When I go to a restaurant in the USA and order food for takeout, am I supposed to tip?

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    I am sorry about deleting my answer, but really, I did not intend to create such disagreement. I tip carry out, perhaps I should not, but I do. I make a good living and tend to overtip, but that is just me.
    – CGCampbell
    Commented May 18, 2015 at 22:25
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    @CGCambell, I would encourage you ro undelete your answer. The beauty of SE is that users can still see alternate perspectives, with the best floating to the top. While many may not think yours was the best, it was still valid.
    – Doresoom
    Commented May 19, 2015 at 0:57
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    Something to note that may have caused this question in the first place is that often places where you carry out your food will use the same machine to print the receipt as they would for a delivery. The receipt will have a line for a tip amount, but that's more for the delivery driver.
    – agweber
    Commented May 19, 2015 at 15:29
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    No, I don't tip when I pick up the food myself or have it handed across the counter to me. Tips are to pay the server for their personal attention and service. Counter staff should be getting paid at least minimum wage (which still sucks a lot, but there's limits to everything). Unless I'm getting personal attention and service, food and drinks brought out to me, etc, I don't tip. Commented May 20, 2015 at 2:53

6 Answers 6


No. You don't tip unless it's a delivery charge. For example, if you order takeout food and have them deliver (especially common in hotels), then you'd want to tip the driver.

From Wikipedia:

Tips are also generally given for services provided in golf courses, casino, hotels, concierge, food delivery, taxis, spa and salons.

If you're going to the restaraunt or venue to pick up food, then you don't need to leave a tip.

From Wikipedia:

Tipping is not required for fast food restaurants, take-out orders, and coffee houses.

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    You say "obviously" but tipping isn't expected in a lot of countries for that kind of thing either.
    – CMaster
    Commented May 17, 2015 at 20:35
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    @CMaster The question title specifically states: "Tipping for takeout food in USA". So the OP is not asking what the standard is in other countries.
    – yuritsuki
    Commented May 17, 2015 at 21:09
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    @thinly_veiled_question_mark You misunderstand what I was trying to say. You say it is "obvious" to tip the driver in the USA - but the reason there are so many questions about tipping on this site is because tipping varies dramatically between cultures - what may be obvious to a native is often surprising to a traveller. I'm not disputing the accuracy or relevance of the answer.
    – CMaster
    Commented May 17, 2015 at 21:14
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    so you don't believe in tipping huh? youtube.com/watch?v=Z-qV9wVGb38 Commented May 18, 2015 at 12:09
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    @ClausJørgensen even at fancy hotels sometimes I want a pizza, and with the internet I can easily find one myself. Even if a concierge recommended one its unlikely they'd order it for me. I think this is more common than you believe.
    – Andy
    Commented May 18, 2015 at 22:53

No, I wouldn't. A tip is for good service (someone bringing food drink to your table, keeping on top of your requests etc.) but with takeout you're buying a product. Its similar to going to McDonalds or Wendy's.

Generally, its waiters and waitresses that get tips as they make a lower Federal minimum wage than the other staff. While some states have laws which force employers to at least pay the standard minimum wage if the worker doesn't earn enough tips, most don't.

Also you usually would tip someone that delivers your food to you, but that's not relevant for takeout.

Here's some useful information from the US Dept of Labor. http://www.dol.gov/whd/state/tipped.htm

I also found this good Trip Advisor article. http://www.tripadvisor.com/Travel-g191-s606/United-States%3aTipping.And.Etiquette.html

My experience comes from living in the US.

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    so then why do you have to tip in a bar for drinks? The process is the same as McDonalds etc. You go to the counter, order your drink then go sit down. I dont understand why it is required to tip in the bar situation but not in a Fast Food situation.
    – medina
    Commented May 19, 2015 at 11:46
  • @davidb According to one of the links I posted, the FSLA states that you are a "tipped employee" if more than $30 of income is normally generated from tips in a single month. Given that, it seems that bartenders could technically be paid a minimum wage of $2.13/hr. just like your server. Also, while YOU might order a drink and leave, people do sit at the bar and the bartender takes care of anything else they might want as well, such as snacks, appetizers or even full meals. In fact my wife and I often have our entire meal at the bar b/c the service is better than at a table.
    – Andy
    Commented May 19, 2015 at 16:56
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    @davidb The bartenders remember who tips and who doesn't. I can tell you from personal experience (I live in the USA) that if you make a habit of tipping bartenders, you will get service much quicker than if you do not. At a busy bar, the bartenders decide who gets served and in what order. Why would they choose to serve someone who they know doesn't tip over someone who does? Commented May 19, 2015 at 17:02
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    @MichaelMcGriff Plus your drink might be more waterer down than someone that tips well (or perhaps their drink gets an extra kick).
    – Andy
    Commented May 19, 2015 at 17:05
  • @Andy Very true. :) Commented May 19, 2015 at 17:05

The people at the takeout counter probably aren't dependent largely on tips as their primary wage (as waitstaff in the US are), but if your order is complicated, it is courteous to tip. And, I'd recommend being consistent with a dollar or two if this is a neighborhood restaurant you order from frequently — they'll remember.

The blog "Wait But Why" has a long article on tipping, based on extensive but non-scientific research. It's worth reading in general, but to summarize the relevant part for this question:

  • About a third of take-out customers tip
  • If you don't tip, it's fine
  • Average tip is "$0-1"
  • High tip is 10-20%
  • And, the blog notes: "if you order for 10 people and it's all carefully packaged, that took time. Tip."
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    Last point is fair enough I suppose.
    – Andy
    Commented May 18, 2015 at 22:34
  • At many restaurants, the takeout counter is at the bar. I believe that bartenders are dependent largely on tips. Commented May 19, 2015 at 4:42
  • @pacoverflow True, but irrelevant. They hand you the food and ring you out, and that's about it.
    – Andy
    Commented May 19, 2015 at 17:00
  • @Andy You could say the same about them handing you your drink and ringing you out. Commented May 19, 2015 at 17:08
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    @pacoverflow And if you're only going to get one drink, not tipping wouldn't be that big a deal, although I would if I were waiting for the takeout. And you wouldn't typically tip for a soft drink as well, given by the very same bartender, no matter how long you sat there. At any rate, having the bartender hand you the food and take your money isn't a service you tip for. Its not like they packed it or even brought it to the bar.
    – Andy
    Commented May 19, 2015 at 23:40

Generally the worker at the cashier will take tips if given, but they aren't required. Usually the "tip jar" in those circumstances serves as a "put that pocket change you didn't actually want here," like if you're paying cash or the like.

Just because there is a jar of some sort next to the cash register doesn't mean they take tips, either; Some establishments collect customers' spare change to make charitable contributions to various organizations (one notable example is McDonald's and their partnership with the Ronald McDonald House). These are completely optional, and the money does not go to anyone at the restaurant. This practice is also the exception, rather than the rule.

Basically, if a place has a tip jar at the point of payment, and you pay in cash, it's generally appreciated for you to put some or all of the change into the jar, but it is never required.

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    But there's the issue. If you see a jar for money going to an organization, that's not a tip; that's a donation. A tip is intended to go towards the staff of the restaurant; a donation goes towards a charitable organization. So in my opinion I'd omit the second paragraph, as it has nothing to do with a "tip jar", which is often labelled as such.
    – yuritsuki
    Commented May 18, 2015 at 23:49
  • @thinlyveiledquestionmark Good point, I'll rewrite it as appropriate. (I still think it's worth mention as an ancillary thing though.)
    – fluffy
    Commented May 19, 2015 at 2:24

I've worked in a bunch of restaurants (many years ago) as both a waitress and a bartender. In both instances I've placed takeout orders for customers either in the restaurant or calling in to pick up. At the time I was making below the standard minimum wage because it's assumed by the government that I'll make it up in tips. That was not always the case.

When a waitress or bartender "cashes out" at the end of the night, they print out how much they "sold" and have to tip out other people at the restaurant that don't get tips (ie. bus boys, kitchen staff, hostess, bartender, it really depends on the establishment). Now the amount that they have to tip out to these co-workers varies but it's been as high as 5% of the sales. So if most people tip 15%, 5% of that goes to the other staff and the waitress / bartender makes 10% for themselves. That's IF they're getting 15% on average, which is not always the case.

Now take into account a take out order...If I take the order, I have to put that under my "sales" for the night and have to tip out the other staff on the sales. It was always appreciated when someone would tip on their takeout order so that I wouldn't lose money on it.

That's how it worked in the restaurants and bars that I worked in. I'm not saying that's how it is everywhere, but that's how I've always know it to be and that's why I tip on take out orders (from restaurants or bars).

  • I don't think what you make is relevant to tipping, it has to do with the service you're providing. Its meant to encourage good service, but if you're just handing me food and taking my money that's not service. I can see how that scenario would suck for a waitress, but there are a lot of things that suck about various jobs and its between employer and employee, not the customer.
    – Andy
    Commented May 22, 2015 at 0:37
  • For better or worse, it is generally illegal for "tip pools" to include normally non-tipped workers like those in the back of the house (kitchen staff). Other laws vary by state. Where I am in Massachusetts, many states now include a separate, technically-optional (in that you can ask a manager to remove it, if you are an asshole) "service fee" of 3-5% which goes to those non-tipped workers.
    – mattdm
    Commented Dec 1, 2022 at 8:06

The server usually packages and bags the meal, as well as checks you out. This is time they could be earning tips at the table. I always tip at least a couple of dollars. However, fast food restaurants are jumping on the bandwagon with a push for tips. I do not tip at fast food restaurants.

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