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Q: Gratuities for take-out service at restaurants ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   9 Comments )
Subject: Gratuities for take-out service at restaurants
Category: Business and Money
Asked by: michellemck-ga
List Price: $10.00
Posted: 28 Jun 2003 15:11 PDT
Expires: 28 Jul 2003 15:11 PDT
Question ID: 222946
My husband and I have started to be frequent users of take-out service
provided by sit-down restaurants (e.g. Chilis, Outback Steakhouse,
California Pizza Kitchen).

I am looking for some authority and/or logic as to what, if any,
percentage gratuity should be given to the person who takes my money
and hands me my food.  I'm not a cheapskate when tipping (generally
more on the 20% side of the 15-20% norm), but that standard does not
seem appropriate to a reduced level of service since I'm not dining in
the restaurant.  But maybe some level of tip is appropriate because a
server who would normally be working on a table has had to box up my
food, get napkins and utensils, etc.  Or maybe a non-tippable manager
generally performs those tasks, so a tip is unwarranted.

Subject: Re: Gratuities for take-out service at restaurants
Answered By: websearcher-ga on 28 Jun 2003 16:14 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hi michellemck:

Thank you for the interesting question!

What to tip and when is *always* a matter of some debate and usually a
lot of disagreement. Sometimes tipping customs differ based on which
country/city you are in as well. It's all so confusing...

I have done some searching for you on the Web and added my own
experiences (both as a frequent taker-outer, and as a previous
restaurant worker) to compile the following "rules" for you on tipping
take-out (or sometimes called "carry-out") meals. These rules may seem
complicated at first, but I think they'd be pretty easy to implement.

* If the restaurant primarily does take out (that is, there is little
or no seating available), then tip < 5%. Typically, you can round up
to the next dollar or two, and/or put some of the change you receive
in a "tip jar".

* If the restaurant does most of its business with "seated" customers,
then things are a little trickier. If you can tell that the person
collecting and presenting your food to you is someone who would
normally be waiting tables, tip 5 - 10%. After all, the server needs
to take time away from other tipping customers to get your meal. If
the person collecting and presenting your meal would *not* normally be
waiting tables (e.g., manager, hostess, etc.) then tip 5%.

* NEVER tip the owner. This may sound harsh, but it is their business,
they should not be soliciting tips.

* ALWAYS keep in mind how pleasant the service is in calculating the
tip you give. Just because you're not sitting down and having drinks,
doesn't mean that the servers shouldn't be as courteous to you as they
are to everyone else. Bad service = bad tip. Little plusses that might
call for a larger tip: offers of cutlery, condiments; help taking food
to car; a sincere smile.

Some of the Web sources I used to compile this answer include: 

The Original Tipping Page

Tipping guidelines

Tipping for Services 

tipping in NYC 

Tipping - What, where, when, why, and how much

I hope this information helps with your research.  
If you need any clarification of the information I have provided,
please ask using the clarification feature and provide me with
additional details as to what you are looking for. As well, please
allow me to provide you with clarification(s) *before* you rate this
Thank you.                            
Search Strategy (on Google):   

"tipping" "take out" OR "carry out"

Request for Answer Clarification by michellemck-ga on 01 Jul 2003 09:59 PDT
Hi websearcher-ga:
You present very sound arguments and help in your answer (and I'm
enjoying the discussion in the comments section also).
The one thing I'm not clear on is this:  "If you can tell that the
collecting and presenting your food to you is someone who would
normally be waiting tables, tip 5 - 10%.".  But how would I know that?
 I can picture that sometimes a member of management would be dressed
in a different manner than members of the staff.  Is your sense that
it is more common for a member of management than a staff member to be
handling take-out service?  Angely-ga indicates that at her
establishment, there's a staff member to handle these duties, which is
helpful in terms of framing a general rule for me to go by.  If you
have any other information on this point, I would be grateful for it.

Clarification of Answer by websearcher-ga on 01 Jul 2003 10:26 PDT
Hello again michellemck:

Thanks for the clarification request. 

I too am enjoying the comments. I was pretty sure there would be
several different viewpoints presented. As I said earlier, tipping is
always a "well-discussed" topic. :-)

As for your interesting question, I admit that when I wrote about
being able to discern whether a take-out server was a regular
waitstaff or management/owner, I was primarily thinking about
restaurants that you use frequently. My wife and I tend to eat at the
same dozen or so restaurants most of the time, so we know who the
staff/owners are.

It is my experience that the larger the establishment, the less likely
it is that the person handling take-out is management/ownership. Of
course, this isn't *always* the case.

If you are in an unfamiliar restaurant, the best way of telling is
having a look at how the person is dressed. If you can see the main
floor of the restaurant, see whether your server is dressed like the
other waitstaff. Often management/owners will dress "out of uniform".
That's the best way I know of of telling the difference.

If you are still in doubt, tip. If the food/service is good, odds are
you'll be back another time and you will eventually establish a
rapport with the establishment and get to know them better.

I hope this helps. 

michellemck-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars
Excellent answer - very pleased at the work performed.  Thanks!

Subject: Re: Gratuities for take-out service at restaurants
From: angely-ga on 28 Jun 2003 17:46 PDT
I just wanted to point out that some of the chain "family" restaurants
like the ones described in the question often employ someone
specifically to handle the take out orders.  This doesn't mean they
should be tipped less than table servers.  In the restaurant at which
I am employed, one person, (not me), handles all the the take out--and
trying to put together multiple orders all due at the same time isn't
easy!  Especially if your restaurant has corporate clients wanting
meals for 20 or more people at a time.  The only thing the take out
worker does not do is cook the food.  She makes the salads, packages
the food, deals with order taking at the same time as she is filling
previously taken orders, and takes orders out to customers' cars.  She
is the one who carries the mobile phone and is often the only person
in the restaurant with whom a calling customer has any contact.  She
works harder and longer than the table servers, and often receives no
gratuity at all, despite the fact that she worked harder to put a meal
together for her customer than she would have if that person had eaten
at a table in the restaurant.  I say tip her the same as you would
anyone else--based on her service.  You'll be in the minority.
Subject: Re: Gratuities for take-out service at restaurants
From: research_help-ga on 30 Jun 2003 09:33 PDT
I disagree that it is necessary or expected to tip the person who
hands you your meal when you take out from a restaurant.  Would you
tip the person who serves you at McDonalds or would you tip the
salesperson in a retail store? Ofcourse not, so what's the difference?
Subject: Re: Gratuities for take-out service at restaurants
From: angely-ga on 01 Jul 2003 00:42 PDT
You're right, I would never consider tipping the cashier at McDonalds
or the salesperson at a retail store.  I maintain that the person
serving you in a 'take out' capacity at a restaurant is doing exactly
the same job as the table servers, except that her clientele isn't
sitting at a table.  As a table server, it is my responsibility to
bring you a beverage of your choice, answer any questions you may have
about the menu, take your order, see that the order goes to the
kitchen in a timely fashion, bring out your food, take your money, and
in general, suck up to you no matter how irritating or idiotic you may
be.  Someone else makes the salad that I bring to you.  Someone else
prepairs the food.  Someone else trays the food.  Someone else showed
you to your seat.  On a busy night, someone else may bring out your
food.  Someone else may even bring you your check and give you your
change.  The server responsible for take out does all of these things
for herself, often in greater volume than that with which a table
server deals.  If you don't think she is worth tipping, then you
should probably stop tipping at all.  Or go through the drive-thru at
Subject: Re: Gratuities for take-out service at restaurants
From: research_help-ga on 01 Jul 2003 06:10 PDT
You are making the argument that since the waitress usually gets
tipped for her other job of waiting tables, she should also get tipped
when handing me my take out food. However, if it is the hostess or
owner who hands me my food, then I don't need to tip. Why the
difference? Why does it matter to me what the person who is handing me
my food usually does? That is between her and her employer.
Do you tip when you get take out from a Chinese take out restaurant?
No, ofcourse not. But the person there took your order, answered your
questions, sent the order to the kitchen, bagged it, and took your
I think it does not make sense to tip someone based on what they do
when they are not doing take out.
That's like saying if you are in a car accident and 3 people pull you
out of the wreckage and 1 is a doctor, 1 is a paramedic, and 1 is a
dog catcher and you feel like giving rewards to the heroes then you
should give the doctor $100 reward, the paramedic a $50 reward, and
the dog catcher nothing because of what their other jobs are.
Subject: Re: Gratuities for take-out service at restaurants
From: bruin70-ga on 01 Jul 2003 12:16 PDT
just my opinion. here in nyc, we do a lot of take-out, and pay
stricklt by distance traveled by delivery. close(a couple of
blocks)...$2, farther...$3-$4. the tip is for the delivery person,
imo. i figure, a tip in a sit down restaurant is for the waiter. and
there is no waiter for delivery, only delivery person.
Subject: Re: Gratuities for take-out service at restaurants
From: angely-ga on 01 Jul 2003 20:04 PDT
I think it is a difference in my restaurant, even if
the Host or the Manager or a busser or whomever handed you the food,
the take out server would receive whatever tip you were inclined to
give.  She did the work, and it was a lot more than just "handing you
your food".  And I do tip delivery people when I order out.
Subject: Re: Gratuities for take-out service at restaurants
From: research_help-ga on 02 Jul 2003 05:53 PDT
We're not talking about delivery people here. We are talking about the
person who hands you your bag when you order take out and go pick it
up at the restaurant.
Subject: Re: Gratuities for take-out service at restaurants
From: respree-ga on 02 Jul 2003 19:11 PDT
While I do tip at restaurants, I wonder how this all got started.  The
waiter/waitress who brings your food is doing his/her job, for which
they get paid a salary (or hourly wage).  Why is the server special
and entitled to compensation in addition to his/her hourly wage?

There are also other people in the restaurant business.  There are
people who wash the dishes, mops the floors, takes out the garbage,
cooks the food, washes vegetables, counts the money at the end of the
day, takes reservations, and so forth.  They are all part of a
business and get paid a fee for the services they provide.  They
receive no tips.  Why should a server?
Subject: Re: Gratuities for take-out service at restaurants
From: chickster-ga on 04 Jul 2003 14:13 PDT
First of all I'd like to start off by saying I am a waitress at a
local resturant.  When it comes down to tip someone because
not only did they get your order correct, but beacuse they also have a
great attitude, and make your time great when going out to eat.  I
mean admit it we all go out to eat beacuse we don't feel like waiting
on ourselves, and enjoy the good service of others.  When it comes to
tipping for takeout...this should all be based on the atmosphere.  If
you feel like throwing your tip money around to anyone then that's
fine..but not all of us want to give extra money just for taking home
food.  You see, if you can tell that someone is going out of their way
to get your food.  (meaning they are busy..and they look like they are
stopping their routine to help you out), then these are the people
that need to be tipped.  You see as a waitress we get paid LESS than
minimum wage.  Approximately 2.83 is the norm. wages as a waitress. 
If you are getting paid to run the register such as McDonalds, or just
a host/hostess at a resturant you are already making more than a
waitress.  If you are a cook,..som resturants may pay up to 8.oo an
hr! Which is more than double the waitress wages.  Also...I get soo
much more busy than any host/cashier, therefor tipping is what makes
us work!  If it wasn't for good tips, there would be no dine-in!  I
can honestly say if there was no tipping..I would NOT waitress unless
I was getting paid approx. 8.oo/hr.!  I mean I love being around
people...but I handle a lot of tables at once..and even answer phones
etc.  Believe me there's more to it than just gettin your order
  I know I'm getting off the subject some, but I'm just proving tips
is what makes someones day.  And if someone does a great job wether
it's takeout, or dine-in some type of tip is always nice.  Common
sense tells you if someone is strictly getting paid to box food up or
not.  As someone else explained earlier how you can tell if someone is
on the waitstaff or not.  Remember that a waitress gets paid less, due
to tipping...and a host/person whom does takeout gets paid more.  I
mean they aren't in it for the tips...the waitstaff is--That's why
they got hired for that position..beacause it's a whole other ball
game when it comes to the table handeling..but of corse they would
love a tip here and there (anyone would)!!  I do believe that if you
are ordering from a  business, or if you ordered a LOT of take-out
food SHOULD tip the person 'if' they can tell that they prepared/boxed
up the food.  If not, there is no reason to tip at all...beacuse
that's their job, and they got hired for it, and ARE getting paid for
it.  And when it comes down to it,..there are no rules...but a dollar
here and there can really make someones day!  You tip because you like
the service no matter what all comes down to the situation! 
With the exception for example as someone said earlier, an owner.

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