Take Out Tipping Revisited: A Change In Perspective


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I sat on the couch inside an Olive Garden watching the To Go Server work. I was surprised to discover that there was a person dedicated to handling To Go orders. I always thought that everyone kind of pitched in to deal with them. I was definitely impressed at the pace at which she worked. After a few moments, she called my name to come to the register and pay for my bill. Staring at the copy of the receipt I was about to sign, I noticed the line dedicated to fill in a tip value.

I filled in an amount that equaled a 12% tip.

As I was signing the form, she mentioned that they were still working on a few items from my order, and that it would be a few more minutes. When I looked up at her, I could tell by the look on her face she expected me to be unhappy with that news. Instead, I simply smiled and said, “No problem.”

I watched her work feverishly as she put together several orders at once. She filled bags with breadsticks, made salads, retrieved things from the kitchen, answered the phone taking more orders, and put orders into bags. She constantly wore a look of exasperation, except for when she had to talk to customers. When she did, her voice was polite and her eyes sparkled.

When my order was complete, she called my name again and handed me a large bag containing my order. She apologized for the delay, I looked her right in the eyes and thanked her for her help, and wished her a good night.

That young lady was working extremely hard. She wasn’t a server in the dining room, but she was a server. She was taking orders, filling orders, and delivering the food to customers just the same as the dining room servers. Does that warrant a tip?

Honestly, I wish I had left her a larger tip.

I know I’ve written about this subject before, but I wanted to circle back around and share this story. It’s a great example of how discussion of a subject can help change a person’s perspective. When I wrote my first post I thought the tip line on the receipt was simply there because it was a common form for any purchase. I honestly questioned whether tipping for take out was expected. Through researching the post, and the discussion that followed in the comments section, I learned something. Watching the young lady work the To Go station at Olive Garden brought it firmly into focus.

Has a blog post on CleverDude, or any other personal finance blog changed your perspective on some subject? Have you ever noticed how hard the To Go servers work?

Brought to you courtesy of Brock

About the author

Brock Kernin


  • I think tipping for take-out is an odd thing in and of itself, but I don’t think you’re wrong to think the person putting it together deserves it. I have a lot of sympathy for servers in restaurants and think they deserve more than they pull in typically.

    What gives me pause, though, is I think the other thing to factor in is time taken per order vs. time taken per table. If everyone was tipping 15% for take-out and take-out had a really busy night, the person at the front might spend an intense 2-4 minutes per order for their 15% where as a server in the dining room might have tables that they’re filling water for, checking in on quality, running to the kitchen for condiments and then turning over only every 45-80 minutes. Even if the dining room server were getting 20%, I doubt they would rake in more than the take-out person.

    Now, the reality is, a lot of people probably don’t tip for take out, but does that make it my responsibility to make up for those that don’t?

  • I think 10% is more than enough when looking at tipping for to-go. We use 20% as our standard for good service at the tableside, and there is extra work for a table server that I think justifies the 10% variance.

  • I do think that tipping someone who puts together a take-out order at Olive Garden or any other normal “sit-down” restaurant is different from tipping at Starbucks or McDonalds, especially if, like your description, they put an entire order together for you. Not exactly the same when putting a wrapped burger into a bag. I’d consider tipping in that situation also.

  • @Mattt – good thoughts…here’s a few more to think about when determining the amount to tip a take out server (should you be inclined to do so): The bill amount is likely less because of the lack of appetizer, dessert, and drinks. Also (at least in this case), the server spent WAY more than 2-4 minutes assembling the order. It’s one of the reasons I decided to tip what I did.

  • @Kathy – It’s hard to distinguish the line these days between who gets tipped, and who doesn’t. You pose an interesting context. Olive Garden is a sit down restaurant with servers who traditionally get tips. Therefore it seems natural to extend that concept to the take out server. BUT, the Olive garden take out server has a very similar job to your front end McDonalds workers, who do NOT get tips. Interesting thought…..

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