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Should You Tip Pizza Delivery? (A Delivery Driver Tells All)

I’ve delivered tens of thousands of pizzas and have received a broad range of tip amounts over the years. Since it is a large chunk of a driver’s wages, I’ve had hundreds of conversations with both other drivers and the public regarding this form of compensation. As you can imagine, opinions are abundant. But the consensus is clear.

You should tip for pizza delivery because tips and wages combine to pay the minimum wage to US delivery drivers, and they’re not always a bonus. Often, the minimum wage doesn’t make delivery driving jobs worthwhile when you take the vehicle’s run costs, special insurance, and maintenance into account.

What makes the concept of tipping so tricky is that it’s entirely up to the consumer’s discretion. However, a strong influence of established tipping culture and social ethics makes it more complicated. In this article, we’ll closely address every aspect of tipping in many different circumstances. 

Why You Should Tip the Pizza Delivery Person

Tipping has always been a complimentary token of appreciation, but social norms and restaurant business models highly influence it in countries like the US. 

In many US restaurants, delivery drivers receive little to nothing from the restaurant. 

According to the US National Restaurant Association, federal law makes it compulsory that every restaurant employee gets paid the federal minimum wage. However, that minimum wage doesn’t necessarily have to come from the restaurant. 

The total of earned tips and wage receipts from the restaurant must constitute the federal minimum wage. Tips aren’t always a “bonus” on top of a minimum wage in the US but often go towards making sure your delivery driver at least gets the federal minimum wage per hour.

But even the minimum wage isn’t entirely fair enough for food delivery drivers, as they usually drive their own vehicle for deliveries and pay for its upkeep and fuel out of their pockets. 

Keeping that and social etiquette in mind, here are four reasons why you should tip your pizza delivery person at least something. 

1. We Drive Our Own Vehicles

Most pizza places don’t have a company car for delivery drivers to use. A company delivery vehicle is typically covered in the store’s logo and phone number as an advertisement for the company.

If you get a pizza delivery with a normal-looking vehicle without any logos on it, it’s more than likely that the driver owns it and pays for its upkeep. That car topper is supplied by the restaurant.

According to the IRS, the operating cost of a vehicle is $0.56 per mile in 2021. With the average pizza store offering deliveries within a 3.5 to 5-mile (5.6 to 8-km) radius, each delivery would run the driver about $2 on the car’s operating costs alone.

So if you fail to tip (we call it stiffing) your driver, they could actually lose money by delivering your pizza. Ouch.

2. Accident Risks

Add the risk of running into accidents into the mix, and you’d certainly feel pressured by morals and social expectations to tip the delivery driver. That’s because accidents during delivery driving aren’t covered by regular car insurance.

Drivers need to pay extra for special insurance. A LOT extra. I’m talking something like 3 or 4 times what you’d pay for regular insurance. And many restaurants require their drivers to carry robust insurance with higher than the minimum limits.

And if the pizza delivery driver gets into an accident and damages their car, there’s no one to reimburse them. Neither the restaurant nor the insurance company will shell out any additional money for the car.

Cold Hard Fact: The same accident risks also make delivery driving one of the most dangerous professions out there. According to this 2019 Bureau of Labor Statistics news release, delivery driving incidents made for 1,005 out of 5,553 workplace fatalities in the US.

With all of that taken into account, delivery driving isn’t worth it without tips if the extra costs and rewards for the job aren’t added into their wages, and in the US, they generally aren’t. 

3. Tips Keep Restaurant Prices Low

As we’ve discussed above, the federal law requires at least minimum wage to be paid to food delivery drivers, and all employees, of a restaurant. Currently, many drivers receive the minimum wage as a combination of hourly wages from the restaurant and tips from the customers. 

However, if customers were to stop tipping, the law would still enforce minimum wage requirements on restaurants. At first, it might sound like the restaurant owner’s problem, but it might be the consumer’s problem in the broader span of things. 

As restaurant margins are already relatively low on average, which are around 6.5% according to a 2018 Forbes article, the increment to wages will translate to higher prices for the consumer. In that case, they’d be paying a flat rate that’s fixed for every customer.

This is unlike the voluntary tipping systems we have now. 

In many ways, putting a complete stop to tipping would essentially take power away from the consumers and leave the restaurant owners and delivery drivers primarily unaffected.

However, if restaurants decide to pass the additional costs onto their customers, they will more than likely not have any customers left. There are several restaurants that raised their prices only to go out of business soon after because no one could afford to eat there anymore.

But the customer still pays more, whether it’s through tips or higher prices. 

4. Moral Grounds

Your delivery guy stacks all the pizzas in his car or little motorcycle carrier and immediately gets into a state of emergency to find addresses and deliver the correct orders as soon as possible. 

There’s always a timer ticking, as the pizzas won’t stay hot. While they shouldn’t, many drivers drive somewhat dangerously at times and put up with the endless struggles of houses that don’t always have plates outside.

It’s morally unfair for someone to make less than minimum wage when they’ve gone through all of that trouble to make sure you got your pizza right at your doorstep, hot and on time.

Some places in the world have a system where the just reimbursement for pizza delivery guys isn’t reliant on the customer’s mood, but rather it’s added to the bill. The UK, Australia, and most European countries are examples of that model, but that’s not how it works in the US.

Is It Rude Not To Tip Delivery Driver?

It is extremely rude not to tip a delivery driver, especially if they have done their job correctly. Considering that tips are a necessary component to make up the minimum wage in the US, you do have a moral responsibility to tip. 

Would it be rude to pay anything less than the billed amount? That’s more or less the equivalent of not tipping in the US, as the delivery driver’s fair wage isn’t included in the customer’s bill, but it’s left to their discretion.

When you stiff a driver, you are essentially stealing from their paycheck.

What Happens if You Don’t Tip the Pizza Guy? 

When you don’t tip the pizza guy, you essentially use up his time, effort, and services without fully paying him. In places like the US, delivery drivers rely on your tips to make sure they at least make minimum wage, and restaurants expect customers to chip in with tips. 

Morals aside, it’s probably not a good idea, for your own best interests, to skip the tip every time you order. As regular customers continue to order food without tipping, the delivery drivers remember it.

In the long run, they’ll often prioritize good tippers over you.

For instance, if they’re out with multiple deliveries to fulfill, they’ll naturally ensure that the good tippers get their deliveries on time, served hot, and follow any additional instructions. As for bad tippers, they won’t go out of their way to offer better service as they never get rewarded for it.

Most of the time when a driver leaves the store, he has multiple orders with him or her. While the real pros and best drivers will just run the most efficient route, nothing is to stop them from skipping your house and hitting you on the way back, if it’s convenient for them to do so.

Long story short? If you aren’t a tipper, expect to eat cold pizza more often than your neighbors.

Sometimes, Tips Are All Drivers Really Make

Pizza Delivery Driver at Door

If you like having a delivery service available at your favorite restaurants, it’s in your best interest to continue tipping. 

That’s because tips are necessary for the job to be worth their time and effort, mainly because they usually make nothing over minimum wage while paying for fuel and vehicle maintenance. 

There’s an underlying expectation from employers that delivery drivers will receive tips, which is why the salaries are generally capped at the minimum. You might question or disagree with the business model, but it’s certainly not your delivery driver’s fault. 

Sometimes, your tips are all they make.

How Much Should You Tip a Pizza Delivery Person?

The amount you tip is entirely up to you. However, the social expectations don’t just revolve around the decision to tip, but also the amount. I’ve talked to hundreds of drivers and here is the consensus:

Tipping $2 for any size order is seen as the bare minimum in the eyes of drivers in the United States. Anything $4 or higher is seen as a good tip. $6 or higher is viewed as a great tip. Anything less than $2 is often taken as an insult by drivers.

Certain scenarios like rough weather, late hours, or holiday deliveries may deserve bigger tips. These are tough conditions to work under and I would NEVER tip less than $5 on these occasions.

On the other hand, people from countries that include all service charges into the bill don’t tip nearly as much. 

Australians, for instance, are infamous for not being great tippers. But that’s only because their “tips” are built into the amount Australian restaurants bill them.  

Pro “Tip”: Want to be known as a great tipper and be given priority service by your local pizza delivery restaurant? Tip $8 or higher and you will catch the attention and become the talk of the drivers. We ALL know who the epic tippers are and we often fight over having the privilege of bringing food to you. Is that kind of service worth the extra couple of bucks?

Do You Tip on Top of the Delivery Fee?

This is a valid question. 

You should tip on top of the delivery fee. When delivery fees are tucked into the bill, many customers think it’s okay not to tip. However, the delivery fee never really goes to the delivery driver. It’s usually there to subsidize the restaurant for the sub-minimum wage they pay their drivers.

Restaurants that charge delivery fees may reimburse delivery drivers in some way, such as $0.50 to $1 per delivery in the name of running costs.

However, that’s hardly ever enough to even pay for the special delivery driving insurance on the driver’s vehicle. Whether there’s a delivery fee or not, it’s best to tip the pizza guy. 

Granted, you can tip a bit less on orders with delivery fees included in the bill.

How You Should Tip a Pizza Driver?

It doesn’t matter how you tip. At the end of each night, a driver just pays the store the total amount of the sales he or she delivered. So you can tip with cash or you can just add it to your debit or credit card. Either way, the driver will receive it.

As for the preference of drivers, most really don’t care. Some “old school” drivers appreciate it when you tip with cash-only, but I actually always preferred it just to be added to the card. Carrying around a bunch of extra cash always made me feel like a target for a robbery.

Should You Tip for Carryout Pizza?

Tipping for carryout pizza is optional. Unlike dining in with a waiting service or getting a home delivery, a carryout order doesn’t have tipping expectations attached to it. That’s mainly because, in takeout orders, the customer only gets food and no service. 

Tipping is still a gesture of goodwill but entirely optional in this case.

Other carryout restaurants have a tip jar at the register, and usually, the employees split the day’s take with each other. However, this is also optional.

Examples of Countries Where Tipping Is Considered Rude

With that said, in places where the delivery driver gets fully and justly paid for their services by the restaurant, tipping is genuinely optional. If the restaurant pays them enough to make their job worthwhile, it means their prices are high enough that the customer gets billed for food, service, and delivery.

For instance, Australia and China are countries that have standardized this model. 

Residents don’t see tipping as a compulsory moral obligation. They see it as a sweet gesture to appreciate someone’s exceptional service or to pay a bit extra if the driver has had to drive in bad weather.

As solid examples, it’s considered insulting to tip in China and Japan. 

Yes, you read that correctly. It’s because the service charges are built into the customer’s bill, and leaving a few extra bucks for drivers or staff can be seen as an insult!

Situations When You Shouldn’t Tip

While being a good tipper is a remarkable personality trait, there are still situations where it’s okay not to tip. These include the following: 

  1. The delivery driver was exceptionally rude or drove on your lawn. Of course, I never tip less than my minimum of $2. If I think a driver is out of line, I just chalk it up to them just having a bad night. We all have them, no need to punish them for their (hopefully) one mistake.
  2. The delivery driver didn’t have change, leaving you with no other option besides withholding a tip. In this case, however, it’s perfectly fine to offer them a check or even Paypal, Venmo, or Zelle them some money. Just don’t ever tell them “I’ll get your next time.” Driver’s HATE hearing this because they know it never pans out.
  3. The restaurant follows a no-tipping business model and tells you about it, with high delivery fees and pricey food to pay the delivery driver well. 
  4. You’re in a country where tipping is considered offensive, such as China, Japan, or South Korea. 

Final Thoughts

Whether or not you should tip the delivery driver is an age-old question, which has stirred up countless debates online. Are you obligated to tip at all, or is it just a kind gesture, and are you a bad person if you’re a bad tipper? Should you still tip on top of a delivery fee?

Well, take it from me. Except in some very extreme cases, you should ALWAYS tip at least the minimum $2. Remember, tipping benefits you. The bigger your tip, the better the service you can expect in the future.

Ordering food at home means the restaurant’s employees didn’t have to wait on your table or clean up after you. However, someone still took the time to deliver warm food to your doorstep safely, which deserves some appreciation, especially when it’s not built into their wage like in the US.

I hope this article was helpful. Thanks for reading!

For more, check out Should You Tip Your Barber? | General Guidelines.