What Would You Do?

What Is The Correct Tipping Etiquette For Take Out?

tipping, tipping etiquette, waiter tips

I pulled into the parking spot and jogged to the front door of my favorite chicken wing restaurant to pick up a to go order. The cashier smiled, made friendly small talk and took my order from the window. She then swiped my debit card and laid the signature form on the counter along with a pen. I did the same thing I’ve done countless times, I put a line through the “tip” section, rewrote the total and signed my name. As soon as I handed the slip of paper to the cashier her demeanor changed. Her smile disappeared, her friendliness dissolved, and she barely managed to grunt out a, “Have a nice day,” as I picked up the bag holding my order. Confused, I headed towards my van, when it finally hit me.

Was she expecting me to give her a tip?

I thought I had finally resolved the tipping thing within myself. While I personally think a tip should be 100% optional as an over and above payment for a job well done, I have come to terms with the fact that businesses in the US pay servers next to nothing, expecting them to earn the vast majority of their income through tips. I consciously increased my tipping methodology based on this, and was at peace with myself until I picked up my chicken wing order that day.

To my knowledge, the person who took my payment was not a server. She certainly didn’t provide me a dining experience like one would traditionally think a server would. She simply turned around, picked up my bag of food, and then took my payment. The whole interaction took a little more than a minute.

Does processing my payment deserve a tip over and above the cashier’s hourly wage?

I decided to pull up the all knowing Google and do some research. Because after all, if it’s on the internet, it must be true. Based on almost 6 whole minutes of research, here’s what I found:

  • The restaurant industry would have us believe tipping for in store take out orders is expected/required, but the fact is, it is not commonplace.
  • For in store pickup, 80% of people do not tip for take out
  • Those that do, the tip is a couple of dollars, or about 10% of the bill.

I’m not sure if I misinterpreted the cashier’s change in mood, or if she really was expecting a tip she shouldn’t have been, or if the rules have simply changed (again) and I was a cheapskate.

What do you think, Clever Friends? Do you tip for take out orders?

Brought to you courtesy of Brock

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About the author

Brock Kernin

13 Comments

  • I don’t tip on take out orders either. Even at a place like Starbucks where they “custom make” your drink, I don’t put anything in the tip jar on the counter. When I tip I have the expectation of a little more service than simply handing me a cup of coffee or a bag of burgers.

  • I tip on take out orders at restaurants, 10% or $2.

    Often at a full service restaurant 1 server gets stuck doing the take out business, but they are still being paid as a server, think Applebee’s Curbside-To-Go.

    For restaurants where take-out is the main business (pizza, wings, Chinese), I’ll usually tip $1. Places like Starbucks where employees are not paid as a server, I usually don’t tip.

    It’s not necessary to tip on take-out, but it’s the decent thing to do.

  • Nope. Our local pizza place has that same tip line on their receipt and I think it’s ridiculous. The worker hands me my pizza and rings me up. That’s it. There is no table service in the entire restaurant. No need to tip, and thanks to your stats I know it’s not just me that doesn’t tip!

    I do, however, tip the take out person at Applebee’s. I figure they are losing money by being responsible for Car Side customers when they could be waiting on tables inside.

  • @Laurie – I agree….the person getting the tip has to have the opportunity to perform some sort of service worth of a tip. Turning around and picking up my bag of food and setting it on the counter doesn’t meet the requirement. 🙂 Thanks for dropping by!

  • @Kathy – I can’t comment on Starbucks, as I don’t drink coffee…..but along similar lines, I do tip at places like ColdStone Creamery (ice cream) because the people making the desserts are the people cashing you out.

  • @ConnieC – Yeah, that “tip” line makes you think……I don’t know if it’s on purpose or not, but I suppose they can’t have two different receipt systems.

  • I always tip on take out orders. Though I don’t agree with the policy, the standard throughout my 20+ years in the business in TN, NYC, Chicago, & Orange County, CA was that servers, bartenders, restaurant staff who rang in to-go orders pay “tip share” on that to kitchen staff. One can argue all day long against this standard and I would agree but the bottom line is that it happened without failure. Also, many restaurants take taxes out based on food sales. Take out sales included. This means they are assuming that servers make 12-15% on ALL food sales. One more thing about tip-share: Traditionally a percentage (based on food and/or drink sales) is given by servers to the following staff: bartenders, busboys, food runners, host staff, and kitchen staff. Though this was illegal, one would not have a job if one did not comply.

  • @Lynn Tip sharing, as well as the fact that sometimes it is indeed a server that is handling to go orders really had me rethinking my strategy. I ordered Chinese takeout after I posted this, and when I walked in the restaurant I noticed that a person that was obviously a server brought the food to the front and took my payment. For the first time ever, I left a tip for a takeout order!

  • Nope. No tips for take out orders unless the planets are aligned AND a flock of ducks block traffic so I can cross the street.

    Also, beware of the “additional tip.” This happens when you go out with a group, and the tip is automatically included, but the tip line is still present. I see this as a scam, not an oversight, because the receipt can easily be programmed to either show the tip is already included, and/or remove the line altogether.

  • @Coolio – good point on the “additional tip.” I always look to see if the tip was already included, and make sure I inform the rest of the people in my group if that’s the case.

  • I’ve wondered this same question myself. I normal don’t, unless I’m dinning in at a restaurant and being served. More clearity on the subject between restaurant, employees and government would definitely help. So people know what is expected.

    If regulators allow restaurant to pay below minimum wage they are sending the message that tips should be expected.

    I think the restaurant industry needs to get clear on what needs tipping and make it clear to the servers as well.

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