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Do You Tip at Non-Sit-Down Restaurants?

I’ve noticed a growing trend in the world of eating out, specifically for restaurants like:

  • take-out joints for lunches
  • smoothie shops
  • ice cream parlors
  • sandwich shops
  • pizza places (non-delivery)

For years, these take-out establishments have been content with setting their prices to cover their expenses and make a healthy profit. Somewhere along the line, a genius business person came up with the idea that putting a tip line on the receipt and forcing people to sign for the transaction might boost profits!

From a business point of view, this is brilliant. Just about anything collected on a tip is pure profit and:

  • Having a tip line on a receipt makes it feel like a tip is expected and customary, increasing the likelihood that one will be left.
  • A 20% tip on a $7 lunch bill is about $1.50, but people feel stingy leaving that kind of tip, so they leave $3 or $4 instead (blowing up the tip to almost 50%!)

Why I don’t tip here

In my opinion, a tip is something asked for and received when a service is performed—in the case of restaurants, that’s the act of cooking, serving, busing, seating, etc. But one can also make the case that a lot of those things are happening when we visit some of these smaller joints.

I base my decision on the simple fact that these places have never before asked for tips. That leads me to believe that this is nothing but a move to increase per-check totals and boost revenue, not a genuine move to “reward” the service of employees.

In addition, most of these places have cash tips jars sitting on the counter already, and both generous regulars and off-hand visitors do a fair job of making their happiness known.

The other side of the story

On the other hand, I’ve been considering the employee implications of my decision lately. Legally speaking, if the “restaurant” asks for tips, is it no longer obligated to pay their employees minimum wage? (You might recall that minimum wage for tip-based workers is much lower.) If that’s the case:

  • my refusal is eating into employee’s paychecks, and
  • it’s stopping making restaurant owners some serious money through a double-whammy: lower payroll costs and increased revenue.

Talk about being stuck between a rock and a hard place—we don’t want our costs of living to go up, but we also want to be fair to the people who help us.

What’s your take?

Do you tip at these kinds of restaurants, and why or why not? Considering some of the reasons I’ve outlined, are you likely to change your mind? Is it customary and expected to tip there, and I’ve just missed the boat completely?

Photo by realSMILEY

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18 thoughts on “Do You Tip at Non-Sit-Down Restaurants?

  1. I was a a waitress for years in college and I’ll tell you I always felt a little jipped by these people who put tip jars on counters. You know why? Because I was making $2.50/hr and I relied on tips, but these coffee shop people make at least minimum wage. It feels like they are getting their cake and eating it too. They make minimum wage + get tips? I know it must sound weird, but it did feel like they were stealing from me with their tip jars.

    I also hate seeing tip cups at things like weddings and company functions. I know for a fact there is an 18% gratuity added to the bill…so why are you trying to double dip? Tips should go to people making tip salaries, not regular wages.

    So, generally I don’t put anything in people’s tip jars out of principal. I have my favorite haunts that I tip but that’s the exception, not the rule.

    • Wojo says:

      Yeah, I can see where you’re coming from. I also practice “selective tipping” in these cases for the places that are my favorites.

  2. I don’t. If it’s someone behind the counter giving me what I’m paying for, that’s not worthy of a tip. It’d be the same as tipping a cashier at a grocery store or giving the person that rings you up at Hallmark an extra buck. You wouldn’t dream of those things, so how is it different because there’s food involved? I think laws should be written so that owners of these types of establishments can’t pay less than minimum wage to these workers.

    • Wojo says:

      I completely agree–that’s my only worry in these situations. I feel like owners would be taking serious advantage of their employees if they were pulling something like this off.

  3. If I’m sitting, I’m tipping. If I order take-out and the bartender has done a nice job of packing my stuff and responding to me when I arrive in spite of a busy bar, I’m tipping.

    If you scoop my ice-cream, hand me a hot pretzel, or are rude, there’s no tip. Basically, if it feels transactional, I don’t really feel a need to tip.

    • Wojo says:

      “if it feels transactional, I don’t really feel a need to tip” I love this standard! Exactly what I was trying to say but couldn’t quite find the words…

  4. For me – never. Especially here in Canada where everyone gets the same minimum wage regardless of whether they get tips or not!

    I have worked plenty of retail jobs when I was younger and that is basically what self serve take-out places are. No one tipped me for finding them a book at the bookstore, so why should I tip for someone to ring me up for a soda?

    A good restaurant is a different matter, of course.

    • Wojo says:

      Good point, most of the people I see working at these places are exactly that–young kids working after school or during the summer. I’m not saying they’re somehow less entitled to a fair shake, but rather it’s the nature of the position they’re working in!

  5. Pineview Style says:

    I don’t. If they aren’t bringing out the food to me and making sure that my drink is filled then I shouldn’t be asked to tip. Why should a $5 sandwich at Quizno’s turn into $7 if there are not any extra services attached to it?

    Although, I think a lot of places may use a generic template for their credit card machine receipts that may already have a place to put a tip on it. I’ve noticed at placed that have this that when I pay in cash the register generated receipt doesn’t have the tip add-on line.

    • Wojo says:

      Could be… though I’ve definitely seen the line “pop up” in places where I haven’t seen it before. So either they switched machines or they’ve figured out a way to turn it on. Now I’m curious to find out…

  6. Hey Wojo, you would not believe how many places in Southern California do this… it has gotten to the point where every eating establishment, full service or not, expects a tip. I don’t get it – why should I tip 15% to 20% if I have to get my own plates, utensils, fill my own cup, throw my trash away, and clean off my dishes to put them in a plastic tub? It’s absurd.

  7. Stephanie says:

    I won’t tip at these places either but my husband has before. I have never thought of the tip line money going to the owners of a business but I guess that would be true in a small business owner/operated business. I work in the hair industry in Canada for a large Franchise group and if the owners kept our tips all the stylists would quit!

    • Wojo says:

      Honestly, I don’t know. It’s very possible that in many of these places, the tips are going to the person behind the counter. I just hope that those are truly “tips” and owners are using them as an excuse to pay lower wages, because as you can see–95% of people do NOT leave tips at these places. :(

  8. I won’t – if you want more money then raise your prices. The ones that kill me are at Dunks or Starbucks…I am already paying for the coffee you aren’t getting a dollar for putting it in the cup

  9. MJ says:

    I used to work at a “quick casual” restaurant, basically, order at the counter and we bring it to your table. I was paid much more than server wage or minimum wage to make up for not consistently getting tips, but I really appreciated when someone did tip. We didn’t have a tip jar, but if someone paid with a credit card there was a line to add in a tip and some guests left tips on tables for the bussers.

    Sometimes it felt a little silly because as a cashier I wasn’t doing much, but if it was a big to-go order or if I ran it out to their car, I felt I at least earned it to some extent. This was in a rich suburb in Southern California, so a lot of people liked to throw their money around.

    So, when I went to non-sit-down places, I tipped for good karma, but sad to say I have mostly stopped. Every now and then I’ll add a little something because I know what it’s like to be on the receiving end.

    Also, I wanted to mention the cycle I saw working there over the holidays. We were much busier and got tips in December, then come January, people were eating out less and tipping way less, but it slowly increased again the further we got into the new year. Resolutions, diets and holiday debt I suppose!

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  11. Vincent says:

    My wife and I are both retired seniors. Our pension is not indexed. At times we dine at the Keg or Swiss Chalet and we normally tip the total amount of both taxes (HST). With the cost of living, price of food and gasoline etc. etc…. going sky high. We now concluded that we still like to go out occasionally to dine out, and why not ! So we either stop going to the restaurant or stop tipping. If we stop going to the restaurant, it’s less profit to the owner and somebody is going to let go. If we go and dine out and stop the tipping, the waiter or waitress will still have a job less tip.
    It’s a double edged sword.

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