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take-out tipping...

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OK, after reading that other lengthy thread about tipping, it got me thinking about something.

When I take out from my favorite Indian place (which has a large, nice dine-in area), I pick up my order from the bar. When I'm handed the check there is a blank for the tip amount...just as if I've eaten in the dining area. I just cross this out and do not leave anything as a tip for take out.

When I sit down and eat in any establishment, my usual tip is 20%. However, I just cannot justify leaving any tip when I do take out. No one served my food to me, no one bussed a table for me, no one seated me or refilled my water. So, I don't see the need to tip.

I've noticed, though, that almost all places that offer take-out use the same checks that dine-in patrons get. That is, with a blank to fill in the tip amount. This is true even in my hole-in-the-wall chinese take out. It has only a few measly tables that no one would dare sit at.

So I'm curious, what do others think about tipping for take-out?

Please note that I am not talking about tipping for delivery service, which obvioulsy warrants a tip.

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  1. It's not absolutely necessary, but it is certainly good restaurant karma; I know when I put together a to-go order for someone at work, I don't expect a tip but certainly appreciate it The bigger the order, the better of an idea it is to tip; anything bigger than dinner for four should certainly be tipped on, as it's quite a bit of work to put together a large takeout order.

    1. The restaurants all usually use one type of slip for any type of POS transaction.
      The tip line would be part of that.
      As a server/bartender I can speak from personal opinion. The to-gos all go thru me when I am on shift. I have to take time away from my bar customers and deal with the servers (glaring looks) at the service station to take the order, enter it into the computer, and then process the transaction when the to-go customer comes to pick up their order.
      So...may not seem like a lot of work, but when you are already busy every minute (second) counts.
      Now that you understand the process, tips on take out orders are of course not required, but definitely appreciated.
      If you don't feel comfortable leaving your usual 20% (understanable) leave whatever you'd like. Even a dollar or two is nice.

      1 Reply
      1. re: momof3

        In my experience Takeout's been the biggest pain. A lot of times I'd get the call in the middle of a rush in the bar and then take an order from a person who only vaguely knew what was on the menu. I'd then explain everything in detail while making drinks in the well, put the order in, get it packed up, then take orders from bar guests, and...

        I hate takeout. I still have bartender takeout nightmares.

      2. It depends.

        Three types of restos:

        1 - Pizzerias - normal business model is take-out. It's basically a candy store for hot food. Tip not required but when friends of one of the little Jfoods is manning the counter I leave a tip. Love to hear the shrilly voice "Thanks Mr. Jfood."
        2 - Resto that are primarily sit-downs and they have a small to-go biz. As Momof3 states, the bartender normally takes the order and makes sure the food is there. I usually leave a tip (mainly $5). And besides in my town, this is how you move to the "regular" category wrt the staff.
        3 - Hybrids - Traditionally are to-go places but they have a sit down as well. Normally thought of in the Chinese food category. If I order from any of the Chinese restos in town I never leave a tip and standing on line watching others, no one else does either. Being a regular at these places is worthless because these restos in my town treat everyone with complete irreverence.

        When I first saw the "tip" line on the charge slip I had the same question. Then I realized that the printer is set up to spew receipts and the simpler the better. I always put a line through the tip line. Hey you never know.

        1. If the carryout place is a restuarant & has a bar, I sit down and have a drik while I wait for the order. In this case I tip for food & drinks . But if it is just a pick-up joint(chinese,ribs,fried chicken, etc) I dont leave a tip.

          1. For me, it depends on where I am taking out from. For instance, at the tiny pizza place my fiancee and I go to, I always tip because there are only two staff members who do all the work themselves with no help, no complaints, and always a friendly greeting and a smile. However, in the larger establishments with a full kitchen staff and more impersonaI interactions I typically do not feel I HAVE to. I always like to tip a friendly person though.

            1 Reply
            1. re: ArikaDawn

              I already understood the process of how my take-out order is assembled. I never really never understood what the "expectation" is, though.

              It's clear to everyone in this country that patrons are expected to leave a tip as part of their dining bill when eating in. However, this "take-out tippinng" category is fuzzier.

              Agreed on the pizzeria & chinese take-out type restarants...I think the establishment employees just look at the tip jar as an added bonus, certainly not an expectation.

              However, perhaps the primarily sit-down restaurant employees who assemble orders are starting to see tips (maybe not 20%, but at least something) as somewhat of an expectation? Thoughts on this?

            2. My take is a bit different...

              There is a sushi place we go to that has 3 times the takeout business compared to sit down service. The woman who takes the orders and gets them packed up for takeout also provides table service, and I imagine she makes very little in traditional tips from sit down guests, even though she works her butt off! So we always give her something - at least 10% usually.

              We also go to an indian place where we leave something to the cooks. They run the other aspects of the shop as well and would make very little off of table service tips.

              All other takeout is delivery, and of course we tip for that.

              I think I would be less inclined to tip at a place where I know the staff is already making plenty off of table service, but JK's and Momof3's comments will make me think otherwise next time I find myself in that situation.

              4 Replies
              1. re: lisa13

                But there's also this one big nonsense takeout business going on--the chain restaurants with "curbside to go" like Appleby's and whatnot. It's really annoying because I know the restaurant pays the to go people the same as the waiters, two or three bucks an hour or whatever. And those to go people make NOTHING.

                In a restaurant I worked at previously, takeout was done by servers who wanted to start waiting tables--a sort of hoop to jump through. I felt sorry for them as I had done it earlier. They'd do a thousand in sales (it was the busiest station in the house sometimes) and make like ten bucks...and they pay tax on around eighty bucks.

                Not that's related to the above statement, just something to think about.

                1. re: therealbigtasty

                  The something I think is good for them stepping up to get ahead. When I got out of school I worked 100 a week to get ahead ( and no OT). Was it worth it, absolutely. It's called investing in yourself. So instead of whining about the extra work, embrace it so you get noticed and get ahead.

                  I am not saying you are whining, but guess what we all do thing in the course of the day that throws off the rhythm and interferes with what we want to do at the moment. Just gotta suck it up and pay your dues.

                  1. re: jfood

                    I'm really big on paying your dues.

                    The only thing with the take-out situation is they work for the server wage, which absolutely unlivable in any part of the country.

                  2. re: therealbigtasty

                    I know at a lot of restaurants they do a tip share where all the tips everyone received are put together and then split evenly among the employees. It is probably not fair to the excellent wait staff, but good for the car side people.

                2. When I do take out - I do not leave a tip. While I believe they do do me a service - getting my stuff together and making sure it is correct, in all honesty, I see that "process" in take out not that far off from the "process" when I'm forced to get fast food somewhere. Since I do not tip there, I do not tip when I get take out. I understand why others might - but I do not and I think my continued business and my word of mouth business to others should suffice.

                  1. Here's another situation -- I think it's ridiculous that there is a tip jar at Starbucks, etc. Does that mean we should tip at McDonald's as well?

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: mmg

                      The tip jar at Starbucks brings the hourly employees' salary up by almost a dollar an hour.
                      You might be shocked at how much (how little) they make there. I am a regular and I always tip. Don't be offended, if you don't want to tip...just don't simple as that.
                      I assure you your dimes, nickels, and yes even pennies, that might just end up in your seat cushions in your car, add up and are appreciated.

                    2. To me takeout tipping is a no-brainer in the "yes, do it" category. Do it and don't think twice, do it and don't hedge. Tip 10-20 percent and tip whole dollar amounts. (the keep the change gesture and it's like 64 cents? ugh.)

                      I'm amazed to hear the people who say "if you can't afford 20 percent on (food) (wine) you can't afford to eat out" turn right around and say "don't tip the counter" or "it usually goes to the owner anyway." If you can't afford to tip counter service, you can't afford to eat out--really!

                      Worse than that is the excuse that since McDonalds and fast food places don't expect/don't allow tipping you don't tip for takeout. Since when did you let the policies of mickey-frickin-donald's guide any of your habits? Come on, McDonald's?!

                      But worst of all is the excuse that "restaurants only pay servers a couple bucks an hour but these counter people are paid minimum wage." Nine times out of ten (or more) counter staff are treated like the least of servants, lower than dirt, lower than part time mall store employees, by a public that thinks they're stupid and lazy. That you are even *thinking* about tipping them is, in this degraded era, a sign that you are part of that 1 in 10 (or less) who considers them valuable contributors to your life of chow enjoyment. But increasing numbers of restaurants are actually paying their servers at or above minimum wage. I bet you still tip those guys. And of course at the top of the restaurant food chain, they're adding service charges, which is a big neon sign saying "we pay our servers a living wage." But come ON, if you earn minimum wage, believe me, tips are still vitally important to your life. I think all state laws should be revised to force restaurants to pay minimum wage and tipping should still be expected.

                      There are restaurants I frequent, return to multiple times a month and spend dozens of dollars at a time and tip 20+ percent. Some of their service staff have yet to learn my name--I took pains to introduce myself! I go back because they're friendly, decorous, efficient, and serve delicious food. But I went into one coffee shop and ordered a double espresso, the next time I went, a week later, the guy remembered my order without hesitation. The next time he remembered my name. Most of the counter places I've been to lately have been supremely friendly and have taken pains to ensure my order is correct and that I have all I need to go eat my meal. Exactly how is this different from a waiter? I guess they have only one point of contact with you, so yeah, it's less work filling your water glass, giving you recommendations, running your service crew and orchestrating your meal. If you feel like paying less than 20 percent at the counter, I'm not going to go nuts.

                      But if you're feeling even the tiniest bit "guilty" about it? That's oh so obvious to me: you should just put up so you can make that guilt monkey shut up. I've been moving toward the 20% pole myself, and have started to do it at most of the places I go regularly. I don't think I'm a better person, but I feel better and more confident about ordering takeout.

                      11 Replies
                      1. re: burnunit


                        Welcome to Chowhound. I hope you find the varying point of views on many topics and the advice on foods educational.

                        I do not think that tipping on take-out is a no-brainer nor do i believe it's the same as McD, nor do i feel guilty in the least when I order pay and go. I view tipping as the result of dining out, enjoying the 90-120 minutes of ordering, drinking and dining. The server and the staff are partners in the 1 1/5 - 2 hour period. For that they participate in the payment mechanism at the end of the meal. They do more compared to the grab the food in a to-go plate, make sure its all in the bag and give it to me. If that is all they did while I ate in the resto, then we would have an interesting thread on tipping for to-go service while eating in a resto. But that's the subject of another day.

                        I do not want to downplay the importance of getting it right, and it of utmost importance because when they do slip up, you are in your home and then need to decide next steps. But to compare it to the level of service one receives at a table is a dis-service to those who perform this task so well. Likewise stating that they will only perform this task properly the next time you order if you left a tip denegrates their professionalism. BTW - the level of mistakes in my to-go orders is about 25% at the restos i tip and almost zero at the ones i do not. Go figure.

                        I usually tip (usually $5 which is 7-10%) when I to-go at a resto that is mainly a sit-down resto that has some to-go business. And it is never the same percentage that I tip when i sit at the resto. Do I feel guilty? Not in the least. In fact Mario the bartender who does the ordering and packing normally gets me a seat at the bar, pours a sparkling water and shoves a great plate of olives in front of me to nibble on while we wait. At Chinese to-go, never a tip and at my pizzeria of choice I tip when friends of little jfood are working there.

                        1. re: jfood

                          Thank you. I don't doubt you, but I noticed other poster(s) (perhaps other threads-- I saw this topic while searching recently) referring to the sensation of guilt.

                          In any case I know I referenced the complexities of the server's role; I believe I used the phrase "orchestrating your meal" to characterize it. But I'm dead certain I didn't say my tips guarantee any level of propriety on future visits! Certainly me tipping the counter staff says nothing about my feelings toward the table servers and their level of professionalism.

                          Your position and attitude are commendable in terms of your usual tipping. So, terrific! I suspect we're probably allies in this overall concern, whatever the nuances of our particular interpretations.

                          I Am especially baffled by the trend--in which your reply indicates you seem to participate--of blanket policies against tipping for Chinese takeout. I've seen that all over Chow boards. Seriously, what is up with That?

                          Your anecdote about a quarter of your tipped takeout orders going awry is interesting, I'll warrant. Haven't noticed myself. I'd be curious to see a wider study, even an informal one, to survey this phenomenon.

                          As the nature of LMT's questions points out, it's a gray area as to whether or not tipping is expected, and I think it's uncertain for the industry at this time. But I'm taking the affirmative position that it's in our hands as consumers to decide the trend, and I'm advocating that as diners, we move it out of the gray.

                          I'm further moved by the possibility that the IRS has expectations around this. From our experiences with the IRS and restaurant owners, it seems like the potential is there to trickle down and punitively take these particular ounces of flesh out of the hide of the help eventually. Confirmation of the revenooer's expectations, and tipping accordingly seems in order for dedicated diners. Anyone out there know for sure if the taxman cometh for these dollars?

                          1. re: burnunit


                            I agree that we are probably closer in theory than initially perceived. And always up for a discussion with someone who responds with his brain versus his emotions, thanks.
                            1 - I have given some thought to the chinese take-out phenomenon. I think for me it boils down to two items. First - that's my view from when i was baby jfood. we ate chinese take-out every saturday night. Won't get into the family dynamics but my dad never tipped on chinese. We called, ordered, picked up, took our change and went home. I once asked my dad why we did not eat out on saturdays versus bring it in and his comment was that we could not afford the added expenses of the drinks and the tip. I was not going muddy the waters so i shut up and ate my 1/3 of an eggroll and some chicken chow mein. Second, as a young adult i just continued and now middle-aged, i'm an old dog new tricks member. Likewise my go-to, to-go place is fairly busy and i watch everyone in line and see if they tip to gain some data. My guess is the no-tippers are in the 90% range, so if it is grey at all, there is very little pigment. I think if we go binary, the non-tippers would win, so it may be better to keep the shades.

                            WRT to 25%, as I said, the resto referenced is primarily a sit-down $25-35 entree place and does to-go as an adjunct. Not an excuse, but it's not one of their core competencies. I now check before i leave and Mario understands.

                            WRT the revenooers, as i have stated in other posts, as the custo, i know it is harsh, but it ain't my problem. My employer and my custos don't give a hoot about my tax position and i only wish the revenooers would settle for a pound of flesh in my case as I just did my taxes this weekend and i have been on ebay every night this week looking for an arm to replace the one they just ate.

                            1. re: burnunit

                              to answer your question about the IRS.... To-go orders at my restaurant go thru my employee #, at the end of the shift I have to fill out my chit that has a section for cash tips. I am required to claim at least 10% of my total cash sales to the IRS to be taxed on.
                              Sometimes, hundreds of dollars are to-gos that are untipped. I still have to claim 10% of that, which then the taxman deductes from my paycheck at the end of the week.
                              Yes, I realize this isn't the customer's "problem", just the way it is.

                              1. re: momof3

                                I think you guys need to tell the manager to get a dummy number for the to-gos. no one should pay if noone receives.

                                1. re: momof3

                                  I WAS WONDERING IF SOMEONE WAS GOING TO MENTION THIS!!

                                  I am taxed on a percentage of ALL my sales, take-out, or not.

                                  Fast food employees and chinese/pizza take-out places do not tax their employees on their sales.

                                  If you are at a sit down restaurant, and the server/bartender is taking your order, more than likely, they are being taxed on your order (@10%).

                                  I don't "expect" a tip, but appreciate a small tip for my time.

                                2. re: burnunit

                                  Well, it's not really that gray based on what I observe: it's a rare practice in every place that I get take out from - but I am not getting take out from fine restaurants where servers are being pressed into counter service. I am talking pizza and myriad ethnic food places; some are full-service restaurants, but some are mostly take-out. The table servers are not normally handling counter take-out; the host(ess) or cashier is. If there was something unusually complicated about putting the order together, only then would I think of considering a tip (it happened once). I am in favor of setting limits on the boundaries of the tipping cosmos, as I believe it contributes to employers' getting off the hook for attracting staff by paying them correctly to begin with. So I actually think there are karmic damages, if anything, to be paid in connecting with aiding and abetting the spread of the boundaries of the tipping cosmos. And I will happily and heartily support other diners who believe likewise.

                                  1. re: Karl S

                                    I tried to avoid commenting on this topic after the shellacking I received on the other now locked thread.

                                    But it does appear that the tipping universe is expanding and is filled with white plastic buckets.

                                3. re: jfood

                                  Jfood, your last paragraph perfectly illustrates why I said tipping on take-out is good karma. I know of a Chinese restaurant around here where I'll tip a few bucks on take-out and they will offer a seat at the bar and pour some iced tea while I'm waiting for them to put the order together.

                                  1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

                                    If that were the case here i probably would as well. My chinese to-go is basically, stand in line, last four numbers of your fone number, trade the bag for the amex. very impersonal. great food, no service.

                                4. re: burnunit

                                  I agree with Jfood. This decision is hardly a "no-brainer." While there is certainly care taken to make sure my orders are assebled properly when I take-out (that is, at my "regular" places), that amount of service pales in comparison to the service I get when eating in. In fact, it really isn't much of a comparison.

                                  And no, I don't feel the least bit guilty about not leaving a tip (I don't think my initial post implied any felings of guilt). My original post was meant to get an idea from others as to what the expectation is for take-out tipping.

                                  The expected tip when eating in is around 20% (give or take a few percentage points) , depending on how satisfied one is with the service. I think the expectation for take-out tipping various widely. While most wait staff/bartenders/hosts agree that tips on take-out orders are appreciated, I still am unclear about if this is expected (like the 20% when dining in).

                                5. Every restaurant I have ever worked has had a separate way to enter To Go orders. I have never seen it entered under a server's number. Often it is entered by the bartender, but it is always labelled 'TO GO' and is never on that bartenders read out at the end of the night. If there are restaurants out there that have it set up differently, that is wrong.

                                  I am more likely to tip for takeout at a sit-down restaurant that does not regularly do to go orders than I am at a Chinese/Pizza/Coffee joint that does takeout as a major part of their business. Why? Because I know from experience that the people working the counter at a takeout joint are usually paid more per hour than the servers/bartenders at a sit down place, and making sure my order is correct takes no more than a minute or two.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: mojoeater

                                    I agree. If it's a place designed just for take out (pizza, chinese, taco bell etc) then I do not tip. But if I'm picking up my favorite soup from my local diner I absolutely tip a buck or two. And somehow, my order is always perfect, perhaps with extra bread or the equivalent.

                                  2. If I receive any sort of service at a restaurant, I tip. I know that the tips aren't always going to go to the particular person who actually did the work in question and I know that there are different levels of service provided at different levels of friendliness and I do take that into account a bit. But I figure that if the people are working hard, I'm going to put some money into the operation. Not a ton and it probably doesn't do much each individual time...but it ads up.

                                    Of course, I also tip in places where I notice that most people don't. Airport rental car shuttle bus drivers, for example. I tip the women who make my huevos rancheros pretty much every weekday morning at the taqueria across the street from my office.

                                    If you don't want to tip...don't, but for goodness sakes, why all the justifcations?

                                    5 Replies
                                    1. re: ccbweb

                                      Because tipping is a matter of social custom and people are entitled to articulate why changes in that custom (which is what tipping on take out would be) are not agreed to. That's how social customs get reinforced; it's part of the process. The moment someone articulates why they want the custom to change, they should expect responses not only in favor but against.

                                      1. re: Karl S

                                        I wish I had the same faith in people that you do. For the most part, I figure that if you're well off enough to be eating out/ordering out frequently enough that this is of actual concern, you can add a couple of bucks for the person who took care of you. Their minimum wage is set with tips in mind (waitstaff, bartenders, delivery persons all make virtually nothing per hour in terms of a base wage). So, its not so much social custom as it is economic reality. We've defined it as such legally by allowing restaurant owners to pay significantly less to those workers than we allow other business owners to pay.

                                        There is, of course, the easy way out...make it yourself, no tip required nor expected.

                                        1. re: ccbweb

                                          Actually, no, the wage is not set with tips in mind for areas of work that have not been customarily been tipped, such as here. Your argument is circular. Social custom is precisely that - and it's a matter of argument to change it. People are welcome to try to do so, but they should not be surprised when they are faced with arguments against doing so.

                                          1. re: Karl S

                                            In place like a Starbucks what you say is true. But the OP was asking about take-out from restaurants. From the New York State Dept. of Labor:

                                            "Some industries make allowances for tips, thus they set a lower hourly rate. For example, food service workers may earn $4.60 per hour because their total compensation includes expected tips. When required uniforms are maintained by the worker, certain allowances also apply. Other service workers have a minimum rate of $5.40 per hour." -- you can see this in context here http://www.labor.state.ny.us/workerpr...

                                            My argument is not circular: it is that many of the people who work in places that offer takeout and are in positions like waiting tables, bartending and delivery are paid less, as allowed by law. If we don't wish to tip such people, then we should change the laws to allow them to make what other workers are required to make.

                                            Granted, in New York State, thats $7.15 an hour...so I don't know exactly that we'd be doing anyone a big favor.

                                            1. re: ccbweb

                                              But I am talking about the much more common situation (at least in my experience as I mentioned earlier) where it is the hostess or cashier who handles the food given by the kitchen. No server. This are not tipped positions and I refuse to treat them as if they were unless there is some special service based on a complicated or unusual order. The food sits on the kitchen window, the hostess or cashier go gets it and maybe puts it in the bag, et cet. That's the most common experience of take-out for most people I know. Tipping is not usual or called for in that circumstance.

                                              And, delivery tipping is 10% customarily, so I cannot imagine why take-out tipping would be *higher* when even less work is involved. And delivery people make their living on their tips even more, and often have to pay for their gas.

                                              Hence, the arguments for treating take-out tipping like full-service tipping strike me as vastly overblown and I've consequently become MORE skeptical about it as the arguments get more and more overblown.

                                    2. In my case, I do usually tip a buck or two for take-out at places I order from regularly. These are mostly small places with only 2-3 employees, and have a few tables but probably do most of their business on take-out orders, and at any given time there's a good chance you're going to be dealing with the owner directly. Most of the time they have a tip jar on the counter, and I'll just drop a buck in there. I find that for the most part, chain places don't even have a tip jar.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: Vexorg

                                        Unless it's a fast food place, I tip. Period. And yes, the same percentage for takeout as for dining room service. I figure the restaurant is doing me a HUGE service by preparing and packaging my takeout order... I've heard too many times from restaurant staff that to-go orders are a big PITA.

                                        1. re: jim1126

                                          No one on this thread has mentioned getting take out at a place where you also eat in sometimes. Believe me when I say that if the restaurant is small it very well may be the one who may answer the phone might be the one who is closest even if they have multiple tables. They are then usually responsible for the order. Getting bread, carefully packing etc. Servers are always stoked when they get a tip on a togo order and if you leave any tip whatsoever that is appreciated. They will remember and maybe next time you eat in the restaurant you may be in therir section, they will remember. It will start your night on a positive vibe I am sure.

                                      2. I believe that tipping is an important factor in restaurant dining, and I tip appropriately. Carry-out is a different story. I am on a limited budget and my dining choices are determined by what I can spend at the moment... so, I eat at home most of the time (and have become a great cook!). I also dine out occasionally, but only do so when I can afford to do it right This means that I choose full service only when I can afford to do so (including the tip), but choose carry-out over dining-in most of the time. This is my way of not adding 15-20% to my food cost, but still be able to enjoy the pleasures of a good restaurant.

                                        1. Since I usually order for one (ie, less than $10), I don't tip for carry out unless I've asked for some kind of substitution or other extra work on the restaurant's end.

                                          Also, I usually order from places with booming takeout businesses - Chinese restaurants, burrito joints, etc. - not from upscale restaurants where an order might disrupt the usual service.

                                          1. If you can't afford expensive food, sell some paintings! (Love that expression from the British TV show, Posh Nosh!). In reality...if you are a regular, and you want the staff to remember you positively, be good the them. You know what to do.

                                            If you're a transient, there is no obligation.

                                            Remember...TIPS stands for To Insure Prompt Service