Updated: 2/4/16 – corrected information about shift caps. 

I was pretty gong-ho about getting all the shifts when I first started driving as a courier for Caviar. I grabbed shifts for the sake of grabbing shifts, not knowing for sure if I would be available when the time comes. If I can’t make a shift, I would remove myself from the shift before it is locked in. Shifts aren’t locked in until 48 hours before they start. I had a reason for this hoarding behavior. I wanted to find out which shifts are the busiest besides the two obvious – lunch (noon – 1 PM) and dinner hours (6PM – 9PM).

I’ve learned that some shifts are just not worth it and that it’s best to have a flexible attitude and freelance (be on duty even though you are not on shift) when appropriate. Here are the three shifts I think couriers should have this attitude toward.

The First Shift: 10:00 AM to 11:00 AM

On many occasions I signed up for this shift and end up waiting almost an hour or more for an assignment. If you have become familiar with the Caviar restaurants, this is a pretty obvious shift to not fight over. If you are not, check out the interactive map of Portland on this blog. You can see on the map that there are only three restaurant (yellow dots) that is open only during breakfast/brunch hours: Pine State Biscuits, Delicious Donuts, and Nuvrei. There are some other restaurants that serve food during this shift, but usually they don’t get busy until closer to lunch hours, near the end of this shift.

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The first shift is very slow.

If you see this shift is close to full (the time is crossed out), it’s best to freelance it. This way if you don’t catch a bunch of assignments, you can go offline.

If you are a courier who signs up for this shift regularly, my tip to you is to park and camp out within the triangle that is formed by the three restaurants mentioned above. You are more likely to get assignments. Parking can be hard to find (and costly) on the West side, so I recommend camping out on the East side of the river around the Eastbank Esplanade and Sullivan Gulch area.

The Worst Rush Hour Shift: 3:00 PM to 4:00 PM

Of all the rush hour shifts, this one is the worst. Downtown has the highest density of Caviar-using restaurants and people who uses the service during this shift are either stuck in traffic or don’t want to get stuck in traffic so they sent you to pick up their food. Portland’s traffic is one of the worst in the country these days.


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Portland’s traffic is top 10 worst in the country according to several rankings.

You can try to avoid downtown and camp out in central Portland between the Buckman and Richmond neighborhoods where many restaurants are, but this locks you into a square traffic trap made up of Sandy Blvd (north), Cesar Chavez (east), Division (south), and MLK/Grand Ave (west). And from my experience, camping out in the central Portland doesn’t stop the Caviar dispatcher from assigning you a job that requires you to go over the Morrison Bridge to NW Portland. If you are allergic to traffic, this shift isn’t for you.

Additionally, it’s likely that there won’t be a lot of orders coming in during this shift because it’s quite late for lunch and a bit early for dinner. I’d freelance this shift during the weekdays.

The No Restaurant is Open Shift: 9:00 PM to 10:00 PM

Most of the Caviar using restaurants close by 9:30 PM. If this shift is full, signing up for it doesn’t make a lot of sense since order volume is minimal. You’ll spend half an hour on-duty when zero restaurants open. If near full capacity, it’s best to freelance this shift so you can head home if you’re not catching a lot of assignments.

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Once I was dispatched to Cha Cha Cha! in NE Portland and it was closed when I got there.

If you catch an assignment and complete it between 9:30 PM and 10:00 PM, just go offline after you complete it. The chance of another assignment is highly unlikely.

Postmates users are active until two o’clock in the morning. So personally, I’d switch over to Postmates from Caviar after 9:30 PM and catch action from folks who want some late night munchies. Parking is free and there’s very little traffic so you can pick up some short 15-20 minutes deliveries with a car downtown and make around $20 an hour before tips.

A Final Note

For the Portland Couriers; the last thing I want to see happen is that we get a notification everyday from Glenn that these shifts are short on couriers. I am not discouraging people from signing up for these shifts. I am simply advising you to sign up under the right conditions. Because the nature of all on-demand gigs isn’t lighting in a bottle everyday. My advice for these shifts is this: If it’s pretty full, freelance. If it’s not, sign up.