Food Truck Tipping

A scene from The Great Food Truck Race.

Brendan’s post about getting fired from the food truck he worked at for tip-shaming a customer who placed a $170 order generated lots of discussion, one of them being (of course!), should you even tip when ordering from a food truck in the first place?

The debate has generally gone like this:

• No, you don’t have to tip. Food truck workers earn at least the minimum wage. It’s what people in the fast food industry earn, and they don’t get tips, so why do food truck workers expect tips?

• Yes, you should tip. Food service workers don’t earn enough to make a living, and this is why fast food workers all across the country are striking for fair pay. If you enjoy the food and the service, the least you can do is throw a little something into the tip jar.

I can speak for no one but myself, but my answer is also yes. Partly because food service workers don’t earn a living wage, and, yes, it’s nice to be able to show my gratitude via a tip if tips are accepted. Plus, if I’m ordering from a food truck, in my experience, I’m not spending more than $10, so another dollar isn’t going to break the bank for me.

I asked Logan, and she said: “I leave a dollar, if I have a dollar, but I don’t think it’s required. Like, at a bar, if a beer is $5 and you only have $5, you can’t afford the beer, but I think you can do it at food trucks sometimes.”

Some quick Google research shows a range of advice when it comes to food truck tipping:

Seattle Met decides not to take a stance and leaves the question up to the commenters (which always ends well!).

Mobile Cuisine, which deems itself as “The Complete Online Resource Destination for the Mobile Food Industry” says:

Even if you order from a truck or cart that offers only pre-packaged food you are still expected tip at least 10%. Usually, the person that takes your order has to jump through hoops to get your order together complete with utensils, extra napkins, bags etc. They go out of their way to take care of you, so you should take care of them back.

The Food Network, which has a show called The Great Food Truck Race partnered with Roaming Hunger for this bit of even-handed advice:

Be generous — Tipping etiquette is a little fuzzy when it comes to food trucks. You tip at a restaurant, but not always when you’re ordering from a counter. Not only are you not in a restaurant, but you are ordering from a counter when you eat at a food truck. Technically, you don’t need to tip, but if you think about the operation of creating a gourmet meal in the confines of a truck, those folks sort of deserve a little extra praise. Tipping customers make happy chefs, and sometimes it can mean the difference between a latte and a whole breakfast. “We tip back by giving goodies on the house” — Brasil Kiss

Lifehacker pulls some advice from Emily Post:

Food Pickup/Counter Person: The Emily Post Institute says those jars at the coffeeshop or take-out counter don’t require tipping because it’s not a high level of service, although you can tip a little bit if you’re a regular customer or the server does something extra for you. recommends a small tip of 50 cents to $2 for orders under $30; 5–10% for $30 to $60 orders (especially if packaging the order is difficult) and/or if the person helps take your order to your car. For large orders, which require more condiments, plates, etc., 8–10% is recommended.

Clearly, there is no consensus, though it all seems to point to: yes, tip if you can. Thoughts?

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