Should You Leave A Tip When Ordering From A Food Truck?

At this point, most of us have heard of tip creep. It wasn't that long ago that tipping culture felt like it understood its role in society. Now, everyone from gas station clerks to dentists are trying to hop on the gravy train. The encroachment of tipping into new areas of the economy has caused many people to stop and rethink the whole system. Food trucks are one type of business that is currently sitting in the hot seat.

If you were to give a generous description of tipping, you would likely describe it as an incentive for people in the service industry to provide the best customer service possible, knowing that their pay is dependent on the customer's experience. A negative interpretation might describe how tipping artificially obscures the true cost of services by offloading the duty to pay employees onto the consumer. Love it or hate it, tipping is a part of our society.

Food trucks do have an element of customer service, certainly. But critics of food truck tipping point out that it's on par with ordering takeout at a restaurant or ordering fast food at a drive-thru. There are plenty of people who still tip for takeout, but fewer than those who tip when dining in and they tip a lower percentage of the bill on average, and hardly anyone tips at the drive-thru.

Tipping etiquette

Ultimately, the decision is yours to make. It's more socially acceptable to not tip at a food truck than it is to not tip your server or bartender, but many people still think food trucks should be included in the tip pool. Perhaps it's because they all deal with food or because they are small businesses and as such are more deserving of extra funds. But in an economy where most people aren't flush with extra cash, not everyone is in a position to be handing out extra money and when food trucks make a 20% percent tip the default option on the card reader, some people feel guilty when they click no tip. Right or wrong, the guilt trip can cause resentment towards food trucks that ask too much which means they are less likely to return.

If you are going to tip at a food truck, a normal amount would be an extra dollar or two. Although some food trucks ask for 20% or even 30% gratuity as the default, that's clearly excessive since it's essentially counter-service — 10% is generous. Yes, they are working hard, but so is everyone else at their jobs and most people don't get tipped. Tipping has a history in restaurants and bars, and those employees are paid well below minimum wage in anticipation of tipping. If you are working at a food truck and not getting paid enough, that's between you and your boss; not the customer.