How much to tip for food delivery

March 23, 2012

Would you give this guy an extra tip?

Have you ever wondered if you were tipping enough for food delivery?

Author Gabriel Thompson, a Crown Heights resident, has some thoughts on the subject. Thompson worked undercover in the low-wage immigrant workforce, including a stint as a bike deliveryman for an upscale Mexican restaurant in Manhattan. The year-long experiment was done as research for his book, Working in the Shadows. (Published January 2010). “The minimum wage for delivery food workers is $4.60,” says Thompson. “Just about everyone I met was making half that. It’s about what employers can get away with.”

If most delivery workers are making $2.30 an hour, they obviously depend on tips for a living. So, we all want to be fair, especially since it seems their bosses aren’t. But what is fair?

CNN Money has a guide for all tipping and they suggest to tip 10% of the delivery bill (excluding tax), at least $1 for bills up to $10, but that you should tip 15-20% for a difficult delivery. Interestingly, this appears to be on the lower side of tipping if you do some unscientific (but very informative) research, like reading comments on lots of blogs!

Here are what readers at Chowhound had to say about tipping for food delivery:

I always tip 20%. I figure the poor guys live by their tips and they’re doing me a favor by bringing my food. . . .

I usually do about 20%. I figure if I’m not going and getting it myself then the convenience of delivered food is worth something. (I’m usually sick, it’s raining or super cold, I’m being lazy and hungry . . . give the guy a good tip they’ve earned it – plus with gas prices they need the tips)

The pizza we get usually is $18. I give the driver $5 tip every time. I don’t think I would tip less than $5 on any delivery order.

The customary norm is 10%, rounded up to the nearest dollar. More if the delivery person has to climb stairs, or walk through significant inclement weather.

I tip $4-$5 regardless of check size (sometimes $6-$7 for inclement weather) for delivery in my NYC neighborhood–I’m always ordering for 1 or 2 and all the places we order from are within 12 blocks or so. I guess I’ve always calculated it like a flat charge for delivery rather than a percentage based on check size.

And these readers’ comments are from Serious Eats:

I recently realized that small, independent places that deliver charge more for delivery, though they don’t tell you that. They tack it on to the price of your food; so there’s that extra “fee” and then the driver gets a tip as well. I noticed this after going into my favorite Thai place for a Pad-Thai combo meal to go, which was $5.15 and then ordering the same thing to be delivered on several occasions only to find that it was $8.15. This may seem like small potatoes to most of you, but when you’re broke it’s worth noticing.

Some places have a delivery charge on top of the price of food that goes to corporate instead of to the drivers. If you don’t know how it works at a certain restaurant. My husband worked through much of high school as a pizza delivery driver and didn’t see a penny of money from the delivery fee.

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