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How do you tip if you eat at a restaurant AND also order food to-go?

I often eat at restaurants and then order extra to-go for family members at home, for lunch the next day, etc. I guess not a lot of people do this since I tried finding an answer by googling various word combinations and couldn't find anything. From reading other posts, I figure that separately, most people tip 15% and up for food served at the restaurant and for take-out, tipping ranges from nothing to upwards of 20%. Generally, I tip 18% - 20% of the total bill for sit-down dining; however, I have never ordered only take-out/pick-up from a restaurant so I don't have a tipping policy for that. Probably (unless the service was amazing and I'm not really sure how you would do extraordinary packing up of food), I would not be willing to pay more than a couple dollars, perhaps 10%. My concern is that when I order for sit-down and to-go, it's all on one check. Even if I tip 10% for the to-go, it would bring down the total percentage, so then I feel a little bad that the waiter might consider that a below-average tip. But I know if I paid tip based on the entire bill, I would feel a little annoyed that I paid 15-20% tip for to-go food out of guilt. If it were just one small dish, it might not make a huge difference, but sometimes I order A LOT to go and it ends up being quite significant. I don't want to be cheap but I also don't want to feel gypped (even though no one is forcing me to pay). Would you just pay the same percentage for the entire bill or combine the two separate tips into one amount and hope that your waiter understands that it just seems less because the percentage for to-go food is less?

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  1. There are some threads where this has been discussed but it was awhile ago and they might be difficult to find. The general consensus is that the server or bartender, whomever you are ordering the takeout from, understands that the tip will not be the same as if you were tipping on the total bill. You just tip on your food you ate there as you normally would (and if you tip on takeout, add that to it). So if your food you ate in cost $20, and, for example, you were going to leave a $4 tip, but then you got another $40 in food, you'd still only leave the $4, even though the bill totals $60. They will understand that the tip is on your dined-in food only.

    IIRC, some people tip a little more in a situation like that so it doesn't look like such a small number on the bill; like they might leave 6 so it doesn't look "cheap." It's all up to your interpretation.

    IMO, just ask for the to-go food to be rung up separately. That's what I would do, that avoids any confusion or looking "bad" for tipping just on your food.

    1. As a server, if you order take out food from your server, it counts towards our total sales regardless of where you eat your food. Those sales totals are the basis of how much we tip out (portion of the tips that go to support staff) and how much we are taxed. So, tip as if you eat it there. If you don't want to do that, then order it from the bar staff or host. Hosts usually get an hourly wage much higher than the servers and the bar staff usually doesn't tip out.

      7 Replies
      1. re: almostrosy

        I agree with this. When I worked as a server, there was no difference in to go food vs. regular tables that were dining in. If you stiffed me on that check, I paid out of my pocket to the house. Didn't matter that you were already seated and that the order had no drinks. The hostess and the bartender are getting a cut.

        The bartenders, on the other hand, didn't have to tip out to anyone.

        Since most people order the to go food at the end of the meal, I'd look at the extra tip as a convenience for sitting at their table while the food is being made and packed up.

        1. re: almostrosy

          No sorry. I don't tip on the total, just that portion I ate at the table. You can put the take out order on a separate check if you want.

          1. re: PeterL

            Why? At that point you're shafting your waiter. If you're sitting at the table, they take your order and bring you the food that you eat, and they take your order and bring the food that you're taking to go just the same. Why no tip for the exact same service?

            1. re: JasmineG

              Granted there is some service involved in bring the takeout order, but it's hardly "the exact same." There is no bringing of food course by course, no taking of dirty plates back to the kitchen, no beverage service whatsoever, no watching to see what the guest might require next. Just pick up a bag from the kitchen (maybe the server also has to put the takeout container into the bag, maybe not) and bring it to the table. Done. Pretty much nothing that takes more than a few seconds of the server's time.

              I'm not saying you shouldn't tip on it - Azizeh makes a very good point about some places making servers share out a cut of their tips whether they actually get one or not (which I personally consider criminal behavior, but that's another topic for dicsussion) but getting takeout is not the same thing as dining in.

              1. re: BobB

                But you're already sitting at the table, so you already got the course by course service, and the beverage service. So the only thing that is different if you get a takeout order is that they don't bring the dirty plates back to the kitchen (which usually a busboy will do anyway). So yes, it's exactly the same in this context, since they're physically taking your order at your table, then picking up a bag from the kitchen instead of a plate, and bringing it to you at the table.

                1. re: JasmineG

                  And you tip properly on the items for which you got the course by course service and beverage service, etc. But the fact remains that you do NOT receive these services on the takeout order. You can say they're the same thing all you want, but that don't make it so. I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree about that.

                  1. re: JasmineG

                    Jfood agrees w BobB, it is NOT the same thing. It is similar to packing the leftovers in a doggie bag and then assuming the server deserves a double tip. The server's marginal work load on the doggie bag comsists of bringing the bag with the wrapped food to the table. Surely you are not suggesting doubling the tip on that part of the meal.

          2. I mistakenly assumed that the OP was a solo diner sitting at the bar, that's why I offered the advice I did. JMO but you shouldn't order takeout from servers working on tables for the reasons stated below - all counts towards their sales and they have to tip out on their total sales for the evening.

            Just sit at the bar, then your problem is solved. You can dine in, and order takeout without dinging anyone financially.