An image of a fast food delivery driver delivering takeout food to consumer, fast food, takeaway food, takeout, in an article on whether fast-food delivery drivers deserve a tip

Do fast-food delivery drivers deserve a tip?

Fast-food delivery is an ever-growing part of the food industry, with many restaurants now offering their own delivery services. In the last few years following the Covid-19 pandemic, the food delivery industry in the US generated around $122.5 billion – proof of a sharp increase in demand for delivery services. 

However, delivery drivers have worked for years to get delicious meals from the restaurant to customers’ homes. With that, a question arises: Do fast-food delivery drivers deserve a tip from customers? 

For many, tipping wait staff at restaurants is standard procedure. But, does that extend to food delivery drivers, and further, ‌to service station staff? 

Of late, there has been a growing movement questioning the fairness of tipping and its potential impact on wages. Some within the industry argue it is time for a shift towards a no-tipping model. This means including service charges in menu prices to ensure equitable pay for all staff members. Others believe tipping incentivises exceptional service and allows customers to reward their servers directly.

Why is tipping culture so selective?

A 2021 survey found over half of respondents tip servers by 20% or more, given the impact of the pandemic on the restaurant and hospitality industry. As the popularity and range of delivery services increase, consumers are more likely to order in than dine out. 

Surely tipping delivery drivers is the least they could do to show their appreciation for their efforts? The good news is that the same study revealed most who tip food servers also tip fast-food delivery drivers. “In the US, a tip is expected,” reveals one restaurant owner on an industry forum.

“No one deserves anything, they earn it,” another says. “Therefore, all service workers should be tipped. If you’re not tipping your server 20% at a restaurant, then you shouldn’t be eating out. Similarly, if you can’t tip your food delivery driver the same, then you shouldn’t be ordering delivery.” 

Others argue that 20% is too steep and a tip should never be “expected”. Generally, the amount consumers choose to tip delivery drivers is justified by many factors, including the driver’s pay, experience, and how customers perceive them. 

An image of a delivery driver, fast food delivery driver, takeout delivery driver, food delivery driver, delivery driver in an article on whether fast-food delivery drivers deserve a tip

Understanding how much delivery drivers earn

While there is a lack of current global data for the earnings of delivery drivers, many studies have been conducted per country. Particularly, delivery drivers in the US earn about $3,575 each month, according to a survey of 5,758 salaries. 

Here is a simple breakdown of the estimated earnings of delivery drivers in some countries: 

Depending on the country, wages for food delivery drivers can vary dramatically. To make things worse, some drivers work over eight hours a day without health insurance or paid sick leave benefits. 

Now compare a fast-food delivery driver’s average salary to the usual pay wage and determine for yourself if they need to be tipped. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average weekly earnings of wage and salary workers in the first quarter of 2023 was $1,100.

With that against the monthly average of $3,575 for fast-food delivery drivers, it is clear that they deserve better. Additionally, most delivery drivers are not paid per hour or day. Instead, they get paid per order with bonuses for completing more deliveries in less time. The varying income per country makes it difficult to assess whether they deserve a tip. 

An image of fast food being packaging for delivery, custom-printed fast food containers, customised food containers takeaway containers, takeaway packaging in an article on whether fast-food delivery drivers deserve a tip

Do fast-food delivery drivers deserve a tip?

In addition to understanding how much a driver earns, one should consider the experience of delivering food from restaurants to customers’ homes or businesses. Such experiences contribute to how long drivers last on the road, the quality of service they provide, and the safety concerns of being a delivery driver. 

These include: 

  • Weather: Some areas may experience snow, heavy rainfall, or extreme temperatures that make it difficult to deliver orders.
  • Fuel rates and consumption: These can vary from one area to another, although it’s common for delivery drivers to be responsible for covering most of the fuel costs.
  • Road conditions: Delivery drivers are usually responsible for vehicle maintenance, which can be expensive if infrastructure and road conditions are bad. 
  • Traffic: Depending on the route and time of the day, drivers can face heavy traffic and long waiting times at red lights and blocked intersections. 
  • Area familiarity: Drivers may be unfamiliar with an area, leading to wrong turns and delays in delivery. 
  • Crime rates and other damages: With theft and fatal road accidents just around the corner, drivers take risks whenever they deliver food. 
  • Accuracy of customers’ ratings: Sometimes, customers can give inaccurate ratings if there is a misunderstanding, leading to fewer incentives and less income.

These factors can make the job of a delivery driver more difficult and dangerous than it first appears. Tipping food delivery drivers is a sign of appreciation and helps them cover some expenses the service provider may not pay for. 

How much would be an efficient tip?

Some say 10% is too low, while others say double that is too much, meaning you must first consider how much fast-food delivery rates usually are. The delivery rate is typically between 5% and 15% of the total order, depending on the restaurant and location. Say that the weather is great, the traffic is light, the area is safe, and the driver knows exactly where they’re going. 

There are now three pre-delivery variables remaining that one can easily look at to determine a better tip amount, so try to do the following: 

  1. Check the fuel rates in the area.
  2. Take into account the distance covered by the driver. For instance, service providers like Uber Eats and DoorDash commonly have a five-mile limit for their delivery coverage
  3. Consider the order size, which also affects the difficulty of properly handling the food. 

Notably, fast-food delivery drivers who use bicycles are not yet included in this equation. Considering all the factors affecting their service, it is best to tip them between 15% and 20% of the total order amount. 

Certainly, tipping is a personal choice. But, it’s important to remember delivery drivers risk their safety to bring food to the customer’s doorstep. A good rule of thumb is to consider the delivery rate, fuel costs, distance the driver covers, and order size when deciding how much to tip.