Do You Leave a Tip or Gratuity for Taking Out Food From a Restaurant?

Gratuities and tips have long been controversial with regards to travel and dining — to the point of contentiousness from all sides of the issue, as evidenced by the following articles which I wrote for The Gate over the years…

Do You Leave a Tip or Gratuity for Taking Out Food From a Restaurant?

When considering flights, getting to your hotel or resort property from the airport, and perhaps preparing for that business meeting the next day, the process of travel can potentially consume an inordinate amount of time — and sometimes renders the option of going to a restaurant to sit down and relax while enjoying a dining experience virtually impossible.

Options can include partaking in a hamburger from a fast food restaurant or ordering room service from the hotel room — or perhaps picking up the food at a restaurant and taking it back to the room.

I have opted to pick up food from a restaurant lately more so than dine there because this option is indeed quicker: simply order the food via telephone or computer and do what needs to be done prior to leaving in time to pick up the food while it is hot and freshly cooked…

…but when I pick up the food, one of two options to spend extra money awaits me: the tip jar at the counter where the bill is paid; or a line on the receipt which suggests leaving a gratuity when paying by credit card.


One can argue that because a customer is not served at a table by an actual person — including having the plates, cutlery and cloth napkins washed and prepared, taking the order manually, pouring drinking water when needed, bringing bread and the courses of the meal in more than one trip, clearing the used dirty plates once the meal is finished, and ensuring that the diner is having a good experience — one is not required to leave a tip or gratuity for simply picking up the food in containers, plastic utensils and paper napkins, and taking it out for consumption elsewhere…

…but then again, someone had to ensure that the order was prepared properly and collected together in a conveyance which is easy to carry — such as a bag with handles — and collect what is owed on the bill if it was not already paid in advance when the food was ordered. Perhaps the person handling your order took special care or did something beyond what was expected to ensure that your dining experience elsewhere would be better.

Should you leave a tip or gratuity — whether or not it is a reduced amount — when you take out food from a restaurant; and what are your reasons regardless of the answer to that question?

Photograph ©2019 by Brian Cohen.

25 thoughts on “Do You Leave a Tip or Gratuity for Taking Out Food From a Restaurant?”

  1. ktc says:

    No need to tip to-go orders.
    this is the prevailing politically charged mindset of not to offend or make anyone uncomfortable, regardless of the content of events.

  2. Dave says:

    Please stop it with these tipping threads. It’s well known that the employers make big bucks and guilt-trip customers to make up for the minimum wages of their employees.

    If you put on somewhat decent clothes, get in your car, drive, (sometimes) brave terrible weather, and pick up your food, you deserve a tip.

    I am not going to tip you just for making my food. That stuff is included in the purchase price. Materials and labor. Talk to your boss if you need a raise.

  3. Luke Vader says:

    Usually the cashier to rings up the order is the same person who will bag and hand over the food, so more often than not I will add a small tip. I know it’s not a strict obligation, but let’s face it, folks who work in restaurants generally don’t earn all that much.

  4. Luke Vader says:

    Usually the cashier *who* rings up the order…

    1. Grammar School Headmaster says:

      kudos to the grammar correction!

  5. David Gerard Ralson says:

    yes I tip at restaurant when I get my food for carry out because we all know restaurant employees are under minimum wage and rely on tips to make their money.
    If you’re too cheap to tip people that are making under minimum wage you can always go to a fast food were there paid a minimum wage.
    We all know people that make with a minimum wage aren’t getting rich so have a heart give a few bucks.

  6. Nil says:

    Tipping is an unmitigated disaster in the USA.

  7. Aus Biker says:

    Do I leave a tip to the person who hands me a cup so I can get my own coffee? That would be a no.

  8. Johnny says:

    Do you tip the cashier at McDonald’s after he places a prepared Big Mac and fries in your bag, not to mention filling your drink order?

    I don’t see any difference in effort expended in preparing a Big Mac at McDonald’s vs. a burger at a restaurant.

    That being the case, why would you tip the restaurant cashier and not the McDonald’s cashier? They both work for minimum wage.

    1. C L says:

      McDonald’s put out a tip jar.
      I took the jar.

      If you want to make more money go to college.

  9. Lancelot says:

    I thought the original concept of restaurant tipping was to make up for the wage gap of the servers. Maybe I’m incorrect, but I would think that the cashier at the restaurant is not making the same wage as the server. Nevertheless, I usually do still leave a nominal amount.

    The tipping thing does bother me at times because there are a few times during the year where I spend well over $1,000 for dinner. I’m expected to tip $250-$300 for 1.5 hours of someone’s time? I think of my daughter who is working at a local coffee shop while she’s going to college, and she doesn’t make that in a week. It’s an odd situation because theoritically if the waiter/waitress in my example is receiving one customer each hour that tips that much, the waiter is likely making 1/2 million dollars per year. Obviously, this is an extreme example from most folks in the food service industry, but it is real. It’s probably not the case that a member of the wait staff is making $500K per year, but I wonder in my head, should there be a cap for tipping? It doesn’t take much to run up a pretty high bill at some of the restaurants in New York.

    1. C L says:

      I thought the idea of a tip was to make up the dollars per hour for those who make $2/hr as waiters/waitresses

      Why would I tip someone for not doing more. If they are making minimum wage and they want to make more then go into manàgement, go to college. Get a bette4. Job. But stop pressuring others to GIVE you more. Get off your ass and work.
      When I was homeless I went to school to become an EMT. Then a paramedic, then a ln cna, then an RN. Then I picked up a BA and a BS Then an MSN. THEN MBA.
      Now I have seven degrees. With seven advanced specialties.
      Get over the gimme gimme attitude and start working.

  10. Chris says:

    Absolutely not

  11. Adrienne says:

    My son and I were just talking about this last week as we went to pick up food from a local restaurant. My instinct is “no.”

  12. Ray Landry says:

    I don’t understand why I have to help an employer pay a wait person or a take out cashier. Tipping in the USA is definitely out of hand. If tipping were to cease to exist, then employers would be forced to pay the wait person (or cashier) a living wage or else they would go out of business. Why do people take jobs as wait staff knowing they will make the smallest minimum wage possible? There is already a lot of turnover in the industry because the wait staff figures out there isn’t enough money to live on. It really makes no sense to tip a cashier just because it’s food. Do you tip the Walmart cashier or the Home Depot cashier? I’ll bet not, yet they are performing their tasks just as well. It’s the job they signed up for.

  13. BigBeliever in equality says:

    If the cashier or order taker at the desk shares their tips or pools them with the other workers. Ie. Cook etc, then yes I would tip , but for someone to collect money at a drive through or just handle cash. Why would you? They didnt prepare any thing or bag it. Maybe a few extra napkins if you ask
    But definatly not. Everyone in the hospitality industry has a job to do and no matter how trivial EVERYONE that is involved should be compensated if they pool their tips only

  14. Mike from Berlin says:

    In all honesty, me, as a European Resident, I am getting fed up with America, more and more. On a recent trip to Asia I witnessed Americans even enforcing a tip an service staff on several occasions in countries without a tipping culture, such as Singapore and Japan. Please, please stop that nonsense. Bad enough that American staff have to rely on tips in the 21st century – while that is not, what tips were ever meant to be dedicated for… But please don’t impose this ridiculousness on the rest of the world, as well. If the American society wasn’t so greedy and ruthless in general, obsessively adoring its materialism and capitalism, the worls would surely be a better place. Just my two cents…

  15. Ann Scarbary says:

    Here’s a tip for you,Mike from Berlin…don’t like America?… take your azz home!! Pronto!!!

  16. Jon W says:

    I write “To Go” in the tip line of the credit card receipt and then carry over the original total to the final total line.

  17. I like what you said about leaving a tip when you get carry out since someone had to make sure that your order was still made properly. My brother has been telling me about how he wants to get some take out from a nearby restaurant soon. I’ll share this information with him so that he can look into his options for leaving a tip.

  18. It made sense to me when you explained that we should still consider tipping for takeout orders since someone had to collect and prepare the food properly. My husband and I were thinking about finding a Thai restaurant to order takeout from tonight since we’ll both be busy with work projects and won’t have time to cook. Since this isn’t something we normally do, your advice about tipping is much appreciated!

  19. Zoe Campos says:

    Thank you for giving me the idea that the people responsible for the dishes I ordered must have taken extra measures to give me a good eating experience. I’ve never considered tipping before since I thought the overall price of the meal should be enough. I’ll try to be generous this Friday since we’re thinking of eating at an authentic Italian restaurant.

  20. Usually the cashier…!

  21. jesica says:

    In many cases Usually the cashier

  22. I like how you brought up the idea of tipping when you go to pick up food. I always thought that I don’t need to. However, you brought up a good point about how someone had to prepare the bag and make sure everything was right.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.