58% Say They Tip Restaurant Workers More During the Pandemic

58% Say They Tip Restaurant Workers More During the Pandemic

Tipping at least 20% is the new norm in some cities
customers paying for take out order during pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic has taken a toll on workers in many industries, but the restaurant industry has been among the hardest hit. Not only did many restaurants close or transition to takeout only during the social distancing and shutdown mandates, but for those employees who continued working, earning a paycheck meant increasing their potential exposure to COVID-19.

In a new study from digital marketing and online ordering company Popmenu, consumers are showing their gratitude for restaurant workers with their wallets. Almost 60% of respondents say they've increased the amount they tip restaurant workers since before the pandemic.

Support for restaurant workers

Jobs in the food and beverage industry are amongst the lowest paying jobs in the U.S., and the pandemic has not spared these workers from more hardship. But the pandemic has also inspired changes in the way consumers spend money, in some cases, inspiring more generosity.

In 2020, some consumers reported that they had increased giving to businesses and individuals in response to the pandemic. According to the Popmenu survey, tipping behaviors have changed during the pandemic, too. The majority of respondents (58%) in the Popmenu survey say they've increased the amount they tip servers and food delivery drivers. Here's how they're tipping:

  • 56% of respondents say they tip servers 20% or more
  • 20% say they tip servers 25% or more
  • 38% tip food delivery drivers 20% or more, while 61% tip delivery drivers at least 15%

Popmenu's CEO and co-founder Brendan Sweeney says that the pandemic has inspired more generosity, because consumers want to support their "favorite eateries, especially staples of their local community."

According to a separate study on consumer attitudes toward spending, respondents said that money spent on local restaurants is money well spent.

Best tippers for food delivery

Since 2019, indoor dining has declined and restaurant customers have largely switched to takeout and online ordering. According to the National Restaurant Association, trends continue to be in flux. In response to the uptick in coronavirus cases due to the delta variant, an NRA survey found that 19% of adults had stopped dining out completely and 37% chose takeout or delivery instead of in-person dining.

As food delivery continues trending, consumers in some cities are still willing to tip well, even if their interaction with a restaurant takes place primarily online, or through an app.

Popmenu looked at roughly 450,000 online food orders and found that these cities had the largest numbers of consumers who tipped over 20% for online orders:

  1. Seattle: 38%
  2. Austin, Texas: 38%
  3. Nashville, Tenn.: 38%
  4. Detroit: 34%
  5. Denver: 33%
  6. Washington, D.C.: 32%
  7. Omaha, Neb.: 30%
  8. Dallas: 30%
  9. Pittsburgh: 29%
  10. Columbus, Ohio: 27%
  11. Fort Worth, Texas: 27%
  12. Raleigh, N.C.: 27%
  13. Chicago: 27%
  14. Las Vegas: 25%
  15. New York: 25%
  16. Atlanta: 24%
  17. Tampa, Fla.: 24%
  18. El Paso, Texas: 23%
  19. San Francisco: 23%
  20. Los Angeles: 23%

In a separate study from Lawnstarter, which ranked the most generous U.S. cities in 2020, some of these same cities ranked highly for overall generosity and philanthropy. Among them were Seattle (#7), Washington, D.C. (#8) and Pittsburgh (#12).

Methodology: Popmenu conducted a survey of 1,000 consumers ages 18 and older across the U.S. from Oct. 5-6, 2021. In addition, Popmenu tracked tipping percentages for online food orders placed in the last 180 days nationwide and then zeroed in on larger U.S. cities with populations over 300,000.