two, three times in a week, where someone else in need could have used that."

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Claire Molloy/Business Insider Today

Grocery delivery drivers like Remy Quezada Rodriguez in New York City are on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic.

With long lines and empty shelves at many brick-and-mortar grocery stores, anxious shoppers are prepared to go to great lengths to secure that bag of rice.Advertisement

"People are willing to pay us a premium, or an extra just to get their order into the system and get their order delivered. But we've tried to remain fair. And we're not trying to charge an extra penny on any item that we have," Mulchandani said.

Amid the chaos, online delivery employees are putting their companies' health and safety practices under more scrutiny than ever. Workers from Amazon, Instacart, and other companies are demanding better safety measures and increased pay as they continue to work during the pandemic.

Since the reporting of this story in March, Mirchi employees are now required to wear masks, and the company has changed its delivery protocol to be contactless. These measures may reduce the chances of spreading the virus, but they do not eliminate them - which is why Rodriguez is taking precautions even as he continues to go to work.  Advertisement

"Every time, I worry," he said. "Every time when I get home from work, taking my clothes straight to the bathroom, taking a shower, or wash my hands right away, clean my phone."

"I worry about my family and my daughter, my son."

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