How much should you tip your DoorDash, UberEats or Grubhub driver?

First up, let me introduce myself (or allow myself to introduce...myself if you're an Austin Powers fan). Hi, I'm Nadja (like Nadia) and I’ve completed well over 2,000 orders on DoorDash, UberEats and Grubhub as well as Instacart.

All in all, I've been a full-time gig economist for the better part of five years and I want to share my experience with other gig workers as well as customers so I can help each side understand the gig economy.

There is little information on how to properly tip food delivery drivers so I've decided to put together some information to help you, the customer understand what goes into being a food delivery driver on popular platforms such as DoorDash, UberEats (Postmates is now part of UberEats) and Grubhub. 

For a guide to tipping your Instacart Shopper, go here.

OK so as someone who's also been a customer on popular apps, I get that you don't want to think about every aspect that comprises your food order. You just order your food and forget about it. Until it arrives of course.

DoorDash, UberEats and Grubhub make it easy to order from your favorite restaurants and promise quick delivery. They really don't disclose how much they're paying the driver and that you as the customer are really the one who is responsible for the driver to make a living by tipping them.

Well, I'm here to give you some insight into the food delivery world. If you're one of those people who doesn't likes to skip to the end, let me give you the end upfront:

Your tip is essential to your food delivery driver making a living. Without it, we would make $2-$4 an order, which on average takes about 30 minutes. Yes, that comes to about $8 an hour.

If you stick around, I will show you some real life examples that will allow you to understand how important it is to tip your driver.

I want to make it clear that I absolutely love what I do but I want to dismantle the misconception that food delivery drivers get paid a living wage by the companies (apps) they're driving for. We're not, we almost entirely depend on your tips.

That's why I've created this site.

So let's get started.

So what's a decent tip?

A decent tip is anything that compensates your driver for having to drive to the restaurant (think gas), wait for your order (time) and drive to your home (gas and time). 

How much is that convenience worth to you?

Many people assume that $2 is enough. It's not. Under any circumstances really. Ever. I'd say at least $3 for lunch orders (even if your Panera sandwich is only $8) and at least $5 for dinner orders but I'm talking bare minimum. I'll get back to that later.

Some people say well, it's just popping in to the restaurant but let me tell you, I'm not your loved one on her way home who begrudgingly pops into a restaurant to pick up your food.

Food delivery drivers actually depend on your tips to make a living! Like... entirely.

If I just lived on what DoorDash, UberEats and Grubhub offered, I would make maybe $10 a day. No kidding!

Plus, there's a lot more that goes into it than just popping into a restaurant. There are orders that are super simple like that but most of the time we have to battle traffic  and wait at the restaurant for your order.

Pushing boundaries

Picture of open road to show long delivery distances on DoorDash, UberEats and Grubhub

Before the rise of these apps, you had to order from the restaurants in town because they wouldn't deliver past certain zones.

With DoorDash, UberEats and Grubhub, those boundaries have been extended and many people order food from restaurants 10+ miles away so it's even more important that you're aware that DoorDash and UberEats don't pay for mileage so you have to consider the distance when tipping as well.

Grubhub does pay for mileage so there's a small advantage there. I say small because overall Grubhub does a terrible job timing the order so drivers often have to wait forever at the restaurant.

These delivery app companies want to hook and keep customers by doing away with the traditional restaurant delivery radius.

At the same time these delivery apps don't let customers know that they are not the ones paying for that distance and that you, the customer is essentially expected to compensate the delivery driver by adding a decent tip.

Also, please bear in mind that we're not employees of those companies, we get no benefits. We are independent contractors who have to pay for gas and mileage upfront and hopefully get some of that back come tax season!

I had to pay over $2,000 in taxes last year so this business isn't easy yet I love the freedom it provides.

Understanding the food delivery process

Let me walk you through a typical order to help you understand what goes into it and afterward I'll show you what no tip orders look like.

After accepting your order I drive to the restaurant. That could be nearby or not so much. I usually take orders at nearby restaurants because I'd rather wait at the restaurant than travel to a restaurant, where your food could already be sitting on a cold shelf for a while before I arrive but that's just me.

I walk in and alert someone that I'm here for your order. Usually, I have to wait a few minutes. Sometimes up to 15-20 minutes. Restaurant workers love to say just a few minutes when in reality the order hasn't been started. Some of my buddies at local restaurants tell me the true wait time but others don't.

I do get the option to drop the order if it's gonna take too long but for the purpose of this example, let's assume I have to wait 10 minutes, which is pretty common.

The weekend wait-times are often much longer. It also depends on the app, I've spoken to many Grubhub drivers who say wait-times are upward of an hour and have experience that myself on Grubhub.

Once I get the order, I put it into an insulated bag to make sure it stays hot if it’s meant to stay hot and if you order a drink, I’ll secure it in a delivery drink carrier (again, I get that not every driver does this but many do).

Now I’m hoping there is no traffic so assuming you live 3 miles away, which in my area usually takes me at least 10 minutes. As you can see, by now I’ll have spent upward of 25 minutes on your order and again, bear in mind that many people order 10+ miles away.

I'm now at your house (hopefully you don't live in one of those condo complexes with no beginning and no end) and I place your order outside your door or contact you if you selected meet at door or hand it to me. I follow delivery instructions to complete the order. Have a great day!

So you see, it's not just popping into a restaurant to grab an order, most orders involve waiting, traffic and bad delivery instructions. 

And don’t get me wrong, there are many of us who are terrible and shouldn’t be out on the road  (again, I'm hoping to provide relevant information so they can improve) but sometimes there are also insanely unexpected things that happen to us on our way to pick up your order and again when delivering. I hope this sheds some light on what goes into your order. 

So what happens if you don't tip?

Soggy burger no tip DoorDash, UberEats, Grubhub order

In short: no one will take your order.

Or you'll most likely be waiting a long time.

Your food will be cold and soggy and you'll have wasted your money. If you don't mind cold and soggy food, that's fine but most people do mind.

As you'll see shortly, we are able to see ahead of time how much an order will be so we know when there's little to no tip involved. 

Most of us will reject a low/no tip order and it will bounce around to dozens of other drivers until someone takes it.

So if you thought "Oh I'll add a tip later once I get my food", that's a terrible strategy.

UberEats and Grubhub allow you to increase/decrease your tip after delivery and I'm all for decreasing a tip slightly if you're not happy with the delivery but not tipping upfront is a bad idea!

Because this means that your piping hot Thai dish will be terribly cold by the time it gets to you. I personally prefer food that's meant to be hot, hot but if you don't mind nuking your meal when it arrives, by all means do that.

The only reason someone would take a low to no tip order is if they ended up in a town away from their original starting point and they want to head back that way.

I've taken small orders like that before where I ended up in a nearby town and wanted to get home so I took a small order because that's better than just heading back home without getting compensated at all. 

Do drivers see if you tipped?

As I said before, yes we do. But let me show you what it actually looks like on our end.

Below is what we see when an order pops up on DoorDash, followed by a screen for UberEats.

On DoorDash, we see the restaurant, how many items, the delivery distance and the approximately delivery location. And we see the total amount the order will pay. UberEats gives an approximate time the order will take.

The orders below would be a no for me and many other drivers. 

Screenshot of small DoorDash orderScreenshot of DoorDash order
Outback Steakhouse small order on DoorDash
Screenshot of small UberEats orderScreenshot of UberEats order

I chose McDonald's and KFC as examples since they're familiar to most people and you might say oh well those places are cheap so no wonder there is no tip but unfortunately many higher end local places look the same way because customers are not aware that this is what these apps pay per order.

I'll show you an Outback Steakhouse one as well. 

Having done thousands of orders across platforms, no/low tipping customers never adjust their tip after delivery.

I've had some high tipping customers adjust their tip on UberEats for a job well done and that's what I talked about before, adjust your tip later based on the level of service you received but don't select no tip upfront, you won't get your order in good shape.

Low to no tippers don't adjust their tip after delivery because they don't value the service.

DoorDash, UberEats and Grubhub don't care what the restaurant is, the base pay is the same. Grubhub's base pay is slightly higher because it pays for mileage from the restaurant to the customer but it's obviously not a ton.

Take a look!

That Outback order cost at least $50  since it's 6 items and because of the no tip probably got it in terrible shape. It's such a waste of your money if you don't tip. You have to see it like you're going out to eat and most people do tip their wait staff!

So let's do the math (ew)

If we do the math here based on the UberEats estimate of 16 minutes, I would be able to do 4 of these in a little over 60 minutes (not going to be the case because both McDonald's and KFC always have wait times but let's just say hypothetically I'd be able to do 4 orders in an hour, which will yield a total of $8/hour after driving close to 10 miles.

That's crazy low.

Yes, I've selected low paying orders here but they're not even the worst. The worst ones are the ones that have a 10+ mile delivery distance and no tip or maybe $1.

I do get quite a few of these every single day and of course I decline them but some drivers don't, which perpetuates the cycle and allows these delivery apps to make bank while charging you fees and not passing any of their earnings on to the drivers.

Surely these orders are uncommon

Thinking man

Nope and don't call me Shirley. They're actually the norm. I usually have to decline 5-10 of these orders before a decent one comes along. For me a decent order is at least $7 with a relatively low delivery distance (under 5 miles).

On weekends, I usually wait for $15 orders because then DoorDash and UberEats regularly add a little to the base pay since it's a busy time.

I'm hoping to shed some light on the importance of tipping here because I really don't think customers are aware.

I know everyone is trying to save money but ordering delivery isn't exactly the most budget friendly route to begin with so please compensate us for your convenience factor!

What about terrible delivery drivers?

I know you've probably wasted some money on a terrible driver before but that doesn't mean you have to punish all of us for that.

We don't receive training (I know you're thinking, how hard can it be to grab an order?) but trust me, I've had to deal with anything from missing orders to double orders to wrong addresses, etc.

I've created this site in hopes of providing relevant information to food delivery drivers so they can provide the best customer service since the companies we deliver for don't usually provide much, if any training.

I am a big advocate of drivers using professional insulated bags because DoorDash only provides a tiny bag upfront and UberEats doesn't provide any nor does it require drivers to have them. Grubhub does provide a decent size bag that event fits pizzas so props to Grubhub for that.

It's also baffling that a company like UberEats often groups orders with a 10+ mile delivery distance without requiring insulated bags. Again, that makes for a very cold meal at delivery.

The more both customers and food delivery drivers are aware of how the food delivery game works, the better it will be for both sides.

I hope to contribute to this understanding through this site because the only ones making bank on food delivery are the delivery apps. 

OK so should you use the restaurant tipping standard? 

So we've already discussed compensating me for my time, gas and putting a price on the convenience of having food delivered to your doorstep.

Many people choose to use the 10-20% restaurant tipping standard based on the total of their order.

That works perfectly fine but many orders are around $20 so bear in mind that the process of picking up a $20 involves the same on my end as a $90 order.

In other words, tipping 10% off your $20 or a $2 tip isn't great and would most likely put your order in a similar holding pattern as a no tip order, especially on the weekends when it's busy and drivers are able to get orders between $15 and $25 a pop.

If we do the math from before, I'd get around $3 of base pay since it's the weekend plus your $2 for a total of $5 so that's not gonna be a priority unless you live around 1 mile from the restaurant. 

Here is what I would recommend as a baseline for tipping:

  • at least $3 in tip for lunch orders 
  • at least $5 for dinner orders if you live within a 5 mile radius of the restaurant. Beyond 5 miles, you should add $ to account for mileage (58.5 cents per mile is standard)

I'm talking minimum here! No matter if you just order a sandwich from Panera or a full meal from your favorite local spot.

More than that is always appreciated and will get your food to you faster.

The restaurant tipping standard is fine for orders over $40 but please bear in mind that unlike waitstaff, I use my car to drive around and deliver to your doorstep so if you just have a $10 Panera order, don't just tip 10-20%.

Also, please consider inclement weather. I see tons of no tip orders during severe storms. There is a human on the other end willing to go out when you don't want to. Again, make sure you compensate for that factor as well.

Yes above is just the minimum, even if you're ordering from McDonalds.

This ensures I get paid and you get your food in a timely manner and in hot condition if it's meant to be hot. 

On DoorDash you don't really get a chance to adjust the tip after delivery but on UberEats and Grubhub you can.

If you're using UberEats, I recommend adjusting the tip for a great job after delivery. It's always much appreciated to know that using insulated bags and hauling ass is rewarded.

Likewise, feel free to reduce the tip for a crappy job. I'm actually all for that. It is your money and if the food arrives in terrible condition, you should be able to reduce your tip!

What about orders where we shop for you and general retail pickup orders?

In case where you order from a store like Walgreens, CVS or Petsmart, where I personally have to go in and shop for you, the minimum should be $5. Always, no matter if it's just one item.

Going into a store to shop for you is a whole different animal and takes quite a bit of time since items are often out of stock and I have to contact you or gamble with making replacements.

I don't often shop on DoorDash or UberEats since their apps are inferior to Instacart's app and I've done over 1,000 orders on Instacart over the years, including all of 2020.

I've dedicated another page to tipping your Instacart Shopper that goes into more detail about shop and deliver orders and how to tip for those.

The link is in related pages on the bottom of this page. 

For retail pickup orders, where I just pop into the store to pickup your pet food or whatever without shopping, use the $3 minimum tip I suggested before. 

In summary

So in summary, take into account my time driving to the restaurant, gas costs, the time I'll spend waiting for your order and the time and gas I'll spend delivering your order as well as the convenience factor. 

I only do one or two orders at a time, whereas a waiter may have a few tables at a time without having to deal with traffic and wait-time to serve each table.

I'm not knocking wait staff, I know it's a brutal job but food delivery is just a different animal since we encounter different situations than wait staff. 

After all, food delivery drivers are the ones who actually get your food from the restaurant to your doorstep so please ensure we make a living! 

Related Pages

If you've ever encountered a nightmarish food delivery, share your story at the bottom of the page, here. 

If you want to read about the five things delivery drivers wish customers knew, check that out here.

Check out my guide to tipping on Instacart, here.

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