Should Diners Leave Tips at Food Trucks?

A gentle nudge

By Kathryn Robinson | SeattleMet

A gentle nudge

Should diners tip food trucks?

(Not tip as in “over”…tip as in “leave a gratuity.”)

Tipping, after all, has traditionally been understood as a way to compensate servers, who are generally paid less than kitchen staff—often minimum wage—and whose livelihood depends on what they can hustle through good service. This is why tips are always expected for servers—20 percent and up for outstanding service; never less than ten percent even if service sucks—which many believe is a debatable expectation, and may require a post all its own.

But what about a business where there is no service beyond cooking?

In restaurants, what you pay for the dish is generally considered enough to pay the one who cooked it. Wouldn’t that be true for food trucks where there are no servers, no table delivery, no plates to wash—and which are often staffed by the owner?

Or is the financial situation of the staffer entirely beside the point? This drills right into the philosophical heart of the tipping debate: Should diners be expected to tip based more on the financial situation of the recipient, or more on the quality of the service received?

And when that service consists of handing a plate of barbeque through a truck window, is it worthy of a tip? Tip jars really are everywhere now—coffee houses, takeout joints, even drycleaners. All kinds of places without a waiter in sight.

I genuinely can’t wait for your thoughts on this one.