Should You Tip on Takeout Orders?

Three experts share their thoughts on the often confusing situation.

Takeout Food on Counter
Photo: Getty Images

The rules for tipping at a restaurant are generally pretty standard when you dine in. When it comes to tipping when ordering takeout, whether ordering ahead or at the restaurant, the rules are not quite as clear. We spoke with three experts to help provide some clarity on the tipping etiquette for takeout orders.

To Tip or Not To Tip?

We asked Diane Gottsman, etiquette expert and founder of The Protocol School of Texas, about her opinion on tipping on takeout orders. "To-go orders generally are met with confusion, frustration and guilt." She continued, "The employee behind the counter is a consumer also. They feel the same pain when they are picking up to-go orders. In a perfect world, I would prefer we all tip a little something when possible."

"Yes, I think takeout orders merit a tip," said David Guas, owner and chef of Bayou Bakery, Coffee Bar & Eatery in Arlington, Virginia. "It does not matter if you work in the front of the restaurant or not, when it is a counter service operation like ours, everyone chips in and deserves some gratitude."

How Much To Tip for Takeout

While the standard tip for a sit-down meal is around 20%, the amount expected on takeout orders has not always been as clear. "We leave the decision to tip on takeout up to the guest and we find 15 to 20% gratuity is generally added," said Gina Chersevani, owner of Buffalo & Bergen, Last Call Bar, and Suburbia in Washington, D.C. "While tipping on takeout is not required, it lets us know that we are valued and our hard work is being noticed and appreciated."

"The staff agrees it is always up to the customer's discretion, but 15% is a safe number to show your thankfulness for the service," Guas says. "A tip shows you have been noticed for the hard work you are doing when many times it can be a thankless job."

Gottsman summed it up by sharing, "The bottom line is there is no right or wrong when it comes to to-go tipping. What is important is to be fair, respectful, courteous, polite, and kind—sounds simple but nothing can ruin a person's day like an angry customer (or employee!)."

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