Mesa Pizza Axes In-House Delivery in Favor of Third-Party Apps
Eliminating the in-house delivery department was a tough financial decision for the college neighborhood staple, says owner Dave Hathaway. Photo by Winter Keefer

Mesa Pizza Axes In-House Delivery in Favor of Third-Party Apps

After more than a decade on the job, former delivery manager Nathan "Nato" Cole's position was a casualty of changing times.

In-house pizza delivery is no more for Mesa Pizza by the Slice in Dinkytown. As of this week, deliveries from Mesa will be conducted entirely through third-party apps Grubhub, DoorDash, Uber Eats, and Bite Squad. 

Eliminating the in-house delivery department was an entirely financial decision for the college neighborhood staple, and a very tough and sad decision at that, owner Dave Hathaway said in an email.

Not long ago, pizza and Chinese food were the only kinds of food available for delivery. At one point Mesa, which opened in 2006, had four or five delivery drivers working weekend close shifts, with two drivers working slower shifts through the week. 

Then came third-party delivery apps. Next, the pandemic. By 2022, the business was down to one driver per shift. Many times a delivery driver would work a full day and only make two to four deliveries. Those sales didn’t come close to even covering their payroll cost, the owner noted. 

With the decision to eliminate in-house delivery, which went into effect Tuesday, May 10, delivery manager Nathan (Nato) Coles was laid off, along with three part-time employees who had been working one shift a week at most. One driver was also moved to a different department. 

“Mr. Coles had worked 11 years or so for us and done a wonderful job,” Hathaway wrote. “Disappointed, bummed out, sad, distraught, discouraged, and depressed are only some of the adjectives that would describe my feelings at having to let him go. I can’t emphasize enough what a pleasure it was to have the opportunity to employ Mr. Coles, but bottom line is we were losing money offering our own delivery service.”

From the eyes of the delivery manager 

When Coles was hired as a Mesa delivery driver in 2010, the job was simple: answer the phone, take orders, deliver the pizza. Eventually, he worked his way up to the position of delivery manager, a role that had him also handling much of the business’s campus catering. 

It was around 2014 when Mesa began to field calls from third-party delivery apps. 

“Think your DoorDash, Grubhub, Uber Eats, etc., etc.,” Coles said. “At first, we resisted. In fact, to be frank, they were annoying, and not just because they kept calling us when we would say no.”

Coles says the apps changed the game for food delivery drives. While apps add visibility to local eateries, they also come with a higher price tag.

With so many people finding eateries of all sorts through the third-party apps, Mesa eventually fell in line within the last year. 

Because of the fee these apps charge businesses for delivery (which is now capped at 15 percent in Minneapolis), prices are marked higher on the apps the majority of the time, Coles said. Despite this, more delivery orders were placed through third parties than through the cheaper in-house option. This left Coles wondering: Is it an issue of convenience? Or is Gen Z just so accustomed to using apps they didn’t think to dial Mesa for their ‘za? 

Recently, many people have told Coles they didn’t realize there even was an in-house option. He also noted that many are enticed by deals offered by a third-party provider that would make the product cheaper for short periods of time. But without the deals, the prices remained higher. 

Mesa also stands apart from many other pizzerias because of its Dinkytown location. Around half the sales are from the University of Minnesota. Most of the remaining sales are from students who live in the neighborhood due to its proximity to campus, with many opting to stop in to buy a slice at the 1323 4th St. SE Minneapolis location. 

“Although in-person class has resumed somewhat, it hasn’t come back enough. Maybe it’s back 33 percent,” Coles said. “Even with that, it’s not enough to keep staff around. That made me a casualty of the changing times, both the result of the rise in apps and the Covid pandemic.”