Should You Tip for Takeout?

The pandemic made tipping a lot more complicated.

Leaving a tip at a restaurant feels more like a requirement sometimes than an option, and most of us would agree that if you sit down and eat a meal and don’t tip, that’s pretty bad etiquette. But what if it’s not a sit-down meal? What are the rules then? Should you tip for takeout?

The answer is, it depends. “There is a difference in takeout dining options such as fast-food or a formal restaurant,” says DeAnna Kane, an etiquette expert for Heart of Hospitality. And this difference can end up being a deciding factor in whether to tip and how much to tip when getting takeout.

This is the first thing your waiter notices about you.

How Tipping for Takeout Changed

The pandemic changed a lot of things, as essential workers were working hard to keep things moving at a time when many restaurants no longer had sit-down dining. Suddenly, tipping became more common even in non-traditional tipping situations, as times were tough for many service workers and they put themselves at additional risk in order to provide comfort and convenience. But just because more tipping options exist, that doesn’t mean it is a requirement or mandatory.

“Even though we are starting to see tip jars pop up in crazy places such as fast-food chains, gas stations and even pharmacies, tipping is not required in these locations,” says Kane. It’s definitely left people confused about how much to tip in each situation.

The difference between these customer service employees and waitstaff at a restaurant is that waitstaff do not receive a minimum wage. The restaurant has the paying customer make up the difference with tips.

“Waitstaff who take orders at the door are still considered waitstaff and are paid a minimal salary and depend on tips to make up the difference in their paychecks to even reach minimum wage,” says Kane.

Even if you don’t see the server pack your food, and a hostess gives you your order, a server still had to take time away from their customers and prepare your bag to take out. However, you are not required to tip a higher percentage like 18% or 20% amount on take-out orders. “The difference is the waitstaff are simply taking your order, packaging your meal and preparing your bag to take home, and collecting your money. They are not actually serving your meals, getting drink refills, clearing your table and doing all the things a dine-in experience would bring you. You are also not taking up a table where other customers could be sitting and eating,” says Kane.

So, Should I Tip for Takeout?

Yes, you should tip the waitstaff for your takeout order—if the restaurant is a traditional dine-in establishment where servers wait on tables.

“An appropriate amount to tip on takeout orders would be approximately 10% to 12%,” says Kane. The time it takes to prepare your order is much less than waiting on your table in the restaurant, and does not require a customary higher tip. “Remember that tipping is for employees when they make your dining experience enjoyable,” says Kane.

Don’t forget to tip for pizza delivery, too. You can also recreate your favorite meals at with these copycat takeout recipes.

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Aly Walansky
Aly Walansky is a lifestyles writer with over a decade of experience covering beauty, health, and travel for various esteemed publications. Her blog, A Little Alytude (www.alytude.com) was launched in 2006 and continues to be a strong voice in the lifestyles arena. Based in the ever-trendy Park Slope area of Brooklyn, she divides her time between her shih tsu Lily, her soap opera addiction, and scouting out fun new martini bars.