Do You Need To Tip on Takeout Orders or Not?

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Chances are, you’ve been ordering more takeout than ever this past year and a half. Dine-in closures and social distancing efforts amid the COVID-19 pandemic temporarily made crowded restaurants a thing of the past. And now that you’ve gotten into the habit, you might find yourself ordering takeout more often in the future.

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The only thing is, every time you walk into the restaurant to get your order, you feel awkward because you’re not sure if you’re supposed to tip — and if so, how much to leave.

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How Tipping Has Changed

Tipping on takeout orders hasn’t always been the standard, said Jodi RR Smith, president of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting.

“In our olden, pre-pandemic days, tips on takeout would be given when the order was [completed] quickly, for a really large order or any special instructions,” she said. “If there was an above-and-beyond action, the tip would be in the 10-15% range.”

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However, things have changed. Smith said if you want the establishment to remain open, you should definitely tip on takeout orders.

“During the pandemic you should tip to the point of pain,” she said. “Tip as much as possible, even if you are doing pick-up.”

Smith said the servers and restaurants have been hit very hard by the pandemic, so they need your support right now.

“A few extra dollars from you can make a huge difference for them,” she said. “When in doubt, tip more.”

Dining Establishments in Crisis Mode

Restaurants were the hardest-hit industry during the pandemic and have the longest road to bounce back to pre-COVID-19 employment levels, according to the 2021 State of the Restaurant Industry Report, released by the National Restaurant Association.

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In fact, the eating and drinking place sector ended 2020 with nearly 2.5 million jobs less than pre-pandemic times, according to the report. This isn’t surprising, considering more than 110,000 establishments were closed at least temporarily — many for good — as of Dec. 1, 2020.

Initially, restaurant sales were expected to reach $899 billion in 2020. However, the pandemic ultimately caused sales to fall by $240 billion, according to the report.

Of course, it’s not just restaurant owners taking a hit — employees who rely on tips to supplement their income have also suffered.

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Employees and Tips

The federal minimum wage for tipped employees — i.e., those earning more than $30 per month in tips — is $2.13 per hour.

Some states have different laws requiring employers to pay tipped employees the full state minimum wage before tips while other states require employers to pay tipped employees a higher minimum wage than mandated under the Fair Labor Standards Act. However, in the case of the latter, this is sometimes just a few cents more than the federally required $2.13 per hour — i.e., hourly rates of $2.23 in Delaware and $2.33 in Wisconsin.

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Therefore, servers and other tipped restaurant employees really rely on you to help pay the bills. Failing to tip on takeout orders — or leaving a small fraction of what you would for dine-in service — significantly lowers their income while they recover from the pandemic.

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Last updated: April 2, 2021