3 Rules for Tipping on Take-Out

When you see that tip line on a receipt for your take-out, what do you do? Modern Manners Guy tackles a thorny issue.

Richie Frieman
5-minute read
Episode #321

As I said in Tip #1, we all know the difference between good and poor service. So when you see people put care into your take-out order, you want to show your gratitude accordingly. But there is a limit. You are not an ATM and your tip should not be 50% of your entire order! A sandwich and drink for $15 does not deserve an $8 tip.

If you feel the service warranted a tip on your take-out order, you should only tip once on the receipt or put cash in the tipping jar sitting near the cashier. You don’t owe everyone an individual tip. It’s not your job to make sure everyone gets paid, nor, as I said, do you have to go broke over take-out. Sure, you can thank them all with a wave and a shout out, and I advise being friendly. But one tip, one time, at the end of the transaction is all that's required.

Rule #3: The Owner Is Not Like a Server

Many take-out places are small shops where the owner not only pays the bills, but makes the food, and even works the register. Not that they’re an octopus with many hands doing many things at once, but oftentimes you’ll see the owner ring you up, after putting your meal in a bag.  So, when you are dealing with an owner, do you still tip?

I for one, find it a little odd when I'm confronted with an owner of the establishment who behaves as if they deserve a tip.  See, tipping was developed as a way for service workers to supplement their usually minimal salary. Waiters in the U.S. often make less than $3 an hour, which is hardly enough to get by, so tips are essential for survival. However, when the owner of the store is the one serving the take-out, I don’t see the parallel.

Think about it this way: Let’s say that Nordstrom’s cashiers started accepting tips for assisting customers.  Then one day Mr. Nordstrom himself himself shows up to work the register - should I be tipping him?  It would be weird, right? Granted his income is a lot different than the owner of Jonny’s Sandwich Shop but still, when someone owns an establishment, their take is much higher than the workers'.

Expecting $2 more from a customer picking up their Pad Thai is not going to make the owner a millionaire, it’s only going to make the customer feel like they were guilted into paying more than they should. Owners are exempt from the take-out tip policy simply by the nature of their role in the restaurant's food chain. The owner-customer transaction should end solely with a smile and a "Thanks."

As always, if you have a manners question, I look forward to hearing from you at manners@quickanddirtytips.com. Follow me on Twitter @MannersQDT, and of course, check back next week for more Modern Manners Guy tips for a more polite life.

Do you have any recent graduates in your circle, or perhaps someone who is looking to start a new career, check out my bestselling book, Reply All…And Other Ways to Tank Your Career for great tips and advice on job success. It's available in paperback, ebook, and digital audio.

Chinese food container image courtesy of Shutterstock.