ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Robert Golike stated he feels just like the world’s most costly food-delivery driver — however that’s in all probability as a result of he makes use of a Cessna.
On a current morning, Mr. Golike, a pilot for Alaska Air Transit, was on the tarmac of Merrill Area, loading up a nine-seater aircraft with mail, produce and diapers, amongst different freight. He was set to fly these necessities to the Higher Kuskokwim area, greater than 200 miles away.
But in addition on board was maybe probably the most eagerly anticipated cargo: two DoorDash orders. One was steak tacos and churros from Pedro’s Mexican Grill in Anchorage, and the opposite an array of Chinese language takeout classics from Well-known Wok, together with lo mein, beef broccoli and Common Tso’s hen.
Awaiting the supply on the opposite finish have been Natalia Navarro and her household, who sit up for their “metropolis meals” fixes with relish.
“You’ll be able to order something you need,” Ms. Navarro stated. “And when you get it, you actually, actually savor it.”
However earlier than they might dig in, the pilot first needed to ferry the order on the lengthy air journey over the silty waters of Prepare dinner Inlet, the craggy snow-covered peaks of the Alaska Vary and the lake-pocked terrain close to the airstrip in Nikolai the place he would land.
There, the field of meals (solely barely crushed) was handed on to Ms. Navarro, 29, who works as a well being aide on the village’s clinic. There are not any grocery shops or eating places in that group of fewer than 100 individuals, so a couple of times a month her household orders from DoorDash to interrupt the monotony of chicken- and moose-based soups and stews.
After microwaving their order, which had been delivered to the Anchorage airport the earlier afternoon, Ms. Navarro and her household dug in.
It wasn’t fairly the identical as consuming metropolis meals in a metropolis, she stated, “nevertheless it’s form of good to have the choice to have one thing like that despatched out. It’s not scorching. It’s not recent. However on the identical time, it has the flavour you’re wanting.”
To fulfill such cravings, an intricate provide chain of supply drivers, airline workplace staff and pilots assist carry a style of town to bush and tundra. Alaska Air Transit is one in every of dozens of small regional airways flying individuals and cargo to a whole bunch of distant communities throughout Alaska — on a regular basis necessities like Netflix DVDs, outside gear and groceries, but in addition pizzas, Large Macs and tightly wrapped containers of pho.
Supanika Ordonez says that 5 years in the past, when she lived in Fort Yukon — a village simply north of the Arctic Circle, alongside the Yukon River — it was a thrill to get pizza from Fairbanks, 140 miles away. There was nowhere to exit to eat in Fort Yukon, and just one small village retailer. Just a few instances she added an airport supply from Pizza Hut (whose meals stored greatest on the aircraft journey) to her month-to-month order of groceries.
On the time, she stated the one supply choices to the airport have been pizza and Chinese language meals. “I craved different stuff, however they didn’t have DoorDash again then,” stated Ms. Ordonez, 35.
At this time, with the ubiquity of food-delivery companies, individuals dwelling in locations with no eating places or grocery shops have entry to all of the cuisines the closest metropolis has to supply.
When Mr. Golike, 38, travels to areas in Prince William Sound, delivery-food orders are on practically each flight. “KFC is the most important one I see,” he stated.
Midnight Air, an Anchorage air-taxi service, carries DoorDash and Uber Eats orders on its flights about thrice every week, stated its proprietor, Robert Could. Lake & Peninsula Airways, a regional service serving the Lake Clark and Kuskokwim areas of southwest Alaska, delivers Instacart orders day-after-day, and DoorDash orders “in all probability each different day,” stated Katie Burrows, 29, an workplace assistant for the airline.
As an proprietor of Alaska Air Transit, Josie Owen has seen how supply apps have made metropolis meals extra out there to these with no entry to the state’s primary street system. To cope with the inflow of orders coming to its workplace, the corporate arrange a big tent within the parking zone the place drivers can label the order with the particular person’s identify and village earlier than leaving it with the workers.
Ms. Owen stated that though individuals in rural Alaska generally order groceries from the closest metropolis, many follow a subsistence way of life and harvest their very own meals from the land. “Loads of the meals deliveries listed here are simply treats,” she stated.
Many of the airways will cease in a distant group provided that a passenger is coming or going. When that occurs, individuals within the village know they need to prepared orders with DoorDash, Grub Hub, Uber Eats or an area expediter — somebody who runs odd jobs for individuals. From there, the food-delivery driver will choose up the order and convey it on to the airline. Relying on the vacation spot, the burden of the meals and the area out there on the flight, rural Alaskans can anticipate to pay wherever from $10 to $30 simply to get their meals to the aircraft.
Nonetheless, as Ms. Burrows identified, many individuals discover the expense worthwhile. “There’s actually no roads to attach these individuals to McDonald’s or to KFC or no matter. Paying an expediter or DoorDashing one thing to our workplace and paying $20 is de facto not that costly in comparison with going into city.”
The variety of meals deliveries can rely on the climate, since an sudden storm can cancel flights, leaving planes parked on the tarmac. When that occurs, meals orders should go in chilly storage or be eaten.
“You might have all this DoorDash sitting there, and so oftentimes to assist compensate, our Anchorage workers will really simply eat the DoorDash after which reorder it and pay for it, and attempt to ship it out the subsequent day,” Ms. Burrows stated.
Expediters play a key function for a lot of rural residents. Caiti O’Connor, 22, and her twin sister, Shari, who’re from Dillingham however stay in Anchorage through the college yr, began an expediting enterprise within the fall of 2020.
The sisters assist rural Alaskans with numerous chores, like selecting up pets on the airport for veterinarian appointments on the town, storing automobiles or dropping off $300 value of Panda Specific meals on the airport for an worker appreciation occasion on St. Paul Island.
“We like to consider ourselves because the cousins in Anchorage,” Ms. O’Connor stated.
The takeout-by-plane enterprise is so brisk that in June 2020, Kristen Taylor, 40, purchased an Anchorage franchise of the chain restaurant Papa Murphy’s and rapidly arrange a second enterprise, Alaska Sky Pie, which arranges the transport of frozen pizzas, muffins and occasion decorations throughout Alaska.
By means of contracts with a number of airways in Anchorage, she stated she will be able to ship pizzas to “just about any village” for lower than $5 a 16-inch pie. With 10 pizzas, transport is free.
In the summertime, when many Alaskans are busy fishing, looking and foraging meals for winter, she sends out 25 to 50 pizzas every week. Enterprise picks up in fall and winter, to a number of hundred pizzas a day. Ms. Taylor estimates that she sends 7,500 pizzas a yr to distant elements of Alaska, for events such birthdays, graduations, funerals, weddings and proms.
“I’ve a robust respect for the struggles that the bush has,” she stated.
She has been particularly touched by the notes she will get from households who order her pizzas, together with one she stated she acquired from a lady in Arctic Village:
“I’ve seen a pizza on TV, however I’ve by no means had one earlier than.”