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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.

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  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!!