Have you noticed whose tips are lost in the food delivery ecosystem?

The apps have left us forgetting about restaurant workers in the tip equation on delivery platforms

With temperatures dipping below freezing, it comes as no surprise that people are more inclined to order in for the night, which in turn has spurred the Tweeple to remind you to tip your delivery drivers well.

But what about the folks who made and packed your food? Unless you ordered through an app and are coming to pick up your meal (and can then drop a few dollars in the tip jar), there isn’t a way to specifically help out the restaurant staff. Sure, you could contest that you are doing your part by ordering from that small business, and by adding to the restaurant’s bottom line, its workers can be paid. However, we also have to remember that so much of the restaurant industry relies on tips.

It becomes apparent that the delivery platforms have streamlined the process so much so that it has become easy for consumers to have forgotten a key group of folks in the compensation equation. Mind you, these folks are the ones who: a) commute into their workplace during a pandemic; and b) provide you the service of cooking your meals for you. Instead of earning what they would’ve earned in gratuities from in-person dining, food service workers face wage reductions not only in the form of possibly fewer hours, but also from the lack of tips because delivery partners are not making it possible.

You can gripe about how you’re already being charged a delivery fee, a service charge, a city fee, and then an ask to tip your courier, but if you’re going to go through all these measures so that you don’t have to leave the house, you should acknowledge that these conveniences are coming at the expense of others’ time, which includes the kitchen from which you’re ordering. The question you’re answering at the end of the day isn’t whether or not folks should be paid more for a livable wage (because the answer is clear: yes, they should), but rather, whether or not the person on the other end of the platform is doing you a solid by providing a service? Are they? If so, then they should be tipped—simple as that.

Is it even possible to tip a restaurant on a delivery platform? Of all the contracts for services that I’ve reviewed in the past few years, only one platform has noted that restaurants can be provided gratuities through the delivery platform. And even then, that’s only a contract I reviewed within the past month; it’s not a new vendor, but rather, an updated set of terms, which now include the option. I went on the delivery platform who is offering gratuities for restaurants through my personal account, dummied orders through a few vendors (picked at random), and could not find one where I was given the option to tip both restaurant and delivery courier. Let’s chalk that one up to a work in progress, I suppose.

I don’t know if there is one simple solution, but here are a few ideas:

  • When you place a direct order through the restaurant to save them from delivery platform commissions, how about we also consider it is an opportunity to monetarily thank the folks making dinner possible?

  • Push delivery platforms to add gratuities for restaurants as an option. User feedback is important, and besides, if nobody asks for it, how would anyone know to build it?

  • If you’re ordering pickup from a delivery platform, add your dollars to the tip jar when you fetch your order

  • Quite a few businesses are on Venmo now—send your dollars that way if you can find them on the app

Side bar: what’s the deal with minimum wage, cash wage, and tipped credit?

To be clear, NYC restaurant employees are guaranteed the $15/hour minimum wage vis-à-vis the Notice of Pay at the time of hire and upon a change in their rate of pay, which states the full minimum wage (as opposed to the cash wage) as the employee’s hourly rate of pay. If you’re wondering what terms cash wage and tip credit refer to, here’s a quick primer with numbers drawn from the FY21 NYS bulletin:

  • Tip credits (Section 3(m) of the Fair Labor Standards Act) allow employers on the financial backend to claim a credit toward the minimum wage obligation for tipped employees. This tip credit ($5.00) is equal to the difference between the minimum cash wage ($10.00) and the minimum wage ($15.00).

  • Cash wage refers to what the employer must pay out of pocket for the employee’s hourly wages. If the tip credit does not allow the employee to meet the $15/hour NYC minimum wage, then the employer must provide the difference.

For more information on the wages of tipped employees across the U.S., check out the Department of Labor’s FY21 table by state.

And yes, there are implications in tipping via credit card vs. cash. Gratuities in New York State via credit card are subject to, at the employer’s discretion, pro-rated according to the % charge levied by the credit card company.

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