Should You Tip at Sonic? (A Carhop Weighs In)


Sonic Drive-In (or just Sonic) is a fast food restaurant known for its drive-through-centric design and roller-skating carhops. But should you give a tip to these carhops or not?

You should tip at Sonic Drive-In if you had a good experience with the carhops, enjoyed the food, or want to show your appreciation for the service that they have provided. While it is not required to tip a carhop, and they rarely expect it, they always appreciate the extra money.

As a person who worked at Sonic for two years in multiple capacities, I have a lot of experience as a carhop and the Sonic tipping system. So let’s talk about some of the ins and outs of tipping workers next time you stop by to grab a drink.

What Is A Carhop?

A carhop is a person at Sonic who brings out your order to your car after it is made. They also collect your payment. They are the employee that Sonic shows in many of their advertisements and are well-known for using roller-skates while delivering items. (Roller-skates are not used everywhere, but it’s what many people associate the carhops with).

A carhop has many duties within the Sonic restaurant. You may think that they are only responsible for delivering your food and drinks to your car, but that is not the case. Anyone who has worked a fast-food job can tell you that you have to juggle multiple jobs at once!

Carhops are responsible for keeping the inside and outside of the restaurant clean and organized, providing excellent customer service, stocking cups and lids, making drinks, and making ice cream. All of this is in addition to delivering your food to your car.

Sonic Drive-In Style Restaurant Tipping Guidelines

Should you tip your carhop at Sonic? Absolutely. If you enjoyed the service that they have provided to you, give them a tip. They are servers, even if they do it in a slightly different way than restaurant workers. You should especially tip the carhops who deliver your food while on roller-skates because they had to go through extra training and testing.

If you ordered a large amount of food and drinks, please give your carhop a tip. The red trays that Sonic uses are not very large and only have 4 cup holders. If you order more than 4 drinks or ice cream items, the carhops have no secure place to put them, and the items are at risk of falling, so they have to be extra careful when walking out to your car to deliver your food and drinks. This slows down the process and makes them lose time when delivering large orders.

If it is really busy, please also tip your carhop. They are likely making ice cream, drinks, and delivering your food simultaneously, and are very stressed. I speak from experience when I say they will appreciate it if you give them a tip.

Sonic Average Tip Chart

Tipping Ranges$ Amount A Carhop Receives
Low$.50
Mid$2
High$5

Average Tip A Carhop Receives

Typically, a carhop receives $1 as a tip or the spare change that a customer does not want. I often received pennies as a tip. While it was appreciated, it is kind of frustrating to receive 2 cents as a tip.

Amount of Tips a Carhop Receives in one Day

As a carhop, I rarely received tips. On a very good day, I would get a total of $5 to take home that day. However, carhops at other locations received a lot more tips than I did. For example, a General Manager from another location that I know would get an average of $75 in tips a day. However, he was alone in the store for 6 hours because of labor costs, and the customers knew that and felt bad for him.

The best tip I have ever received at Sonic was a $15 tip on a $75 order. Since it took two of us to take the order out, we split it between the two of us, so I took home about $7.50 in tips that day. Sometimes, I had regular customers who knew me and would give me a $5 tip, but that did not happen frequently.

Is It Rude Not To Tip At Sonic?

Pile-of-One-Dollar-Bills

It is not rude for you not to tip your carhop at Sonic. Carhops do not expect customers to tip them, but they always appreciate it. Carhops know that Sonic is a fast-food restaurant, and many people who go there do not have the time or money to tip them, so they do not expect it. So you are not being rude to the carhop if you do not give them a tip.

Carhops are expected to give their customers excellent service, no matter what. Therefore, the quality of service that you receive should not change regardless of whether or not you give your carhop a tip.

How To Tip At Sonic

If you can tip, try to give the carhop a $2-$5 tip, depending on how large your order is. When you tip, you have to give your carhop cash after they give you your order.

The larger your order is, the more work it takes to make, and the heavier it is to carry. If your order is really heavy, then the carhop has to be careful taking it out to your car, and the more time it takes for them to get back inside the restaurant.

Can you leave a tip on the Sonic app?

The Sonic app does not currently allow you to leave a tip for your carhop. This is because sonic does not expect you to give tips to their workers. In addition, when you order ahead on the app, a specific carhop is not assigned to the order until you check-in, and they are ready to take it out, so the system would have to give the carhop a tip after you leave, and that would be complicated to program.

The Sonic payment system is not built to allow you to leave a tip electronically, even if you pay in the stalls. There is no way in the system to divvy up tips electronically to the correct people, so they have simply not made it possible for you to tip your carhop while paying with a card.

How Much Money Do Carhops Make?

Hand-Giving-a-Tip-to-Another-Hand

Carhops make minimum wage when they first start working at Sonic, but that amount varies depending on the restaurant’s location. In some places, the starting wage may be as low as $7.25 per hour.

As a carhop gains more experience, or if they begin using roller-skates to bring orders out, they can make more money every hour. However, the person who brings your order out to you may not actually be a carhop. As a manager, I often brought orders to people when we were short-staffed.

Carhops are usually the only Sonic employees that are visible to customers, but they do not make very much money per hour. So next time you are at Sonic, do a good deed and tip your carhop. It will make their day!

Thanks for reading! For more, check out Should You Tip Your Barber? | General Guidelines.

Anne James

Hi, I'm Anne but my grandchildren call me Jelly Grandma. I have over 50 years of experience as a Southern cook and am a retired librarian. I love sharing what I have learned. You can find me on YouTube as well! Just click the link at the bottom of your page. I hope your visit here has been a sweet one.

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