The pandemic has changed tipping expectations even outside of sit-down dining rooms. We surveyed people across the service industry to find out how much is typical right now—and what they’d like to see.
“The average tip that I see in DC is maybe four or five bucks an order. Generally, it’ll be a meal for one or two people. There have been days where I’ve declined 50 orders before I accept one because it doesn’t meet the $7 minimum [of total take-home pay] that I’m looking for. If you want to get your food in a timely manner, I would say a $5 minimum on any size order. There are a lot of restaurants where food will just sit there because nobody tipped well, so it will just go bad. But if you feel like $5 is too low, make it 15 percent of your total order, because really, all the drivers are looking to do is make 20 bucks an hour.”
—Jesse Clinton, DoorDash driver
“I can pick up an order that I deem worthwhile that has no tip, just because the base pay is good enough. But I’ve also had orders where people tipped me, like, $30. If I had to give an average, I would probably say about $10. If you have a ton of items—call it 50 items—you should tip $15, $20. Definitely tip more if you’re living in an apartment in DC and I’m going to have to pay to park, or double-park and risk a ticket—or if you’re on, like, the 15th floor.”
—William Wallingford, Instacart shopper
“For single drinks, we typically see $1 per drink—or nothing. That $1 per drink aligns with what I feel is the ‘appropriate’ amount, and I do not think it should change based on the drink. It makes much more sense than a percentage of cost for low-ticket items such as coffee.”
—Ryan Fleming, co-owner of Slipstream cafes in Logan Circle, Navy Yard, and Downtown DC
“We see anything from nothing to coins to sometimes as much as 30 or 40 percent. The 30 to 40 percent are, in my observation, people that work in the industry and understand what we’ve been going through. People generally leave a $1-to-$5 tip on orders that are just a couple sandwiches. Perhaps people should think about how much they like the restaurant, how much they understand the impact that the last two and a half years has had, and whether or not they would like the restaurant to remain in business.”
—Arlene Wagner, co-owner of Bub and Pop’s sandwich shop in Dupont
QR Code-Ordered Meal
“The average tip is 19 percent or up. I’d say our staff hasn’t been hurt tip-wise because of QR-code ordering. The standard 20 percent is what people are accustomed to, and I think that’s good common practice. We’re still taking care of guests. Food still needs to come out to the table, drinks need to come out at the table. We still come and talk to guests—it’s just not part of the regular routine.”
—Paul Carlson, owner of Lulu’s Wine Garden in Shaw and the Royal in LeDroit Park
Quotes have been edited for length and clarity.