I consider myself a generous person and when I go to restaurants in the U.S., I almost always tip 20% unless the service is just flat out bad. However, since the pandemic, I’ve really limited my indoor dining. Very rarely do I eat indoors unless the restaurant is empty or I’m desperate. Fortunately, I live in Los Angeles so my family and I can dine outdoors year-round.

Usually we just order takeout and I will go pick it up, which almost always leaves me in an awkward situation. I’m truly perplexed about whether I should be tipping on takeout that I go to and physically pick-up. If it’s a restaurant I frequent often and know the staff, I give a few dollars but it just seems like an unnecessary added expense. Do you agree?

I also feel like some restaurants are too aggressive with tips, too. For example, take the screenshot above. I ordered four sandwiches from a Palm Springs sandwich shop website and before checking out, they required me to enter a tip. I find that even more awkward and offensive. Maybe it’s just me but I felt if I didn’t tip, my food might be sabotaged so it’s not worth a few dollars. I know it’s silly but that’s the way it made me feel. The same goes for delivery apps, which require the tip in advance. This doesn’t seem right because isn’t a tip a reward for good service?

I just did some research and according to Did You Know: Tipping began in a London coffee shop in 1668. “It was in Lloyd’s Coffee House that a brass container for the benefit of waitrons was first inscribed with the words “To Insure Promptness”. The idea was that a patron would put an amount of money into the container before sitting down to insure promptness of service from the waitrons.”

They now say: “Whatever or wherever the origin of the word “tip”, it is now given after being served, whether the service was prompt or not.” I agree.

USA Today interviewed an expert on the subject: “Tipping on takeout orders is the right thing to do,” says H.G. Parsa, professor of lodging management at the University of Denver. “Even takeout involves some amount of service, and we should tip those employees.”

The Today Show covered the subject last month and said: “With such days in the rearview mirror and indoor dining back at full strength across the country, takeout isn’t as substantial a piece of business as it once was for José and Dear Margaret, but the generosity and goodwill of their regulars has not abated. The tipping norm for their restaurants — takeout or dine-in — remains at 20% or slightly above.”

Tipping 20% for takeout? If that’s the norm then I’ve really have not been as generous as I thought. I understand that restaurant workers during the pandemic took a huge hit, which is why I really upped my tips big time during lockdown but now that most have gone back normal, it doesn’t seem right.

Of course none of this even touches on the fact that restaurant owners should be paying their workers fair wages and not passing that responsibility on to their customers. What do you think? And how much do you tip on takeout?

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28 Comments On "Should You Tip on Takeout?"
  1. Steve Edwards|

    First of all, your last comment is the strongest. Don’t make me tip your employees. However, at one of my local Anchorage restaurants, I regularly order takeout. When I show up, the wait staff is packaging my sandwich, putting my soup in to-go bowls, gathering everything. That means they aren’t serving other customers. They deserve a tip … but not 20%.

  2. shopaddict88|

    I would tip a few dollars only on takeout, of course if its a super large order then you might want to tip upto 10%.

  3. JoAnn|

    I agree with you. When the tip screen comes up, I choose ‘other’ or ‘custom’. I always leave a few dollars, but certainly not 20% for them to package my food in to go containers. The argument could be made that there is a cost for the containers, but there is usually enjoyment at a sit down dinner that I pay for service. If I get a leftover box, I don’t pay for that. Tipping has gotten out of control.

  4. Mary|

    I live in a small town that has limited dining opportunities outside of fast food chains (too many). Most wait staff in this area work 2-3 part-time jobs. They do have to package the take-out orders and sometimes deliver to curbside in addition to waiting tables. I tip but usually less than 20% unless it’s a restaurant I frequent often.

  5. Bill|

    I agree, some of these fast food takeout places, for example, Jersey Mikes, are getting too aggressive in the asking for tips these days and put you in an awkward position. I don’t tip in places like that. At a full service restaurant, if I order it to go, I will, but only 10-15%. But those other places I started paying by cash because of that tipping screen that pops up when paying by credit card. The workers stare at the screen to see if you are going to tip or not. You also have to watch out, some of these restaurants automatically include a gratuity in the bill for takeout, so you might be tipping twice.

  6. Diane A Kappus|

    I tip a few dollars, as most of the time it is just packaging up the order. Not the same level of service as waiting on a table, going back and forth with drinks, water, food, etc. The salaries here have increased dramatically.

  7. Tere cruz|

    On ANY tipping, base on SUBTOTAL (before taxes). CASH!!! To tip on a credit card allows the government to knowingly tax that amount. On taking out I usually tip custom of 10%.
    (Restaraunt owner)

  8. LARRY SEGALL|

    JOHNNY, HERE IN CT, I USUALLY TIP 20 PERCENT WHEN I HAVE GOOD SERVICE(AT THE RESTAURANT) WITH TAKEOUT GIVEN RESTAURANTS ARE SHORT STAFFED AND HURTING, I TIP AT 10 PERCENT TO HELP SUPPORT RESTAURANTS STAY AFLOAT LARRY SEGALL, LCSW, IN FAIRFIELD COUNTY, CT.

  9. Rich|

    With everything going on in the world and the cost of everything, gas, food, etc., if you can afford to order takeout you can afford a few dollars to the staff to help them through. We always tip 20% as gratitude for the job they are doing and on a $40 or $50 takeout order for my wife and myself, we’re only talking $8-$10 more. I’m sure that’s not going to hurt most of us that do takeout. If it does, you shouldn’t be ordering food from a restaurant.

  10. Michael R|

    Tipping at fast food pickup and drive thru’s? Not happening. Menu mandatory add-on tips for cooks which you can remove only on verbal request. Not worth a fight.

  11. BigIsland|

    I like the European method…Service is Included.

    Square has made the system worse. You buy some donuts at a small shop, and the tablet you are supposed to sign asks whether you want to leave a 15, 20 or 25% tip….What! So you feel like a curmudgeon if don’t leave a tip.

    The whole concept of a tip is because the waiter/waitress at the restaurant is waiting on you, responding to your every request for service. There is no such service when you do takeout.

    If the price is insufficient to profitably run the establishment, raise your price.

  12. DENNIS F MASTERSON|

    IN A TAKEOUT FOOD PLACE( IE-CHINESE FOOD OR PIZZA SHOP) I LEAVE A FEW $$ IF THE SERVICE IS GOOD. BUT FOR MCDONALDS OR WENDYS WHERE THERE IS NO SPECIAL FRIENDLINESS TOWARDS US, I DO NOT LEAVE ANYTHING. THE REASON WE PICKUP IN THE FIRST PLACE IS TO SAVE MONEY,

  13. Dru|

    I waitressed at a local restaurant with twelve dining rooms throughout high school and college. The work was physically demanding and tiring.The owners paid me something like 80 cents per hour because management knew I would get tips. And I earned every tip I got.
    Today, I generously tip for sit-down meals because I know how much work is involved, but I refuse to tip for takeout. The management should pay the staff a reasonable wage so these folks don’t have to depend on tips to augment their pay. To me, it is selfish of takeout staff to expect a tip for doing their jobs.

  14. Rox|

    I walk into a well known burger place where you go up to the counter to order – you can either take the food to a table or to go it is served in a paper bag either way. On the door they have a help wanted sign starting pay 18.64…then at the counter they credit card machine asks if I want to leave a tip 🤨… I don’t even make that much working in the public schools.

  15. Michael A Ristow|

    American culture — some of it’s good and some of it’s bad. I do not like America’s “tipping policy” and I never will. I’ve been to Japan about 10 times and within my experience, the average restaurant there gives better service than I have receive here in Hawaii, and it’s not in their culture to tip in a restaurant.

    I don’t like tipping period. And that screenshot irks me, but I have become a generous tipper. I tip 25 to 30%, sometimes more. I rationalize that I would probably tip 15% anyway, but I can afford 25 to 30%, so why not? And maybe help someone out a bit. I rationalize that over the years, after my ride on my wave closes out, there will be a few less thousand dollars of inheritance in the bank. Big Deal.

    For takeout, I’m not drinking a 9-dollar glass of wine that cost the restaurant 3 dollars. “Sir, would you like another glass of wine?” Maybe having two now it’s 18 dollars. Nor am I splitting a $12 dessert increasing the overall tab. So when it’s to go, you get out relatively unscathed so why not throw a few extra dollars in the jar making it 20%?

    Again, I go against my internal tipping grain for there’s no U-Haul behind the hearse. I didn’t always think this way, but that’s how I now view it Jonny.

  16. A Conklin|

    When tipping in a Resturant, that server is paying taxes on their tips. In most cases tax owed plus uniform fees and sometimes meals are deducted from their paycheck so not much left on that check. When tipping in a jar, those benefiting are not paying taxes on those tips.
    When dining with my partner we sometimes share a meal, I will always tip as if we ordered 2 meals. Usually 20-25%. Very rarely will I tip take out from fast food or coffee establishments

  17. PLIN|

    I tip the same amount at all take-out restaurants as I do at McDonalds – Zero. They do the same work for less. If you want a fair wage, pay it and reflect those wages in your prices. I worked my buns off as a bus boy in college, and didn’t share in the tips, yet earned the same hourly wage as the wait staff. It’s not fair, and tips don’t reflect the effort that all staff make. I absolutely hate the way so many businesses force you to select a tip or not in their payment system. It’s designed to make you feel guilty. I will avoid those businesses where I can.

  18. Anonymous|

    I don’t like the FORCED tipping on some checkouts, especially the ones that include the tax amount as part of the tip calculation, seriously. Also, I don’t trust the bagged up takeout, I disassemble everything and verify the contents which more than half the time OMIT items. And I am supposed to “TIP” for that in advance? A tip is extra, so show me you have done extra to deserve it. And sometimes I do see extra effort and then leave cash in the tip jar.

  19. Charles|

    10% on take out. I have been slow to accept this but I now do. The whole idea of picking up the food was to avoid the tip. Now with this crazy inflation going out and picking up food is very expensive. The result is I avoid getting take out now. $15 for a chicken sandwich at Hooters. I love Hooters but I now won’t go because my mind can’t get past eating a $15 sandwich (plus tip).

  20. Michael R.|

    My college daughter waitressed at a popular University burger and brew grille. She said the biker groups were the best tippers and the ladies’ groups were the worst.

  21. Mary E Picone|

    We always tip on takeout, my way of thinking is that it helps with the entire staff. Someone is preparing the food, bussing the tables, cleaning up etc. During the pandemic we tipped at 20%, as we really appreciated the horrible shortages and wage losses for people in the industry, we are fortunate to be able to continue with this practice. Also, we are used to ordering wine with our meals and takeout eliminated that added cost.

  22. Debra|

    Since the servers and other workers in the restaurant business have taken an abysmal hit to their livelihood, I tip 10% on to go orders. It’s not totally the customer’s responsibility for employee wages but the pay is often low and lacking a benefits package. The workers deserve a tip unless they are totally offensive or severely lack customer service skills. How about we rally to change the tip process and provide decent wages and benefits packages so it isn’t necessary to rely on tips?

  23. Lauren|

    A tip is for a job done exceptionally well. Not a job done satisfactorily or substandard. Therefore, no tip for any restaurant service unless it was phenomenal, whether eat in, pickup, or whatever.

  24. Mark B|

    Here’s another issue regarding tipping. A friend pointed out at coffee today that with restaurant menu prices going up, should one continue to pay a tip on the increased cost of the meal when the service provided by the wait person is the same? We all agreed that a tip should be reduced from 20% downward and then after deducting the sales tax (10+% in our area) and in some cases the cost of a glass of wine.
    What are your thoughts?

  25. Thomas Jenkins|

    Let me give you a totally different take. Believe me this occurs. There’s a reason law enforcement never goes to the counter of a fast food restaurant – – – do I have to tell you – – – OK, you don’t know what all you might be getting on that burger, etc.
    Now for indoor dining at a nice restaurant. There are two people servers remember – – – the good tippers AND the bad tippers. Now, if you only go to that particular restaurant ONE time and never again, you can get away with being that BAD tipper. BUT, if you plan on being a regular AND continue being a BAD tipper – – – what might you get mixed in with your food ???????
    It happens all the time. Personally, I always tip 20%, or more depending on the SERVICE – – – the server has no control over how the food is prepared. Poor service gets 10% and the server knows why.
    On a side note, I stopped going to dinner with a certain couple because they were an embarrassment. Complained all the time – – – regardless of the service/food and tipped 10%. Not my style.

  26. Thomas Jenkins|

    Charles,

    “I love Hooters but now I won’t go because my mind can’t get past eating a $15 sandwich (plus tip).”

    Charles – – – I didn’t know we went to Hooters for the food?

    Thomas

  27. Dale W Gardner|

    Tipping has gone off the rails in the US. It has reached ridiculous heights and bears no resemblance to its origins. When I was young, some five decades ago now, I worked as a waiter in several fine restaurants, and tips were important to one’s income, and waiters/waitresses worked hard to deserve a good tip. Today, the wait staff, as well as the restaurant management/owner, have the attitude that tips are obligatory.

    And then, starting about 25 years ago, tipping spread to every food operation, including simple over-the-counter operations and take-out. I trace this unwelcome phenomenon to the rise of espresso shops, where the original art of pulling a good espresso drink (before the introduction of automatic machines) depended upon the skill and attention of the barista. People who appreciated good coffee were willing to tip a good barista.

    But then that tip jar, which originally only graced the counters at these cafés and espresso stands, began showing up everywhere. People were being expected to tip for the simplest of services, including the mere act of handing the food over the counter. Where does this end?

    All people in every type of employment should be paid a good living wage and should not have to rely on tips to make that living wage a reality. If one argues that these people are providing a service and tipping is a good way to ensure better service, then why stop with food. Should we not just expand our tipping to bus drivers, garbage collectors, responding police officers (even the one giving us a ticket), teachers, our mechanics, etc.? Should tip jars be put out at the receptions desk at our doctor’s office?

    I have travelled to many countries (36, at last count), and I appreciate places where tipping is generally discouraged, like Australia. (I enjoyed a ten-year relationship with an Aussie woman, and she would regularly get annoyed with me if I left a tip in her country. I had to remind her that as soon as the wait person heard my American accent, they expected a good tip.) I like it when I am in a city/country where the taxi fare is exactly what the meter says and there is no expectation of a tip.

    Does that mean that I do not tip? No. I do so in foreign countries when the circumstances are appropriate. And I recognize that our economic system in the US makes it necessary for me to leave decent tips at restaurants and for many other types of services. Yet I much prefer the freedom to tip when the situation and the service rendered warrants a tip. But rarely in the US can we find that freedom.

  28. Guido|

    A friend’s family recently dined at a thriving San Fernando Valley restaurant, where they were given notice of an 18% service charge AND a plea to tip, too, since the waitstaff depends on tips to survive. Talk about wanting to have your cake and eat it, too!
    Restaurants that pay their staff fairly enjoy increased loyalty and productivity, and subsequently lower costs for rehiring and training. Greedy ones like this example turn off their clientele.

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