Tipping for Carry-Out
January 27, 2004 7:26 PM   Subscribe

Tip etiquette: What is the appropriate tip for carry-out from a traditionally sit-down restaurant?
posted by ferociouskitty to Work & Money (40 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I don't. All they're doing is handing me packaged food. I smile, say thanks, and come back again if the food was good.
posted by BlueTrain at 7:30 PM on January 27, 2004

Response by poster: I picked up some delicious chicken makhani from the closest Indian restaurant to my new home, paid by card, and added $1 to the tip jar at the bar (where I was directed to go to pick up my order.) Looking at my online payment record, I'm shocked to see that someone at the restaurant took it upon themselves to add a 40% tip to my charge slip (which I had simply signed without totaling.) I'm generally a 20% + tipper, but the $1 was under 10%. I don't know if whoever totaled my bill was just being shady, or were teaching me a lesson. Help me to not commit a dining faux pas once again --- or simply be more careful with the blank spaces on my charge slip.
posted by ferociouskitty at 7:32 PM on January 27, 2004

The whole reason I get carry out is to avoid having to tip.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 7:33 PM on January 27, 2004

Probably a typo when punching in tips into the machine. Happens all the time. Or a shady employee. Happens all the time too.

You shouldn't have tipped for carry-out anyway. Only consider tipping if you had special instructions on how you wanted your meal cooked.
posted by Stan Chin at 7:40 PM on January 27, 2004

Tips are for table service. Takeout gets none, other than carrying the food to the register.

You got flat-out ripped off. And the 40% is obvious proof of that.
posted by Fupped Duck at 7:41 PM on January 27, 2004

i don't tip for carryout, unless i ask for a special order, or extra something or other in the dishes. I wouldn't go back to a place that added a 40%--or any--tip to a carryout order. (I hope you crossed it out.)
posted by amberglow at 7:44 PM on January 27, 2004

I only tip when the person delivering my food/service is actually doing something that deserves a reward above what they are already paid. Handing me a bag of food does not qualify. Driving two miles in inclement weather because I'm to lazy to cook does qualify. 40% is outrageous unless the order was huge, and even then, would only be acceptable if you and twenty friends were dining in the establishment.
posted by Grod at 7:51 PM on January 27, 2004

ferociouskitty, I may have spoken too soon. The other day, I went to a local restaurant and did the exact same thing. The next day my online statement read that they charged 19.26, when the actual charge was 15.26. I was very upset, until today I checked the statement again and discovered that the statement corrected itself and was only charged the original 15.26. Give it a couple days, it might go away. Otherwise, complain.
posted by BlueTrain at 8:03 PM on January 27, 2004

You got ripped off, yeah. If you'd otherwise go back there again, I'd mention it to the manager / owner. And total yer damn slips!

But I usually tip a buck or two for take-out from a sit-down place (ie, Olive Garden, On The Border). AFAIK, some of the tip money goes to people who work in the back, like potscrubbing dishwashers and other assorted people who could use an extra few cents here and there. I won't begrudge them a buck or two just because I'm carrying it out.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:09 PM on January 27, 2004

Being in the industry, let me put my 2 cents in. In all the places I've worked in, whenever I've done take-out for somebody I've had to go out of my way to make sure that it was done properly, that all the condiments, napkins and so on were there, that the food was indeed what the customer ordered, etc. Depending on the time of day, and let's face it, take-out usually happens during busy periods, I don't usually have the time to do this, so there is a possibility that my eat-in guests might receive inferior service. Also, many restaurants have a tipping out system, whereby the chefs, bartender and bussers receive a percentage of the of the server's sales, usually about 4%. If a server sells $1000, they are tipping out $40. Assuming they made 10% tip money, which translates to $100, they are giving $40 away as tip-out and walking out the door with $60 (which isn't bad, you might say, but in the business, it's not good, but that's the subject of another post). When a patron doesn't tip, the waiter is still tipping out, and is, in effect, taking a loss on that bill. You might not think that it's that big a deal, and it's not if it happens sporadically, but it is a big deal if it's a big bill or it happens often. If you're doing take-out for 2 people, and the bill is $50, the server will notice if there is no tip, both at the end of the night when he is counting his money, and at the time of transaction.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that tipping is not a bad thing when doing take-out.

Obviously, all of the above depends on the type of restaurant you go to - a lot of places that do take-out service don't have servers (i.e. pizza places, fast food outlets, and so), so there's obviously no need to tip (unless you want to, which certainly isn't a bad thing, and the person giving you your food will likely remember you the next time...)

ferociouskitty, ALWAYS fill in the blank spaces when going to a restaurant and ALWAYS do a total on your slip. For the most part, servers and bartenders are some of the more honest people I've met, but there are always one or two who give the rest of us a bad name. It seems as though you found a bad egg. If I were you, I would mention something to the management of the place you went to. I hope that your bill was small and that 40% was only a buck or two.
posted by ashbury at 8:16 PM on January 27, 2004

I usually leave three-five bucks for something like that...the place that I usually do it at (Jaker's) is a nice steak joint, and the hostess or the bartender is always the one who takes the order, runs it to the kitchen, bags it up (after checking it to ensure accuracy), and then keeps it ready for me at the front desk area. And they are always unfailingly polite and cheerful.

And, as pointed out by ROU_X, some places do pool the tips, so some of my tip does go towards the cooks, dishwashers, wait-staff, etc. All in all, it's worth the extra few bucks in exchange for consistently good food & good service.
posted by davidmsc at 8:19 PM on January 27, 2004

I had a friend who owned a restaurant and he told me two things I didn't know at the time:

1. Never tip on takeout.
2. Never tip if your server is the owner of the establishment.

They both make sense but neither had occured to me previous.
posted by dobbs at 9:56 PM on January 27, 2004

Don't tip on take-out. What is lost on the tip is made up by your freeing up a table.

Ashbury: how your establishment handles tips is between you and your boss -- take-out is a no-tip situation, so if you're getting screwed on the night's tips because you handled a take-out order, you need to talk to management.
posted by silusGROK at 10:13 PM on January 27, 2004

When I was working as a server/bartender, we remmedied this problem by having assigned "open tables" on which all the take-out and employee food could be ordered on so that nobody got screwed for missed tips while having to tip out on those sales. Alas, as the only bartender, I had to do all the to-go orders, and on a busy friday/saturday night, I felt like I was indeed doing a service by getting all your food and drinks together, bagging chips and salsa, or whatever you needed.
posted by jmd82 at 10:36 PM on January 27, 2004

Here's the rule: if you're not sitting in the establishment when you eat/drink and when you pay, and there isn't any alcohol, then there's no tipping, ever.
posted by NortonDC at 10:57 PM on January 27, 2004 [1 favorite]

Here's the rule: if you're not sitting in the establishment when you eat/drink and when you pay, and there isn't any alcohol, then there's no tipping, ever.

Even if they drive to your house?
posted by The God Complex at 11:06 PM on January 27, 2004

Good catch. Revised:

Here's the rule: if you're not sitting in the establishment when you eat/drink and when you pay, and there isn't any alcohol, then there's no tipping, unless they're delivering outside their establishment.
posted by NortonDC at 11:18 PM on January 27, 2004

Personally, I will tip on take out to places I go regularly (even if just for take out) as a sort of down payment on help me quickly the next time I'm here.
posted by drezdn at 11:36 PM on January 27, 2004

It's a buck or two, fer cryin' out loud, and it's going to the poor slobs in the back who are probably not having the bestest time ever.

Here's the rule: the rule is that leaving a tip is never unkind.

I'd agree that it's not "required" in the same sense that it is for sit-down service, but, call me crazy, I prefer to err on the side of a small kindness when it's cheap and convenient.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:36 PM on January 27, 2004

i'm also in the service industry and i've got to side with ashbury. servers often have to tip out--regardless of whether or not they've actually physically served a table...

in the restaurants i've worked in, the tip out ranges from 3-5%. and--in each and every restaurant i've worked in--i end up tipping out (essentially, out of my pocket) on take out orders. (silius--if only talking to management were an easy thing. i've tried it and it simply doesn't work.)

the tip needn't be (and, indeed, shouldn't be) as substantial as a table service tip but servers do appreciate a couple of bucks (especially if your take out bill is huge).
posted by lumiere at 2:10 AM on January 28, 2004

I'm glad this question was asked - my wife heckles me whenever I leave a couple bucks when we pick up take-out. The way I look at it, these are places, people and food we like, and if leaving a few dollars helps out the back room staff, and results in a slightly larger portion next time, it's money well spent...
posted by jalexei at 4:19 AM on January 28, 2004

Don't tip on take-out. What is lost on the tip is made up by your freeing up a table

Silus, the odds are good that there are no free tables and that the restaurant is already working at maximum capacity. Trust me, in the 15 years plus that I've worked in a restaurant, I've noticed that most take-out occurs at peak times. While this is good for the restaurant, it is not good for the person taking care of the order who usually gets absolutely nothing for their hard work and concern that the take-out order be perfect. The service involved may not be the same is dine-in service, but there is service nonetheless.

As lumiere mentions, often trying to talk to management is an exercise in futility. Many restaurant managers have a "do as I say, not as I do" policy which makes them difficult to talk to. In short, they just don't give a crap.

As ROU says, tipping is a small kindness and can't hurt. Ultimately though, it doesn't really matter if you tip or not. If you tip, you might get some extras the next time you order take-out.
posted by ashbury at 6:36 AM on January 28, 2004

Here's the rule: if you're not sitting in the establishment when you eat/drink and when you pay and there isn't any alcohol, then there's no tipping, unless they're delivering outside their establishment.

I don't agree with 100% of that. Reason: at restaurants like Steak 'n Shake, a server takes your order at your table and brings you your food, but then you go up to a cashier to pay. I consider tipping de rigeur in such a case.

My personal guideline is the following. Tipping is required (barring exceptionally bad service) when a) you both order and eat your food sitting down, or b) alcohol is part of the order, or c) if they're delivering outside their establishment. I don't feel obligated to tip at places where you both order and receive your food at a counter, or even when you order at a counter and they bring the food to your table. (But I also agree with those who say that even in cases where tipping is not obligatory, it's still not forbidden.)
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:02 AM on January 28, 2004

you both order and eat your food sitting down

Sorry, that should have been "you both order and receive your food sitting down."
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:05 AM on January 28, 2004

I have no particular experience, but a restaurant critic I'm acquainted with (who isn't a member) spotted this thread and asked me to post the following:
I just saw a question on "Ask Metafilter" that I know
the answer to, but I am not a member! If you go on
today, you might want to tell "ferocious kitty" that
the 40% tip will no doubt go away when her charge goes

She says "Looking at my online payment record," ...
which makes me think she is checking a pending
transaction. These often have an estimated tip added,
to make sure that a tipped check would go through on
your account. See what I mean?
Hope this helps.
posted by Vidiot at 7:08 AM on January 28, 2004

If we're talking about a sit-down restaurant that doesn't specialize in takeout, and you're ordering entrees, etc. for takeout, I think tipping 10-15%, while not required, is definitely good. It actually takes longer to get a takeout order ready than it does to get food to a seated table because the server is responsible for everything except the cooking, whereas there is a lot of support from other employees to server in-house diners.

When I've worked as a server, I never expected people to tip on take out orders, but when they did, I always remembered. I think tipping is a good way to recognize that just because you're walking aout the door with the food, there was still some time and energy invovled by the person making $2.16/hour to get your order right and to you quickly.

I generally add a 10-15% tip for takout unless I'm ordering from a regular haunt; then I tip a full 20%. Generally, the staff at these places recognize me and treat me very well.

I always counter tip, too. My personal philosphy is that nothing bad has ever come of me adding an extra dollar to a food order, so why shouldn't I do it?

(Note: All my tipping habits--table, takout, and counter--are contingent on good service, or course.)
posted by jennyb at 7:18 AM on January 28, 2004

DevilsAdvocate, I think you're doing a better job of expressing what I'm thinking, it's just been so long since I did the sit and be served then get up and pay routine that it didn't even occur to me.

But people behind a counter handing me things that do not include alcohol are not getting a tip from me. It really floors me that people have gotten suckered into tipping at Starbucks.

The last time I got takeout from a traditionally sit-down restaurant (last Sunday), one person went around packing the order elements together and another rang it up.
posted by NortonDC at 7:47 AM on January 28, 2004

While I agree with tipping on take-out (maybe not my usual 15%, but a couple of bucks - I don't agree with these Mr. Pink-like rules about not tipping, I think it's never a bad idea to tip unless the owner is the one who serves you, at very least it's just plain nice to tip), I'm surprised about the comments about tipping out. When I worked as a waitress, we did tipping out one of two ways: as a percentage of your total tips, or as a percentage of your total sales, since take-out orders were done as take out sales, rather than wait staff sales, the wait staff weren't tipping out out of their own pockets, since the take out sales didn't count as their sales.
posted by biscotti at 8:59 AM on January 28, 2004

people behind a counter handing me things that do not include alcohol are not getting a tip from me

You know, I don't necessarily disagree, but I also don't know why this is true. What is tip-worthy about a Jack and coke that isn't for a double decaf cappacino with some weird flavor added and a sprinkle of nutmeg?
posted by donnagirl at 10:09 AM on January 28, 2004

Especially given that the weird-flavored double decaf cappucino is a lot harder to engineer than a two-ingredient mixed drink. That's my main motivation for tipping at a coffee shop--coffee drinks are a pain in the ass to make and it's kind of a skill to be able to make a good one happen.

Although maybe it's because you're probably going to come back for a second two-ingredient mixed drink and don't want to stand there, empty glass pitifully in hand, while the pissed off bartender pointed ignores your non-tipping ass. Whereas in the coffee shop, all you've done is alienate a minimum wage slave who you probably will never see again. Not that I think that's very good reasoning (all self-interest) but it is logical.
posted by jennyb at 10:54 AM on January 28, 2004

donnagirl, I think maybe the difference is that in restaurants the servers make less than minimum wage with the expectation that they will make up the difference (or more) in tips, whereas at a coffee chain the servers make at least minimum wage (or more) and don't have to rely on tips? So the tip jar there is just icing for the servers. I don't know for sure, I was never officially a bartender, but that's my understanding.

Plus people linger at a bar and a bartender is expected to remember who's drinking what when you want a refill, sometimes run a tab in their heads, talk to you, clean your place, dump your ashtray, and so on. At a coffee chain you just get your drink at the counter and go. It doesn't hurt to dump your change in the tip jar if you want to, maybe if you get the same server every morning or something, but I don't think it's a requirement by any means.

Anyway, tipping on take-out in a restaurant that doesn't do the most of their service in take-out is not expected but definitely appreciated. The time I took to put together someone's order was time I wasn't on the floor taking care of my tables. A buck or two is fine, a bit more on a large order - especially if you're a regular. Your server will remember it. It's a nice thing to do - but not required.

I had to tip out the bartender 10% and the busboys 15% every night I worked. 3 or 5%? If only. We tipped out on amount of tips received though not amount of sales, so I never lost money on take-outs, just time.
posted by Melinika at 12:31 PM on January 28, 2004

I work, amazingly enough, at a sit-down restaurant that also does carryout.

I can't speak for every restaurant, but tipping is generally not expected in that situation. I'll often have customers leave behind a dollar out of courtesy, and occasionally get very good tips from carry-out customers, but I don't expect anything from them.

I'll second what ashbury said, about takeout coming at peak times. The worker behind the counter is probably doing a heck of a lot more than standing there handing out bags of food. In my case, I take the order on the phone, call it in to the kitchen, ring it up, double check to make sure the order is correct and fix any mistakes, get the appropriate condiments, dressings, bread and utensils, finish packaging the order, and then hand you the bag. And yours is by far not the only one I'm doing. On a busy night, this often means not tending to my tables the way I'd like to. It can be quite a juggling act, with orders in and out and tables and.. well, you get the picture. All this and no tip expected. But you can, I'm sure, imagine why it's a pleasant surprise to get one.

I've never thought badly of someone who didn't leave a tip on a carryout order. I've been delighted by people who left large ones. But in my humble opinion, just being friendly to the employee and understanding if the food's not quite ready precisely when you arrive (it's not my fault! talk to the kitchen!) is often better than a tip. Friendliness and cash, and I'm your new best friend.
posted by jheiz at 3:09 PM on January 28, 2004 [1 favorite]

Since your take out order will inevitably be fulfilled with at least one error, be it minor or major, possibly due to the fact that you'll be long gone by the time you open the boxes to discover it, I'd skip tipping entirely on any take out order.
posted by majick at 7:36 PM on January 28, 2004

Easily avoided by checking the box before you leave, majick. I've got many regular customers who do this.. it only takes a second and should something have slipped past me, it's relatively easy to fix at that point.
posted by jheiz at 9:59 PM on January 28, 2004

The waiters that prepare and package your food are still not getting minimum wage though if it's a normal restaurant, so if no one tips and they only do take-out they go home with less than minimum wage... whatever you're comfortable with i guess.
posted by rhyax at 10:02 PM on January 28, 2004

so if no one tips and they only do take-out they go home with less than minimum wage...

That's false. The employer is legally bound to make up the difference between base wage and minimum wage if tips don't do it.
posted by NortonDC at 6:53 PM on January 29, 2004

one of my good friends works in the industry, and basically, after listening to all his hell stories, I always tip -- on take-out, on dine-in, even when it's just some guy at the counter I'll toss the change into the jar.

he has some long elaborations on the insidious ways you get screwed when someone doesn't tip, or doesn't tip well -- the first has already been somewhat covered: most people don't know that you are supposed to tip out. The second involves taxes. In CA, at least (from what I understand), servers have to pay taxes on tips. These taxes are *estimated* by the government by some sort of number they arrive at for total sales/waiter. Guess what the government assumes you get? Fifteen percent.

So, you're paying taxes on 15% whether you got it or not, *and* tipping out people in the back, and quite possibly, dealing with the biggest assholes on the planet (i am surprised there aren't more patron homicides in the food industry -- the stories i've heard are quite awful).

DISCLAIMER: I am not a waiter. I am bad at explaining tax stuff. I am probably totally wrong. You should tip. You really should. You can afford it. Really. It's a buck. Do you ever stop to think if you're going to leave a buck on say, a can of beer that a bartender spent under five seconds opening for you? No. So leave a buck for the meal someone cooked you. Come on.
posted by fishfucker at 2:48 AM on January 30, 2004

just in case anyone checks this thread again...

Melinka: the 3-5% I mentioned earlier is a percent of total sales (sorry, this wasn't clear). Essentially, as a server, I need to recoup 5% of the total bill as a gratuity in order to simply break even. Anything above that I get to pocket.

again, we're talking about a couple of dollars that, in all probability, could actually make someone's night...
posted by lumiere at 12:14 AM on January 31, 2004

I generally agree that takeout doesn't warrant a tip. If there is a jar and I'm taking out more than $10 of food, I put a buck in the jar for good karma.

2. Never tip if your server is the owner of the establishment.

At the risk of side-tracking, I've often wondered if this rule applies to men's barber shops. Anyone?
posted by shinnin at 1:34 PM on February 3, 2004

shinnin -
I can't speak to barber shops per se, but I used to get my hair cut by a woman who owned her own salon and no tip was expected. However, I think she did charge a bit more in her flat rate than some of the other stylists.
posted by sixdifferentways at 3:28 PM on February 3, 2004

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