The Unspoken Rules For Tipping Your Food Delivery Person

We're in the era of "tipping fatigue," with increased food costs for both eating in and dining out driving consumers to panic when they see that final bill for their two sushi rolls and a Coke. Tipping, which used to involve a standard 20% at bars and restaurants, has become more complicated since the pandemic. 

Customers are pressed for tips when they pick up takeout orders, grab a matcha latte at a cafe, or even when they buy groceries. However, amidst all the tipping confusion, no culinary arena is more confusing than tipping for delivery.

In a roundup of food delivery statistics from Toast, nearly a third of customers ordered delivery at least a few times a month in 2022. During the pandemic, restaurants increased their delivery options, and even fine dining establishments became more accessible via delivery apps like Grubhub and Seamless. What is the appropriate way to tip your delivery person?

Consider the effort involved

Food delivery workers work for tips, so if you aren't tipping appropriately, it's like receiving a service and skipping out on the bill. Tipped workers can earn as little as $2.13 an hour before tips, and they often slog through miserable weather to bring you your shrimp pad thai. Think about it this way: if you don't want to leave the house to get your food, then they probably don't want to, either. 

Consider the effort involved in each delivery, and tip according to how far away the restaurant is, how much food you've ordered, and how bad the weather is. Tipping $5 might be sufficient for a small order from a place on your block — although at that point, you might as well pick it up. 

However, if a delivery person is essentially catering your entire Friday night party in the middle of a blizzard, bump that tip up to $20. Drinks, soups, or other liquids are also more difficult to transport and require more care, so go high if your delivery person is lugging a gallon of phô broth across town.

Cash is king

When you tip on a delivery app, or by credit card after ordering on the phone, you never really know how much of that money goes directly to the person delivering your food. A great way to make sure that your entire tip is going where you want it to is to keep cash on hand for a tip. 

This means no coins, no large bills for them to break, no paying for the whole order and telling them to "keep the change." You should be able to hand them exactly the amount of money you want to give for the tip, without forcing them to stop and count out change, delaying them from getting back to work.

If there is a service or delivery fee tacked onto your order, you still need to tip the amount you would normally. Those fees might go to the app, to the restaurant, to the wait staff, to the kitchen staff. You have no idea where it's going, so definitely don't assume your delivery person is pocketing it.