Tip Drill—not just a demeaning, yet hyper-catchy song by Nelly (Tip Drill):
In lieu of a dining at a restaurant, many reasons make to-go orders the better option. Current mood, convenience, and cost probably top the chart for me. Within each of those categories are varying factors, some overlapping between categories. For instance, under the first section, Current mood, I usually take into account some narcissistic and emotional factors:
- State of mind: You want a tasty, sushi-style meal from Sushi Zushi, and you want to share the experience in the comfort of your own home—or parents’ home for those blighted by the effects of the recession— with your favorite pals, the cast of Gossip Girl.
- Appearance: Maybe you didn’t shower; it’s already so late in the day, so you wonder, why do it now? That is also the sort of methodology that may cause you to opt for picking up a to-go instead of dining at a restaurant.
The second category, Convenience, enmeshes with the first and goes in a little more detail:
- Efficiency: You don’t have to wait as long. You can also call in the order, eat the preparation time in route to pick up—and that is what they call, efficiency.
- Effort: It’s easier to pick up something and not have to wait in line to be seated
- VIP privileges: To-goers tend to feel superior when everyone else is hawking out the reserved “take-out only” sign, and they get to easily roll in.
The final category has a distinctive ring to it: Cha-Ching
- RIC I (reduction in cost): In most to-go scenarios, you don’t feel obligated to order as much, so you save on your total bill
- RIC II: Finally, you don’t have to tip…right?
And that last point is the dilemma that a lot of consumers encounter. Is it necessary to tip on to-go orders? If it’s not, then why is there a tip line on the receipt? I usually do it most of the time, but I’ll admit, it’s only when I see that “tip” line on the receipt. If I pay in cash, I usually forget to tip, unless there is good service. I’m not sure if that is exactly fair. I don’t think sub-par service deserves tipping. Instead, I should probably focus more on tipping the quality service, regardless of a line that reminds me to do so.
Aside from my tipping philosophy, the main problem is, I guess, is the rationale that a lot of to-go clients struggle with when dealing with a to-go experience:
- I am not getting the restaurant experience when I get to-go
- I am not really taking up anyone’s time
- I do not get to use the fancy plates, silver wear, etc
- I do not get the refills on my drink, chips, or salsa
- In a nutshell, no one is truly serving me
While these are all very convincing arguments, they can be counteracted with arguments made by the person who prepares a to-go order. Those individuals manning the “take-out” area are constantly swamped, especially during lunch time. For example, on one occasion at BJ’s, I saw how busy the to-go server was. She answered the phone every second, assisted me with my order and gift card purchases, suggested food items to finicky customers, and for some, she threw in free-of-charge extras. Despite these arguments, someone may still ask, how is this any different from the other food places like Subway where there is usually no tip jar and no tip line on the receipt? Or retail stores? Isn’t it in the job description to do all this? What exactly, are people tipping for? Should good service not be the standard when you are not dining in the restaurant?
Therefore, I understand the tipping conundrum faced by many to-go clients. So I went on a quest to find out what restaurants expected from their to-go customers. These are some questions that I wanted answered, and hopefully, they will help us understand why some places leave an option for a tip, and why others do not:
- As applied in a to-go order scenario, is the service strategy of Chipotle, Olive Garden, Sushi Zushi, and other restaurants really different from McDonald’s, Taco Bell’s and Subway’s,where you never see a tip bowl or tip line on the receipt?
- And what is each restaurant’s perspective on tipping?
- Finally, what role does the consumer play in all this?
When I asked Chipotle, Olive Garden, Chili’s, On the Border, Maggianos, and Sushi Zushi what their tipping policies were, and these are the responses that I got:
Thanks for taking the time to write to us. I stumbled across both of your comments and appreciate your clarification with regards question. Tipping is not by any means required or expected in our restaurants. That being said, sometimes our guests would like to show some additional appreciation to our staff for stellar service. In those instances they may indeed choose to toss a little something extra in the bowl you have noticed. These funds are then divided up amongst the serving staff at the end of a shift; however, as I mentioned, they are not required or necessary by any means.
I hope that helps to answer your question, however, please let me know if you have any additional questions or concerns.
A good question! Tipping on take-out orders is not required, but it is
considered proper etiquette. Not only is it letting someone know you
appreciated a service well done, but many employees depend on this money to
support themselves and work hard to earn a gratuity.
Although you’re not getting the full restaurant experience, there is still a
lot of work involved in taking an order, making sure it is correct, packing
the food, driving it to the house and making sure it is done in a timely
Our guests do not see service charges for take-out or delivery orders and
our drivers and cashiers do share tips with one another. So, depending on
your level of satisfaction (order is complete, all requests were filled,
delivered promptly) tipping anywhere from 10-20% is acceptable and greatly
Please let me know if you have any additional questions or concerns. My
contact information is provided in my signature below.
We’re glad you love the Spicy Vegetable Tempura Roll and we look forward to
serving you again soon.
In regards to your inquiry, tipping is an individual decision, and is not mandatory. Typically, the standard for tipping is 20% for dine in and 10% for takeout.
Chili’s, On the Border, Maggianos (all are affiliated with the parent company, Brinker International):
Thank you for taking the time to contact us. Brinker International is the parent company for Chili’s, On The Border, and Maggiano’s.
Regarding your inquiry, while tipping is a common practice in restaurants, the choice to tip and the amount of the tip is ultimately left up to the guest.
Thank you again for your email.
Of them all, I was somewhat surprised to see that Olive Garden and Brinker International went as far as to say that a tip is never required. I may agree with these comments in the to-go-pickup sense, but not for in-dining purposes. Sure, if the server is terrible, I can see why someone would not want to tip. However, I think there is a bare minimum that a person can give, say 10%, and then complain to the manager, or write corporate. Writing corporate about terrible service will usually catch attention, and will give you your tip money back + some (coupons to a free meal, etc.).
In case you didn’t know, waiters and waitresses are making about $2.13/hr without tips. Hostesses and Hosts—the ones who usually do the to-go orders–are paid at a higher hourly rate. The hourly rate of waiters is about thirty-percent less than minimum wage, which is currently $7.25/hr. That means tips are used to supplant the deficit. If restaurants are saying a tip is never required, regardless of dining in, and no one ever does tip, that means minimum wage standards are not met. So although not tipping a host or hostess may be justified, I am not sure this notion can be condoned when applied to waiters and waitresses serving and waiting on clients who are enjoying the whole restaurant experience.
Therefore, I think it is our duty to tip them; otherwise, we are advocating the practice of cheap labor, and we are better than that. During these times, when people in financial plunder, instead of giving up, are working hard to earn an income, we have a duty to pay recognition. So I will advocate for a system that ensures a fair tip is left, fairness in the sense of whether or not one should be given, and fairness is amount:
- To-go order with a normal experience: if you want to leave a tip- at least 5%
- To-go order and you know you were a hassle: 10%
- In restaurant with an OK waiter: 18%
- In restaurant with a terrible waiter: 10-15% + complain to the manager or customer relations (or write a bad review on Yelp).
- In restaurant with an excellent waiter: 20-25% + praises to the manager or customer relations
Maybe this system is a bit too idealistic or drastic for some. But it’s a start. It puts out a message that there are options, and we must exercise them diligently and carefully. If we employ a fair practice for tipping services, we will generate good service, do away with sub-par service, and restore just labor practices that are what makes it easier to live and work in a country that is in an economic blunder.