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Ask Chicagoist: Tips on Tipping

By Thales Exoo in Miscellaneous on Mar 28, 2006 3:55PM

Dear Chicagoist,

I'm originally from a city where most restaurants don't have delivery charges, but where it's customary to tip the driver a few bucks, maybe more depending on how much food you're getting. But here, almost every place has at least a $2 charge. Given that we're already paying for delivery, should the driver still be tipped? On the one hand, I don't want to screw over the driver, but on the other hand, the charge should cover the costs of the driver... Just wondering what the custom here is.


2006_03_askdelivery.jpgIf there's one thing Chicagoist excels at, it's ordering food for delivery. Our expertise is Thai, but we're also pretty adept at ordering Chinese, Indian, Pizza, and Sushi -- actually, who are we kidding, we haven't seen a food we can't order! Sure, we like cooking too, but in all honesty, we'll stick to having our favorite restaurants on speed-dial. You never know when an emergency might come up. And by emergency we mean it's cold and rainy and we want nothing more than to catch up on the backlog of "Lost" that's taking over the TiVo while devouring some Pad See Eiw.

A good portion of our college room, board, and entertainment was paid for by pizza delivery tips, so we have a definite soft spot for delivery drivers. Not to mention that delivery drivers dash through all sorts of hideous Chicago weather conditions, risking their lives and their cars just to bring us our Pad Thai (very spicy with extra tofu, please) and Spring Rolls. So seriously, man -- don't stiff the driver! These are the people who are bringing a prepared meal right to your front door. They deserve to be revered, elevated, and worshipped.

You'll find a delivery fee at most Chicago establishments. Some stealthy coupon sleuthing may uncover some bargains where you can waive the fee, but you'll generally have to cough up the two bucks. This delivery charge is not for the driver. Rather, this is a fee imposed by the restaurant, collected by the restaurant, and used to benefit the restaurant. It should not take the place of a tip, because the driver won't see any of it. For the most part, restaurants impose delivery fees because they can (especially when everyone else does, like in Chicago), but also they do it to help pay for gas and vehicle maintenance, and general restaurant costs. Again, where the fee actually goes will vary, so it's not the same as the tip.

And while we're at it, tip those drivers well! Food delivery drivers should be tipped at least 10% of the bill, if not more. Chicagoist tends to tip 15%-20%, sometimes more if it's raining or snowing. Besides, they'll remember you if you tip well, and you'll be more likely to get your food quickly (and still warm) next time.

Looking for tips? Need some advice? Email ask(at)chicagoist(dot)com.

Image via hunkdujour