HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >


Tipping when taking out food

There is a restaurant we often go to that will prepare their menu items for take-out. You give your order to a server, who goes into the kitchen, where they put your order up in several insulated containers, and then package the whole thing in a large paper bag. You then pay the same price as if you had ordered the items sitting at a table.

My question is - in addition to paying the bill, should I tip, and if so, how much? On one hand, the server and staff have gone to some effort in preparing the take-out meal, and have provided the packaging material. On the other hand, you have not occupied space at a table, used the restaurant's dishes, utensils, etc., which they must then wash, been provided with water and tea (this is a Chinese restaurant). The server just has to take your order to the kitchen, and bring it out, instead of serving the meal to you.

I'd like some opinions on this.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Since reading a few articles like this, I've taken to giving a tip of say, a dollar to the cashier who gives me the food, the only staff member I'm usually in contact with in the take out experience. Sometimes it just boils down to the simple guideline of; if they're nice, they get a tip, if surly, then they get bupkis.

    1. It is not the custom to tip in such situations in the US, but you are free to do so if you wish; people tend to feel more inclined when it is a server who is covering the take-out while covering tables (and thus might have the take-out included with her/his sales for determining the base for withholding on tips). There have been many threads on this in the past (tipping on take-out) that you can search for oodles of opinions on different variations on this theme.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Karl S

        In the situation described above, you should most definitely tip. If you are in an establishment that has a bar, servers, etc. then the person putting together your takeout order is probably making $2.50/hr plus tips. When they ring up your order they now have to claim a percentage of that sale as wages for tax purposes.

        Now, if it's a sub shop and the employees are not servers, but hourly wage paid help, then I would say tipping is optional.

        1. re: lynnlato

          OK, this thread was dead for almost two years until it was resurrected last night, and there are plenty of threads that go into this in detail...

          In my experience (Chinese take-out, pizza, sub-shop, fried clam shack, Indian take-out, et cet.), it is rare for take-out to be dealt with by servers who would be including the sale in their base. Typically, it's a combination of the owner, cook, hostess or cashier who does it. I don't do take out from fine dining establishment because the food is not designed to be optimally eaten after sitting in a box for 20 minutes. I don't think my experience is untypical, and I think the real divide here is between people whose experience of take-out is in finer dining establishments that offer the feature versus those of us who do not.

      2. Delivery is one thing...a tip would the the right way to go unless the eatery specifies otherwise...in house pick-up: unless the house has added something special to your take out order, at your request or on their own, a tip for take out is not required. You may always do so if you wish...

        1. My feeling is that someone took time and effort to pack up your food so they deserve a tip, not 20% but a a couple of bucks at least but not necessarily more than $5.

          1. OMG....I feel just horrible...I have been getting food to go from my local Claim Jumper about twice a week for the past 6 months....Often the cashier is different, I never have it delivered to my vehicle and I never call ahead because I am deaf and they do not have on- line ordering. I have never tipped! I am an excellent tipper for everything else, nail salon, hair salon, dining in, bar, car wash, etc...Now I feel like such a cheap skate!! They usually do a wonderful job, however there have been times when new host/hostesss' have been quite sullen or my order has been severely comprimised and it's not like they knew I wouldn't tip....I usually don't even know if my order is correct (my order has been the same every time for the past 6 months, you'd think they would know me) until I get home....I am really good about going early, before the dinner crowd ( at about 4:30 weekdays) so I would think it wouldn't be too difficult...However there has been a few times when everything is just perfect and I am so glad to get it when I get home...But isn't that what I'm paying a fortune for in the first place? Any advice would be greatly appreciated!!

            1. Do you tip at a place like Mcd's, or a sub chain where they even make the sandwich for you? Of course not...No tip at takeout

              11 Replies
              1. re: Genco

                There's a large segment of the population that disagrees with you.....including myself......but nice boots anyway:-)

                1. re: Genco

                  McDonald's employees earn at least minimum wage - servers in sit down restaurants do not. AND they must claim a percentage of the sale of that takeout food as wages. There is absolutely no comparison. Tipping is appropriate.

                  1. re: lynnlato

                    Servers in sit-downs usually pool tips (another practice I don't believe in) so the dollar or 2 that makes you feel good doesn't amount to much when split amongst the other waitrons, and I would consider it insanity to tip a full 15 or 20 percent for someone just to take my money, and there is just not the involvement and time in processing a takeout vs. table service. I don't buy into the whole unsung hero garbage of wait staff. You want to really help someone, and give a tip to someone who could really use it? How about the poor ecuadorian line cook slaving away 12 hours a day

                    1. re: Genco

                      "Servers in sit-downs usually pool tips "

                      I've only ever worked in one establishment that pooled tips - didn't care for it either. Perhaps where you come from its more common than in the cities where I've worked. I don't think a 15-20% tip is warranted, but again, keep in mind these folks are earning $2.50/hr - they're not there to sling takeout but rather to wait tables. So, having to take your takeout order, place the order, ensure its correct & package it is good for something, no?

                      Agree with you on the immigrants in the BOH. Sadly, they get little or no recognitiion from the resto dining public.

                      1. re: Genco

                        It's pretty rare that servers pool tips, actually.

                      2. re: lynnlato

                        Servers in sit-down restaurants don't make minimum wage? How can this be (legal)?

                        1. re: Scargod

                          The federal minimum wage for servers is $2.30 (some local jurisdictions place it higher), though management is supposed to top off a server's periodic earnings to the extent tips don't make it to the regular minimum wage.

                          1. re: Scargod

                            Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, workers that make part of their income from tips can be paid an hourly wage less than minimum wage. Their total income, including tips, theoretically has to exceed minimum wage, but that's pretty easy to fudge.

                          2. re: lynnlato

                            out of curiosity lynnlato......how does this rule apply where there is no less than minimum wage standard in the food industry......I could be wrong, but I think everyone in Canada gets the minimum wage no matter if they work in a sit down or at a McD's....

                            Back in the dark ages when I worked at Wendy's....no one ever tipped. No one ever seemed to tip at coffee shops at the drive through....both of which seem to have caught on in recent years. For me, I try to remember the dark ages and throw a little extra coin in if I have it. Emphasis on IF. In pretty much all take-out situations.

                            1. re: im_nomad

                              I don't know, I don't get up to Canada much. But my approach seems like a pretty reasonable one. If they work for tips, tip 'em. I, myself, don't like tip jars and I rarely drop coin in them - since the employees who put them out there are making at least minimum wage.

                        2. I tip on takeout if it changes the packaging. McD's, Taco Bell, etc. are going to have the same packaging.....tray vs. bag is basically the only difference. I generally don't tip 20% but 10-15% depending on how much of a pain the order is (special requests, excessive condiments, etc.). If it's a big order during a busy time of day, I'll tip the 20%

                          1. The rules I've been using for many years are these:

                            If there is a take-out counter and I order and pick up there, no tip. Same if I phone the order in ahead of time and pick it up.

                            If I have to sit at a table and place a take-out order with a real live human being who then brings the order to me at the table, I tip, but not as much as if I'd ate the full meal there.

                            For delivery, I tip.

                            So far, no one has bashed me about the head and shoulders for doing it this way.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Caroline1

                              Nor should they Caroline1, as it sounds like a fair and logical system. (I pretty much do the same thing.)

                              1. re: Caroline1

                                Well said (and so sensible too). I think the best answer for the OP is "It depends." If most of the resto's business is take-out (like most Asian and pizza places) then I don't as a rule tip (but have on occasion for a favourite staff) and always tip for delivery. Where do you draw the line? Would you tip the cashier who takes your money at Dominoes Pizza for a walk-in order? Probably not. Would you tip a more upscale restaurant with tables that also offer a take-out option, then yes I probably would consider tipping the server (which is not the same as the person behind the cash register at my favourite Chinese food joint). I think when people see tipping as a black and white scenario, it leads to some of the vitriol expressed in these postings.

                                1. OMG... The whole reason I get take-out is BECAUSE I don't want to tip! It's not that I'm miserly, it's just that it is so expensive to eat out, even at a lower-end place, that this lets me keep the cost down. Of course if they deliver, then I do tip, but usually I go down in person to place the order and pick it up myself.

                                  26 Replies
                                  1. re: CookieWeasel

                                    I do take out because I don't want to cook but want to eat at home. Tipping or not tipping is not a factor.

                                    1. re: Janet from Richmond

                                      An extra few dollars makes a big difference for those of us who are low-income. If I am going to be expected to tip, then I'll choose delivery instead of take-out.

                                      1. re: CookieWeasel

                                        If you don't want to tip at all you can cook for yourself.

                                        Unless you live in a situation where you don't have a kitchen then you can save loads of money cooking for yourself as opposed to buying food from a restaurant.

                                        1. re: KTinNYC

                                          I didn't SAY I never tipped at all. I said that I didn't tip when I got take-out, which was a way for me to pick up food myself and save some money. When I go to a restaurant (rarely) I tip fairly and never skimp. I cook for myself the rest of the time. Even people like me have the right to be chowhounds and experience eating out.

                                          1. re: CookieWeasel

                                            Eating out and getting food to go incurs a cost and part of that cost, in my opinion, is giving a tip to the person that took time out of their other duties to pack your meal. If you can't afford and extra couple of dollars to tip the person who packed your meal properly then you shouldn't be eating out.

                                            1. re: KTinNYC

                                              UNBELIEVABLE. I'm glad I don't live in New York.

                                              1. re: KTinNYC


                                                I generally agree with most of the content of your comments, however, I think you are being a little too harsh on (CW). She has been reasonable and has explained her positions between take-out, delivery or pick-up. It appears to me she is supporting her local establishments and doing the best she can....and btw...has given it considerable thought in her decisions. A gratuity is nice, but not automatic. Let's say the person packing left out something.....should they return the tip?

                                                1. re: fourunder

                                                  "Let's say the person packing left out something.....should they return the tip?"

                                                  In a perfect world? Yes. But it's an imperfect world. Which is why I tip a dollar or two to show my appreciation for doing the job right.

                                                  "A gratuity is nice, but not automatic"

                                                  So, if I go out for a meal I can save money by not tipping at all? I know you don't believe this.

                                                  1. re: KTinNYC

                                                    So, if I go out for a meal I can save money by not tipping at all? I know you don't believe this.
                                                    To answer your two questions exactly as posed...yes you will save money, no I do not believe it is just or proper.

                                                    1. re: fourunder

                                                      Just as I believe it is just and proper to give the person who packed my to go meal a dollar or two.

                                                      If someone posted that they don't tip the waiter after a meal because they are lower income no one would support that statement. I'm not asking anyone to tip 20% for take out but it's being packed by the same people that wait on us and clear the tables in the restaurants. If you are picking up your order at a busy time of day these people could be using their time to provide better service to the people in the dining room who will be tipping.

                                                    2. re: KTinNYC

                                                      I NEVER SAID I DON'T TIP WHEN I GO OUT FOR A MEAL/WHEN EATING OUT. I said I don't tip when picking up. Apparently that is wrong. So I will stop doing that. Let them drive all the way to my trailer park instead, which takes even more time from their duties, and then I will tip them, as I always do on a delivery. And here I thought I was doing them a favor by picking up my own food! Never again!

                                                      1. re: CookieWeasel

                                                        CW, I know you tip when eating in the restaurant. That was never in question.

                                                  2. re: KTinNYC

                                                    Oh really. So everyone who touches food inthe packing mode deserves a tip. Given that brash generalization that would include the BK/McD person, the corner newsstand that places the snickers bar in the bag, lets not forget everyone at Yankee Stadium (not Citifield because the season is over there), the produce guy at the grocer, oh yeah the Deli guy who cut the ham did something as well.

                                                    Hey you want to tip everyone who breathes, please be jfood's guest, but let's not get condenscending to people who have a different point of vie.

                                                    1. re: jfood

                                                      The rules don't change just because you take the food away. The people that pack your food don't make a living wage, you ask and are provided a service. This deserves a tip in my opinion. Why do they get a tip when you eat in house but not when you take away? In a lower end place it can be argued that the packing of food is actually more service then you get when eating in.

                                                      1. re: KTinNYC

                                                        Actuially the rules do change. The service provided is no more than the bagger at the grocer. If that is the service that jfood receives while seated then the tip, if any, will reflect that total lack of service as well.

                                                        1. re: jfood

                                                          "The service provided is no more than the bagger at the grocer."

                                                          The difference being the bagger at the grocer earns a living wage. Not so of the server.

                                                          1. re: lynnlato

                                                            In California, where CookieWeasel lives, the server and the bagger earn the same wage. The server gets tips on top of that.

                                                            1. re: lynnlato

                                                              yes but that is their full time job with no upside from tips.

                                                              For the record, jfoood does tip on take out in most instances. For example the local places where he is a regular, the local pizzeria when the kids are pleasant and his favorite burger place. But is it necessary? but jfood does not believe that every function that a person in a restaurant performs deserves a tip

                                                      2. re: KTinNYC

                                                        Speaking as somebody who used to work as a server, a tip is NEVER expected for takeout. EVER. The reason is simple - packing up a meal takes about five seconds. There's virtually no service involved.

                                                        If you want to tip on takeout, that's certainly your prerogative. Matter of fact, I'll usually give a small tip to the person who puts the takeout order together. But to tell somebody they shouldn't order takeout if they can't afford to tip? That's horseshit, plain and simple.

                                                        1. re: alanbarnes

                                                          I tend to get take out from many of the same places I eat in at. So, the fact that I know I'll be seeing the wait staff who are packing up my order and taking my money again when things are busy (and I may need to get a table when I don't have a reservation) makes me sure that tipping on take out as well eating in is not a bad idea.

                                                          1. re: alanbarnes

                                                            a tip is NEVER expected for takeout. EVER.

                                                            As the saying goes, never expected, but appreciated.......Never, ever.....I would disagree. As (Servorg) points out, regulars often tip at their favorite places. I will also add further....last minute orders, or large orders, e.g., for an unexpected family event or gathering would be reason to show your appreciation appropriately..

                                                            1. re: alanbarnes

                                                              Agreed that tipping for takeout is appropriate. It will earn you good karma and, at places you frequent, better treatment. My point was that it's never required.

                                                              Although jfood's comment about the bagger at the grocery store got me thinking about regional variations in what's customary. In Mexico (or at least in parts of Mexico), failing to tip the bagger is considered very bad form. So maybe I should limit my comments to the geographic areas with which I am personally familiar.

                                                              That said, CookieWeasel and I both live in California. So I stand by my comments, at least with regard to that post.

                                                        1. re: lynnlato

                                                          She already said she does. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/4636...

                                                          Why do people keep trying to make CookieWeasel out to be some kind of a skinflint? Tips are not customary for takeout. Period.

                                                          Those who tip for takeout are like those who tip more than 20% for sit-down service - generous, welcome, and probably wonderful human beings. But to anybody who says that people who can't afford to overtip shouldn't be eating out, I say: put down the crack pipe.

                                                          1. re: alanbarnes

                                                            Yes, I have gotten completely sick of the bitter waitron disease.

                                                            Is the US the only country in the civilized world that has so much of the population employed as tip grovellers? Why is this?

                                                            Every other civilized country that I can think of pays wait/service people a wage that is at least 3 times the rate in the US and provides free cradle to grave health care.

                                                            The posted price should be the price one pays. whether it is a hair cut, a hotel room, a meal. Taxes and grat. should be included and anything else completely discretionary.

                                                    2. re: CookieWeasel

                                                      This has always been true for me on pizza as well. (On delivery vs. carry-out.)

                                                    3. I stopped in a local bar and grill I frequent yesterday on my way home to pick up some wings to go. Now this place does have a counter out front and if I were to call it in and pick up from the counter, I wouldn't tip. BUT, that's not what I do.

                                                      I grab a seat in the bar area, order a beer and the food (to go) from my server. Since the first cold beer goes down so quick here at the end of the day when it's 110f outside, I usually have time for a second.

                                                      The server brings the food to me from the kitchen and I tip normally on the bev and maybe a little extra on the food. I see the food tip as a bonus since I could have very well sat and had beer only in the same timeframe (as many do).

                                                      I get my wings, cool down, quench my thirst, server gets an extra couple bucks... we're all happy.


                                                      1. If there is a tip cup, I will certainly put in a dollar or 2 depending on the size of the order--especially if this is a place I also occasionaly get delivery from. The place where I get my regular morning coffee gets some change in the tip cup as well... no more than $.50. The benefit here is that the workers remember me, I get excellent service and at the coffee place an occasional free donut if I happen to pass by in the evening. I feel that if it is a place you frequent it's worth the extra $.

                                                        1. i only do take take out from a couple places (mainly because I love my food hot and fresh on the spot), and been doing this for years now. I actually am friendly with them and the treatment I recieve is likewise. I have come home opened my bag, and the owner has added a dish, something for me to try perhaps next time, or a couple of egg rolls or won tons with sauce. I've tipped them since I first started going there. They have a Buddah in the corner, I always give the Buddha an offering.

                                                          The same is for my special Mexican restaurant. The food is always wrapped perfectly and thoughtfully, and they know all my little habits (extra lettuce). They don't even ask me anymore, it's just there. I don't tip my normal 20 % but I always give them something, sometimes $5 whatever I have extra of.

                                                          1. Seems like there's some confusion in tipping etiqutte. There are many different circumstances where we should tip and perhaps we don't. Here's a link that will help if you have questions about who and how much. And surprise, there is a section on take out.
                                                            I forgot about all the times I tip ( not just at restaurants!), tipping is just something we do now. But you can or you don't have to, there is not a law that says you must.

                                                            Check it out.

                                                            1. If the staff offers me a beverage while I'm waiting for my take out order, I tip.