By Callie Gordon, Lillie-Beth Brinkman, Helen Ford Wallace
QUESTION: We picked up a carry-out order from our favorite Mexican restaurant last night. The waitress put it in a sack for us and took our money. What is tipping protocol for that service? I added a couple of dollars to the bill as a tip, but I was really not sure what to do.
CALLIE’S ANSWER: I usually tip a couple dollars as well when I am picking up a to-go order. They did not serve you as much if you were at eating at the restaurant, so I think it is a fair amount.
LILLIE-BETH’S ANSWER: I always wonder about that, too. What I usually do is tip a little, less than 20 percent, in order to recognize that it takes some effort and time away from seated customers to package it up for you. My colleague, Heather Warlick, who at one time was a server, agreed. She noted that often the host or hostess packages up that food, and they are paid regular wages; tips aren’t calculated as part of their salaries as they are with waiters. A waiter also can be assigned the duty of packaging up to-go orders. It’s nice to acknowledge the effort it takes to get you ready to go, but I don’t think it has to be the same as you would pay if you sat in the restaurant.
HELEN’S ANSWER: When I pick up food from a local restaurant, I usually add a couple of dollars for the person who is taking the time from waiting tables and making other tips to help me by getting my order together. If it is a take-out place only, I usually add the change to the tip jar which is somehow always sitting there.
Really, I have never thought too much about tipping when I pick up food because I’m always trying to get out without spilling anything. Readers, any thoughts?
GUEST’S ANSWER: Chuck Ainsworth, local businessman: Counter service is becoming more prevalent, and tipping should be modified to reflect the service you receive. Two prominent restaurateurs who own venues that provide counter service agree. Cashiers at counter service venues are paid a higher wage than most table waiters. If they are friendly and helpful, then a $1 or $2 tip is absolutely appropriate.
If you are happy with the service, you can add a tip on the ticket or cash in the tip jar. Tips are usually pooled and split equally with the kitchen staff and cashiers. These small tips can add up quickly in a busy restaurant and are greatly appreciated. Bon appetit.
Callie Gordon is twenty-something, Lillie-Beth Brinkman is in her 40s, and social columnist Helen Ford Wallace is 60-plus. To ask an etiquette question, email firstname.lastname@example.org.