Tipping and Take-Out
March 25, 2012 7:34 AM   Subscribe

Should I tip when I get take-out (and if so, how much)? How does the process work at the restaurant?

I've read this question, where lots of people say "I do/don't tip because I do/don't believe in it in this situation." I'd love to know whether people tip and why when picking up food at a restaurant (and there are likely new users or people's opinions could have changed since 2006 when that question was asked), but I'd especially like to know who does the work and where the money goes.

Let's say I call up my neighborhood Thai restaurant, where people often dine in. Who answers the phone and takes my order? Who packages my order for take-out? Do the people doing the work have time for it? Who gets paid if I leave a tip on the credit card receipt?

Bonus question: is a tip something that the restaurant workers usually expect or that customers leave? I live in a city in the United States, if it makes a difference.
posted by J. Wilson to Food & Drink (28 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
With takeout, I will leave a couple bucks if it's a restaurant where most of their business is dine in. If it's something like a sandwich shop, I won't.

But when I do tip for take out, I make it a flat $2 or something like that, not a percentage of what was bought.
posted by inturnaround at 7:57 AM on March 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

A modest tip for takeout is usually appropriate. Like a few bucks, not 20%.

If you tip too much to the guy at the counter who does nothing but take your money, hand you a bag, and act polite you are in effect paying him gratuity for work that was done by the kitchen. Where I live kitchen staff aren't allowed to receive tips. It's disheartening to see coworkers getting slipped big tips merely for handing them the delicious food you created without their help.

But I know that in some places it is allowed to tip the kitchen out, and I know that in some places the kitchen gets tipped out regardless of the law.

Also, in smaller establishments where the cook IS the server you should probably tip normally.

And yeah, workers (in my experience) do expect take out tips and customers (and I) do leave them.
posted by TheRedArmy at 8:00 AM on March 25, 2012

This has been discussed here before, here are the relevant threads for additional perspectives.
posted by Miko at 8:19 AM on March 25, 2012

I don't tip at all in fast-food places/sandwich shops or retail shops (tip jars in convienence stores REALLY bug me!); but restaurants with table service, whether chains like Olive Garden or fine dining, always get tips. Pizza delivery and the like also get tips, but not usually when I'm picking up my own carryout.
posted by easily confused at 8:40 AM on March 25, 2012

If I have to go get it I don't tip. If they bring it to me I tip. It had never occurred to me that anybody does otherwise.
posted by interplanetjanet at 8:53 AM on March 25, 2012 [15 favorites]

In a restaurant that does the vast majority of its business as "dine in" and only does a couple of takeout orders per night, how it works is that a server has to be called to the phone to take the order because the host(ess) might not know the questions that need to be asked (what kind of sauce, how hot do you want that, etc), and then the server has send it to the kitchen, get bitched at by the kitchen because takeout orders sometimes have to be prepared differently than dine-in orders, find the takeout containers which are usually kept somewhere stupid like the employee toilet (no, really), find all the bits and pieces like plastic cutlery and salt and pepper packets, package it up nicely, and deliver it to the host stand. Your other tables will be neglected while you do all this, and then the host(ess) will probably keep the tip.

So, yeah, I would tip 15 - 20% and specify that it is for the person who prepared and packaged the order.
posted by cilantro at 8:59 AM on March 25, 2012 [6 favorites]

Okay, that's one scenario, cilantro. But what actually happens is I call, say can I please have an order of teriyaki chicken for take out? They respond that'll be $9.83. I say thank you.

Then I sign the credit card slip at the store.

Total time out of their night: 1-2 minutes.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 9:38 AM on March 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

And having worked at restaurants that do take-out orders, the take-out stuff is all in plain sight where it's easily accessible and the cooks package it up. Not the service staff. So I guess my experience is far different than yours.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 9:39 AM on March 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Mod note: This is not the place for your rants, period. Answer the question being asked please. Thank you.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:42 AM on March 25, 2012

Response by poster: Cilantro: You can specify where your tip goes? Do you just write that in? Like "$3 (server)"?
posted by J. Wilson at 9:45 AM on March 25, 2012

The tip could get spread evenly among the whole staff, it could just go to the kitchen, it could all get pocketed by their boss, it totally depends on the restaurant. I've worked places where a note saying who the tip should go to would ensure they got it, I've worked places where the note would ensure it went to anyone else.
If you want to be seen as an asshole by all restaurant and kitchen employees, and raise the chances of there being "extras" in your next meal, don't tip. If you want to keep enjoying your food and service, tip a little bit. They won't care if it's just the coins left over from your change.
posted by gally99 at 9:53 AM on March 25, 2012

For the servers, what do people actually tend to tip on take out? Do you get annoyed when it's $0 or is that just normal?
posted by smackfu at 9:55 AM on March 25, 2012

I've worked as a server. In my experience, the hostesses fully handled take-out orders. They would be the ones to go back in the kitchen, but all the take-out stuff was very accessible. If they had a question on the order, they would grab a server -- 30 seconds at most. It was just another aspect of their job like answering the phones. Customers would occasionally give them a dollar or two, but for them that was always a bonus.

You could look at it this way -- servers get a reduced hourly because the majority of their salary is from tips. Hostesses typically make a higher hourly (not great, but $8 - $10 per hour in my area) because they don't get tips. Same with the kitchen. So the people doing the work for take out orders are already making a normal hourly. The only difference is with delivery, because the delivery guy is the one getting the tip, and they generally make below minimum wage because they're supposed to make their earnings off tips. So I tip the delivery guy, but not when I'm picking up my takeout.
posted by DoubleLune at 10:05 AM on March 25, 2012

Oh, and the other thing about restaurants is that they will all have their own systems, wages, and who gets tips, so there is no hard and fast rule about who is getting the money when you tip.
posted by DoubleLune at 10:07 AM on March 25, 2012

I worked in a breakfast/lunch restaurant that was mostly dine-in, though there were a lot of take-out orders. If someone got take-out and didn't tip, everyone agreed they were an asshole. In our particular establishment, a take-out order is like this: Phone is ringing, someone has to neglect a table to answer it. Take the order, ask all the right questions, enter the order in the system. Wait for the order to be ready, box it up (and put all the condiments in the tiny cups with tiny lids, and get napkins and flatware and some mints), and then be available when the customer comes to pick up the order, once again neglecting your tables.

Even at a pizza place, I tip 15%-20% on take-out. At Subway I don't. Delivery drivers get 20% because my lazy ass couldn't be bothered to go get my own food.
posted by masquesoporfavor at 10:12 AM on March 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

From a poster who prefers to remain anonymous:
I work for Domino's (remember me?), and when a takeout customer leaves a tip, it basically goes to the manager, if anybody. That is, it goes directly into the till, and goes to cover any drawer shortages that might occur, and anything left over (which usually amounts to about fifty bucks a week) goes to the manager as a "bonus." If the manager notices that drawer overages aren't as high as usual, he'll actually post a note in the office warning people not to pocket the tips. It doesn't matter what the customer says or who they try to give it to, it all goes in the till.

Even though I depend on tips as a driver, I don't tip when I get takeout, mostly because I have no way of knowing who's going to get it. Lots of places do tip sharing, which I really don't agree with. And yes, if it's just a simple case of "take my order, put it in a bag," I really don't feel like a tip is warranted. If I'm getting delivery, or if I'm dining in and being served and getting drink refills and so forth, that's tipworthy.
posted by restless_nomad at 10:42 AM on March 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

I was a server for a very long time; we had to handle takeout orders in my restaurant but it wasn't a giant burden or anything. I was pleasantly surprised when someone tipped on those and it was rarely more than $2. It was certainly not expected.
posted by downing street memo at 11:02 AM on March 25, 2012

It's not mandatory, but some people do it, and that's nice, so I generally tip a little under 10%. As for who it goes to, in one place I worked as the hostess, we handled takeout orders, and back in 1997, I'd say one in eight people left $1-2. (Hostesses are making less than most people at the restaurant, because they're not getting the tips that the servers get.) At another place I worked, the kitchen staff handled takeout orders. The money would go to them and be split up based on hours worked at the end of the night, just like the wait staff's tip-out to the kitchen was.
posted by salvia at 11:13 AM on March 25, 2012

When I waitressed at Denny's, servers handled takeout orders from start to finish, and they were more work than taking care of a dine-in customer. We servers expected tips for it, but they were rare and were usually less than dine-in customers left. Consequently, we hated To Go orders, and avoided them when possible.
posted by MexicanYenta at 11:39 AM on March 25, 2012

See, the thing is that it works very differently from place to place, and even from night to night at the same place.

I worked at a big chain mexican food restaurant where some nights it would work exactly as Cilantro describes if we had one of the shitty hostesses, but if it was one of the good ones or another server hosting or something, they'd take the order and do everything and keep the (rare) tip. At least a couple of times in the 8 months or so I worked there, there were huge takeout orders of ~20 or 30 meals with no tip left at all.

At a busy Chinese place I frequent, I know that they have one or two dedicated take-out guys depending on the night who also do everything. I tip 10% usually because I'm not actually being waited on and they don't have the same sort of perceived-attention pressures a server has.

At another Korean place I know of, they typically have like two servers on duty that manage takeout in addition to their tables. I give them 15%.

What I'm saying is I do it on a case-by-case basis when I'm able to discern how they work there, which is usually pretty easy at a local business*.

*Approximately zero of the big chains treat their employees who serve you microwaved food with anything resembling respect or care. Not all local businesses do either, but if you go to Olive Garden or equivalent, it's pretty much guaranteed.
posted by cmoj at 11:46 AM on March 25, 2012

It's funny you use the Thai case as the example, as where I live, this scenario also involves the Thai restaurant, from which I pick up takeout about half the time. I simply do not know how to resolve this question, and I think I am going to just have to accept the fact that when I don't tip, I feel bad, and therefore I'm just going to tip from now on. I tip 20%. In the scheme of things, it's really not a whole lot. And since I feel this moral tinge when I don't tip, even though there's plenty of good reasons not to do so, they really aren't helping assuage those feelings.
posted by scunning at 12:14 PM on March 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

Waiters have a much lower minimum wage because tipping is expected. The hostess, cooks, and others who prepare takeout should be be paid minimum wage. I tip either the change from my order or a buck.
posted by theora55 at 12:51 PM on March 25, 2012

10%, at a semi-nice (or better) restaurant

My daughter works at P. F. Chang's, which is a semi-upscale chain Chinese restaurant as a take-out server. There, she handles the entire order from your phone call to taking the order out to your car, similar to a regular table server. She says most people tip 10%, and when a person does not, they are thought cheap.

She works later today, and it is raining here. She was just talking about how tips are much worse on a rainy day -- because the people are irritated that the bags of food get a little wet as she runs them out to the car. (As does she.) That had never crossed my mind, but now I know to tip a little extra when it is raining.
posted by pH Indicating Socks at 12:53 PM on March 25, 2012

I always tip 10% on take-out at restaurants that do tips. I have no idea where I got the impression that that was the customary tip for take-out in the US, though.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:46 PM on March 25, 2012

I leave a tip for take out since in some restaurants tips are pooled and the the back room staff get a cut. I think it is fair to tip. If I can afford take out, I can afford to throw in a couple of extra dollars. As for the places with the little tip jars, I usually throw in some loose change.
posted by fifilaru at 2:08 PM on March 25, 2012

I tip for takeout not because I'm a nice person, but because I want to be remembered as the guy who always tips on his takeout orders and get the extra effort that usually comes as a result.
posted by wierdo at 8:17 PM on March 25, 2012

I never tip on takeout, but maybe I go to the wrong kinds of restaurants. There are only a couple of places I go that does table service AND takeout, and both of them have dedicated cashiers who deal with the takeout orders. And they both have styrofoam cups with the word "TIPS" written in in pen. Which to me is the universal sign that tips aren't really expected. (And no other patrons appear to tip either.)

However, these are both walk-up places. If I phoned in an order, I'd probably feel obligated to tip.
posted by gjc at 6:13 AM on March 26, 2012

I simply do not know how to resolve this question, and I think I am going to just have to accept the fact that when I don't tip, I feel bad, and therefore I'm just going to tip from now on.

This is exactly where I am. I know I can't control where the tip goes. I know it might have been a trivial amount of work to do to bag up boxes from the kitchen. But I do know that I feel bad if I don't tip, so I recently started tipping, unless there is some compelling reason not to. I don't tip as much as I do if I'm eating in, though, closer to 10%. (I am speaking here of regular restaurants, most of their business is sit-down, etc.. not sandwich shops or fast food or coffee or whatever)
posted by getawaysticks at 7:00 AM on March 26, 2012

« Older Under-appreciated gems   |   Culture and groupthink. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.