Coronavirus Etiquette: How To Tip When Dining Out

The coronavirus pandemic has majorly changed the lives of foodies. Gone are the days of restaurants packed to the brim and bars bustling with people. Instead, there are socially distanced tables, health and safety precautions and lower capacities. That means that tipping, an integral part of dining out in America, has also changed. To find out how to tip right now, we spoke with two etiquette experts, Jodi Smith of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting, and Sharon Schweitzer, an international etiquette and culture expert.

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The guidelines for tipping have totally changed during the coronavirus pandemic. If you're going out to eat, heading to the cafe to grab a latte to go or even just getting a bagel around the corner, be prepared to tip well — very, very well. 

"I want you to tip to the point of pain. [Servers] are really putting themselves in harm's way for our enjoyment. You want to tip as much as you can," Smith said. "Tipping guidelines are going by the wayside. I am tipping on things I normally wouldn't tip on. Someone handing me a bagel, not even a bagel sandwich, I wouldn't normally tip on that. Now, I tip almost as much as the bagel costs. These people are working hard just to make our lives a little bit easier during this crazy time."

What's the "point of pain?" Schweitzer advises that "25 to 30% is the new 15 to 20%" for servers during sit-down meals. "Right now, during COVID, every server is taking triple if not quadruple precautions to avoid spreading the virus. They are sanitizing everything, making sure enteroviral precautions are being taken," she said. "They're also putting themselves out in the public to serve us. In addition to subjecting themselves to the viral environment, they're exposing their families."

Tipping doesn't only apply to sit-down dining services. "In the past, we have only tipped servers. We have not tipped people who do carryout or people when we do pickup," Schweitzer said. "That has changed also. We need to tip those people because they are taking all the precautions." So, yes, even if you are running to your favorite local Chinese place to get pickup, add an extra 15% to 20%.

How much should you tip everyone else? Schweitzer recommends tipping baristas at your local cafe at least $1 per drink, tipping bartenders 20% or more, and tipping your takeout or curbside pickup staff 15% to 20%. How much you should be tipping is just one way etiquette for dining out has changed in the age of coronavirus.