Most servers do not deal with this topic on a regular basis.  Most servers do deal with the hosts and bartenders who do though.  For those who handle to-go orders often, these are a few helpful pointers.  For those who don’t, these are a few helpful pointers for the times when you help out the people who do.

Tipping on to-go orders is something even I struggle with.  Being in the industry I usually leave twenty percent to maintain good tip karma.  I often do so begrudgingly to a bartender or hostess who acts as if I am an imposition.  Both jobs can be extremely stressful and to-go orders can make it more so.  At the same time, the amount of time they have to put into my order for the tip is pretty minimal.  Putting the extra effort into to-go orders leaves huge opportunities for the person handling them to increase their income.

The key is convincing the person picking up the order that you are providing a service that warrants a tip.  Simply handing them a bag and making change is nothing more than they would expect at a drive thru with the added inconvenience of having to get out of their car.  Simply ringing up and bagging the order is nothing more than you expect in a retail setting.  People generally do not tip in either of these situations.  The advantage of being in a restaurant is that most people know to tip their server.  Therefore the key to convincing the guest to tip is in providing a service more akin to a server than a cashier.

Here are three ways to provide the guest an experience that makes the guest think of you as a server rather than a cashier.

Connect with the Guest: This starts by answering the phone to take the order.  Smile and slow down when you talk.  You need to clearly state the name of the restaurant and your name.  Take your time and do not rush the guest.  The guest cannot see the lobby full of people, but they can sense a hurried tone in your voice.  Let them know who they are looking for when they come in and repeat your name.  When they come in to ask for the order, ask them their name, and introduce yourself in response.  Look them in the eye.  Give them your undivided attention for fifteen seconds.  If you do not have time to do this, you do not have time to earn the tip.

Insure the Order is Correct: The guest has the same fundamental fear we all have when we pick up a to-go order.  They worry about driving back to their home or office only to find something missing or wrong.  The way to address these fears is to go through the order with them.  The method I have used is to stack the order without placing it in the bag.  Place all of the needed condiments and plastic wear in the bag and set it with order neatly stacked on top of it.  When the guest picks up the order, go through each item on the ticket to make sure the order is complete and accurate.

Don’t Forget the Extras: When going through the order with the guest point out the extra items you added to the bag.  Napkins, bread, extra dressings, etc will make the guest’s meal more enjoyable.  Tell them as you package it, “I never seem to get enough dressing, so I put an extra one in there for you.”  Be sure to point out that you included a box with some bread to help complete the meal.  If you have some available, toss some mints from the front desk in the bag.  These little extras will further solidify your service in the mind of the guest.


Handling to-go orders as an additional part of an already busy position can be overwhelming.  You cannot neglect your primary responsibilities in order to make tips on these orders.  Learning how to be more efficient at your other duties to free up time for these tricks can make the job more lucrative though.  All of these steps take less than a minute.  The amount of money to be gained can make it a very valuable minute.

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