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July 23

Tipping Etiquette In A Post-Pandemic World

by Luca Yates

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The restaurant industry dealt with a lot of hardships during the height of the pandemic. Some workers had to choose between sacrificing their livelihoods or risking their health, and others lost their jobs when Covid-19 forced restaurants to close down or lay off employees. Many restaurants had to reduce working hours and allow fewer customers inside during the crisis, causing their staff to suffer financially. In recognition of the hardships those in the industry were faced with, some Americans began tipping extra on their takeout to help. 

Now with vaccine rollouts easing concerns over the pandemic across the US, restaurants are beginning to reopen, and people are more comfortable with the idea of dining out. The discourse of the past year has increased public awareness of the problems those working in the service industry face, from the lack of basic benefits such as sick days, health insurance, and vacation to the unreliable tipping habits of entitled diners. 

With all of this in mind, many customers are feeling the pressure to tip more generously. We're here to help you navigate the complicated world of post-pandemic tipping etiquette with this helpful guide.

The Difference Between A Standard Tip And A Generous Tip

There are many places and people in the US to tip, from valets to manicurists, but waiters and bartenders are the most common that people will encounter. As a customer, it might seem reasonable and natural to base tips on your experience at an establishment but tipping in this way can be a detriment to the workers serving you. Over the years, there has been a lot of debate on whether tipping should exist at all, and until living wage is mandated by the state, the movement to scrap tipping altogether has ground to a halt. 

Due to the low pay, many workers are hesitant to return to the service industry as restaurants, and other businesses begin to open now Covid-19 cases are falling. With many workers finding work elsewhere to cover the loss of income when restaurants closed, another reason for the hesitation to return to the industry is also the frequency of customer harassment that they experienced. A push for better wages, environment, and agreement on what a standard tip should be has helped alleviate some of the fears these workers have. Large chains restaurants raised their minimum wages at corporate-owned stores to attract more workers disillusioned with their local employment options. Which has lead to many smaller restaurants considering revising their policies to offer better wages or benefits to their employees in an effort to compete with the larger competition. 

Across the US, it is generally accepted that a standard tip for table service is 20% and that a tip shouldn't be adjusted downward if your order is mixed up or comes out cold. In the US, tips aren't tokens of appreciation when receiving excellent service; it's the server's wages that they need to pay rent and bills. 

During the pandemic, 20% remained the minimum for a tip, but many people that had not been as severely impacted by Covid-19 were tipping more than the minimum in an effort to share the burden. 25% and up became the rule of thumb for what defined a generous tip; the longer the pandemic went on, the more 25% was starting to be seen as the new normal. People had become hyper-aware of the struggles those in the service industry faced, and tipping was an easy way for them to help.

What About Delivery And Takeout?

Before the pandemic, many people skipped tipping on takeout and deliveries completely, while others only gave around 10%. Since the pandemic began, many people have had to turn to side hustles to stay afloat; this caused a ripple effect as so many people were suffering financially and how people viewed tipping for deliveries and takeout changed. 

Some people began tipping for takeouts and deliveries as though they were dining in a restaurant, with others tipping even more than the generous 25%-30%. At first, people balked at the idea of tipping for takeout, but those people came to realize that restaurants were struggling, and tipping generously was the only way to help. Doordash tipping surged, with many workers having double the amount of orders when the pandemic began, all with tips included. When it comes to home delivery, if you're unsure how much to tip Doordash, then there are plenty of handy guides on Ridester that can help you.

As the use of app-based food delivery companies increased, more people were turning to them as a way to close the gap in their wages. With people tipping drivers as they would restaurant servers, a lot of these workers have been able to move from part-time work with companies like Doordash to full-time work.

How Tipping May Change In The Future

Covid-19 cases have fallen dramatically, and around 65% of adults are at least partially vaccinated in the US. However, the pandemic isn't over, and the effects of the crisis are still being felt by restaurant and delivery workers. Due to this, a lot of people are still continuing to tip above the standard 20% as a way of sharing the financial burden of those working in the service industry.

What can someone who is also on a limited budget do? Throughout the pandemic, we all heard about the importance of supporting local coffee shops, restaurants, and other small businesses. Those on a limited budget may find that tipping more generously means eating out less often, and some may worry that in doing so, they are failing in channeling money towards the struggling establishments. That's the wrong way of looking at it; yes, consumer spending does keep the machine running, but there are other ways to support business than by bleeding yourself dry.

Attempting to make ethical purchasing decisions is one way to help the economy, but another solution to many problems requires systematic policy changes that our individual dollars can't affect. There are other ways to support your local area that don't involve spending money when you're on a limited budget are; one is by voting for elected officials who care about labor rights and supporting small businesses.

Our Conclusions

Throughout the pandemic, we all saw the world come together to find a solution, people went out of their way to support one another, and it was heartwarming how quickly we all acted. As the cases continue to fall, leaving a 20% tip in a post-pandemic world is still a perfectly reasonable and accepted choice. Many people are choosing to give more due to the increased public awareness of the difficulties service industry workers face, but no one will think twice if you only want to leave 20% when you pay your bill at the end of your meal.

Continue to support your local area by tipping those in the service industry generously when you can afford it, vote for better policies, and keep up to date on your local news for other ways you can help as the world slowly reopens after the pandemic. If you're not sure how to help, contact your local government for advice and information on how you can do your bit. 

Tipping Etiquette In A Post-Pandemic World

About the Author 

Luca Yates

Through his work in the SEO and Corporate landscapes, Luca Yates has been on his own personal growth journey. Today, he loves helping others to achieve their goals.

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