And, if so, how much? Read on for a breakdown on takeout tipping.
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rice in takeout container
Credit: Rachel Johnson

Who doesn't love the ease of ordering takeout? Just call it in, pick it up, and then you can enjoy your delicious meal on the couch, in your pajamas, with your favorite movie playing — and you didn't even have to dirty a dish. It's definitely our ideal night in.

But opting for your food to-go begs the question: should you be tipping on those takeout orders? And, if so, how much?

Should You Tip on Takeout Orders?

First, let's clarify what constitutes a takeout order. A takeout order is when you order at a restaurant (either ahead of time or in real-time), then take the prepared food to-go. There's no waiter, no table service, no cleanup, and no delivery.

This would include places like fast-casual restaurants, coffee shops, pizza places (if you pick up your order), and any restaurant that offers a carry-out meal.

Tipping really doesn't have any specific rules, but you never want to look like a jerk if you missed the memo on the unspoken rules of tipping. Like when it comes to tipping on takeout orders, it's certainly not required (and not everyone does it), but it is a nice thing to do.

Sure, it may take less time and effort to prepare a takeout order than it would if your waiter was serving you or the delivery driver was driving to you. But adding a tip to a takeout order shows your appreciation for the service overall.

Ordering takeout means you won't have to spend time cooking and cleaning, so it's nice to show the employees that you're thankful they're doing that work for you — even if it's just throwing some coins in the tip jar.

But the etiquette behind tipping on takeout orders, and how much you should tip, can vary depending on the type of to-go.

"If when you go up to curbside, they bring it out to you, they've packaged it for you, they give you utensils, you can leave them anywhere from a couple of dollars to, depending on how big your order is, 15 percent of the bill," says Diane Gottsman, an international etiquette expert, author, and founder of the Protocol School of Texas. "But if you walk up, order a burger at a fast-food restaurant and wait around for your burger, it's not necessary to tip."

Tipping is largely about the effort that was put into your order. So if the staff has gone above and beyond, a few dollars is a great way to say "thank you." But if you feel like there wasn't a lot of effort to complete your order, or maybe you had a poor experience, tipping isn't always necessary.

"It's up to all of us to do our part to make this a kinder world. And when we can do something nice for another person in regards to gratuity when it's appropriate, I think we should," says Gottsman.

How Much to Tip on Takeout Orders

Just like when to tip, how much to tip can also vary depending on the service. The general rule of thumb for a sit-down restaurant is to tip 18 to 20 percent of the bill. So on a large takeout order where the staff went above and beyond, Gottsman recommends about a 15 percent tip. Keep in mind also that restaurant staff often rely on tips as part of their earnings.

But if you are ordering takeout out at a fast-food restaurant or coffee shop, tips aren't required there, but they certainly are appreciated. In this case, you can drop your change — as long as it's more than just a couple of cents — into the tip jar or tip $1 or $2 on the order.  

All in all, adding a tip — no matter if it's your leftover change or a couple of dollars — is a nice way to show your appreciation for service workers. So, when you feel it's appropriate, it never hurts to tip. In fact, it probably really helps.