It seems Portland diners feel their tipping habits have changed during the pandemic — but how much is up for debate.
In an Eater PDX poll, readers shared their current tipping habits: the poll asked readers to anonymously self-report how much they’re tipping based on the level of service — onsite dining, takeout, or delivery. For each question, users could say they’re tipping 1 to 10 percent, 11 to 20 percent, 21 to 30 percent, 31 percent or above, or not tipping at all.
In general, the majority of people who responded to the onsite dining question said they were tipping 21 to 30 percent; when it comes to takeout or delivery, however, most people said they were tipping between 11 and 20 percent. Based on the number of people who are uncomfortable with onsite dining, servers’ tips are likely dropping overall in Portland, which is consistent with what servers in Los Angeles have been reporting. It’s worth noting that many restaurant workers are not getting hazard pay, despite the increased risk of interacting with the public during a pandemic. This is especially problematic because nearly 41 percent of food service workers are low-income residents, and less than a third of restaurants actually offer health insurance.
When it comes to dine-in experiences, Portlanders are saying that they’re tipping more than the standard 20 percent: 53 percent say they tipped somewhere between 21 to 30 percent for full-service meals. However, most people are staying below the 30 percent mark: only seven percent said they tipped 31 percent or above.
Despite the increased risk to restaurant workers providing onsite dining services, a good chunk of people are still tipping below the 20 percent mark. Thirty-seven percent of respondents said they tipped between 11 to 20 percent; however, only 2 percent of respondents said they tipped 10 percent or less on dine-in meals, and about one percent said they don’t tip at all.
It seems like Portlanders still feel iffy on tipping above 20 percent on takeout — or even tipping as high as 20. The percentage of people tipping 20 percent or less rises on other levels of service: Fifty percent of respondents said they tipped 11 to 20 percent on average for takeout meals, while 13 percent said they tipped somewhere between 1 percent and 10 percent; 6 percent of respondents said they don’t tip on takeout at all. Twenty-eight percent reported they tipped between 21 and 30 percent, while only 3 percent — 63 votes — said they tip over 31 percent. Considering takeout remains the most popular form of dining service right now, this is likely affecting the average tips servers are making at the moment. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the average server in Oregon made around $29,550 in 2019; that means a drop in tips could make it exceptionally difficult to pay rent or feed their families.
The amount people say they’re tipping on delivery is similar to the amount they say they’re tipping on takeout: Fifty-one percent of voters said they tip between 11 to 20 percent, while 27 percent reported that they tip between 21 and 30 percent on delivery meals. Nonetheless, the delivery question received the highest percentage of users tipping between 1 and 10 percent — 15 percent of voters, or 286 votes. Three percent of respondents said they tip more than 31 percent; same goes for people saying they don’t tip on delivery.
Delivery drivers, in many cases, are underpaid — take, for example, DoorDash. Last year, the delivery app DoorDash was in hot water for actually withholding delivery drivers’ tips to pay for the delivery driver’s fee, which has since changed. However, in an April Motherboard report, multiple DoorDash drivers said they were still making around $3 per hour. Again, DoorDash has since made several behind-the-scenes changes to try to ameliorate these issues. Overall, most delivery drivers are not getting significant hazard pay, excluding cities like Seattle where it’s mandated; beyond the actual financial risk, some drivers are more worried about the risk of getting sick.
In terms of how tipping habits have changed, 71 percent of respondents said that they are tipping more than they normally do; 26 percent reported that they’re tipping about the same, and only 3 percent said they’re tipping less than they normally do.
Portland-based restaurant and food cart owners, anecdotally, confirmed the results of these polls: Justin Hintze, the owner of the food cart Jojo, says his employees are averaging about 11 percent in tips on orders, which is moderately higher than what they were making pre-pandemic. Maya Lovelace, the owner of fried chicken shop Yonder, says tips have increased from 17.5 percent to 18 percent comparing this month to September of last year. Michael Keskin, the owner of barbecue cart Bark City BBQ, says that cart tips have increased from 15 percent to 18 percent. “We get a lot of great tippers, but there are some who tip 15 percent and some who tip 10 percent or none at all,” he says. “I mean this modestly: We are really awesome with customer service ... I think the low tippers feel that, since we’re a cart not providing full service, it’s not necessary to tip 20 percent.” All three businesses aren’t offering a traditional dining room dine-in experience.
Some servers, however, are reporting more significant drops in tips during the pandemic. One server who asked to remain anonymous out of fear of professional retribution said she was averaging 10 percent on not only takeout dining, but onsite dining. Another, who also asked to remain anonymous out of fear of professional retaliation, says people at her restaurant are tipping 10 to 15 percent. With the lack of consistent stimulus or financial support for restaurant owners, the restaurant industry and its workers remain in serious economic jeopardy. Until then, tips are one of the only ways restaurant workers can get enough to scrape by.
• Portland Diners: How Much Do You Tip Right Now? [EPDX]
• Eater PDX Poll: Only 14 Percent of Readers Feel Safe Dining Indoors at Restaurants Right Now [EPDX]
• Workers at Risk During the Coronavirus Pandemic: Four in 10 Food Preparers and Servers Are Low-Income [PRB]
• 31% of restaurants offer health insurance to workers, survey finds [RD]