Americans had to find different ways to do things during the COVID-19 pandemic. Working from home became more prevalent and restaurants found ways to add outdoor dining to keep customers coming in.
There was also an increase in the use of food-delivery services, as more people decided to stay home while also trying to support their favorite local restaurants. In fact, food-delivery services took in around $51 billion in sales in 2020, up by $28 billion over the pre-pandemic year of 2019, according to one study.
But with the increase in food delivery, some newer customers may wonder about tipping etiquette. If you’re unsure about how to handle tipping for your next food order, here are a few things to keep in mind.
How tipping works: Restaurant vs. delivery
When you’re at a restaurant, you may have to pull out the calculator on your smartphone to figure out what 15% or 20% of your meal is and how to add that tip to your final cost.
On the other hand, food-delivery services make tipping easy. Simply choose the amount of tip you want to include during the checkout process and you’re all set. The actual dollar amounts are usually included with the percentage amounts, so you know exactly how much of a tip you’ll be leaving based on the percentage.
But how much should you tip for food delivery?
Some users wonder exactly how much they should be tipping. Perhaps they believe a driver should get 10% for simply delivering the food. Others might want to tip 20%, as they would to a typical server inside a restaurant.
So what should you give? Some experts suggest a good tip is 20% of your bill or $5, whichever is higher, for your delivery drivers.
In addition, you should also consider a few more things and adjust your tip accordingly:
- If you have a large order for a party or your office, consider adding a few dollars more.
- Delivering during bad weather may also be factored into your tip.
- Think about rewarding the driver for having to follow any special instructions, such as asking drivers to walk a good distance from a parking lot to your door, or requiring them to take three flights of stairs to deliver your food.
- If you ordered from a special restaurant that is located some distance away, add a few more dollars for the longer drive.
Also, remember that delivery fees are not the same as tips. If you’re trying to cut the cost of food delivery, consider other options — such as looking for discounts or signing up for a delivery subscription program — before cutting back on a tip for your driver.
Should you tip in-app or with cash?
Exactly how to tip a food-delivery driver may be a personal preference, and customers are generally split on what they choose. A FinanceBuzz survey on tipping habits found that 52% of people prefer to tip their delivery drivers in cash, while another 46% prefer doing it in the app.
But what does the driver want? Servers at restaurants may tell you that they prefer to get tips in cash rather than having customers add them to their credit card bill at the end of a meal, but some delivery drivers may break the other direction.
One of the big reasons you may want to tip in the app instead of in person is because drivers can see your tip before they pick up your food. So, a driver may decide to pick up your order over someone else’s food when they see that you’ve already chosen to tip them.
But in-app tipping does come with a drawback. Some customers may try to take advantage of the system by offering a big tip and then withdrawing some or all of the tip after their food is delivered. This so-called “tip baiting” is something customers should avoid, as it takes money away from drivers after they’ve committed to filling your order.
And in fact, some companies like the grocery delivery company Instacart have started to crack down on the practice.
You may want to consider reducing drivers’ tips if they give you the wrong order or forget parts of your meal. On the other hand, if you have issues with the food itself, it may be a better idea to contact the restaurant directly and not take it out on the person who delivered your food.
Whether it’s a food-delivery side hustle or a full-time job, drivers depend on your tips to cover travel costs and make some money from their work.
Weigh all the different factors we’ve mentioned when deciding how much to tip and remember that a good tip could lead to a good experience for your next food order.
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