Tipping Turbulence – How Much for Pizza Delivery?

by Darwin on December 20, 2009

How much to tip for pizza delivery is apparently more complex than I thought.  The other night, we hosted some friends for a rotating party we’ve had for some time now deemed “Pizza Night”.  It’s basically a get-together to catch up and spare the host(ess) hours of preparation in trying to impress with a 5 course meal, but rather focus on hanging out, having some appetizers and pizza and letting the kids play instead of dealing with small children at a formal dinner with nice food.


This was the first time we’d hosted in a while and in the past, I’ve normally picked up the pizza myself on the way home from work.  This time around, I was off leading into the holiday and wanted to just have the pizza delivered while we were all here instead of leaving once we had company already.  We ordered 5 pies.  While a normal pie’s probably around 10 bucks, these were a bit more since we ordered specialty, toppings, etc.  The total bill was $70.

When the delivery guy came, I only had 20s and gave him $80 and asked for 5 bucks back. The pizza place is literally under 5 minutes away and he made a single trip in with the 5 pies.  I figured 5 bucks was generous for a 10 minute round trip, right?  He seemed annoyed when I asked for change back – I guess he was expecting $10? Puzzled, after he left, I said, “What DO you tip a pizza guy anyway?”.  Some friends said 5 was fine, someone else said, “it’s 20% just like a restaurant“.  I was floored by this suggestion.

How Do you Advocate the same size tip for a Server who spends 90 minutes shuffling food and drinks back and forth vs. a single pizza delivery with under 1 minute of social interaction and 10-15 minutes service total?

How Much to Tip for Pizza Delivery

I checked out the foremost authority on tipping (Emily Post) and there was actually no specific guidance on tipping.  I was actually shocked to find a few articles supporting this 20% suggestion.  While perhaps not the most objective source (?), the ThePizzaGuy actually supports this notion with the following statements:

1. The common courtesy is 15% for normal service.

2. 20% or more if the service is excellent.

3. If the order is $50 or more, at least 10%

Meanwhile, CNNMoney suggests a minimum of $2 per pizza/10% of the bill.  WikiAnswers had a nice and ambiguous reply for a 5-pie order: “Two to three dollars for a normal 1-2 pizza order. A large order for a party warrants a larger tip.”  eHow recommends 15% as well.

Evidently, there’s no clear consensus on just what I should have tipped, but based on various inputs, I probably should have given at least $7 instead of $5.  That means I’d have to ask for exactly $3 back which is a little awkward given the “non-round” number we’re dealing with here.

My question is – If I host a much larger party, say 15 pies equaling $200, you’re telling I’m supposed to tip the delivery guy $30-$40 for a 5 minute drive out?  I could see some extra money for the extra trips back and forth from the car (3 trips at 5 pies each), but I’d still think $10 bucks or so is appropriate, right?  I’m not cheap, I just try to make sense of things sometimes that don’t seem to make much sense.

If tipping etiquette is of interest to you, make sure to check out my series on “To Tip or Not to Tip” where I examine the ice cream scooper, the omelet maker and other bizarre places tip jars are showing up these days.

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1 Financial Samurai December 20, 2009 at 10:15 am

If their names were Jeff and Brad I’d tip em 20%. If not, 10-15% will suffice!

2 MLR December 20, 2009 at 9:15 pm

Ask any pizza guy how much they make hourly (wage + tips), and they are doing just fine. My friend in high school usually made $20/hr easy.

Obviously it is in their best interest to create the idea that a 20% tip is warranted, but I think you have asked the right questions.

I’m with you. $5 was fine.

3 jenai January 1, 2010 at 3:52 pm

I cant’t see it here in my state. A waitress only makes HALF of minimum wage but the pizza guy thinks he deserves the same 15-20% when he gets paid at least double by the hr.? They are blowing smoke up your you-know-what. Also let it be known here that when you leave a waitress a tip, from that tip she has to tip out your bus boy and your bartender and your hostess and she has to pay income taxes on your tip as well. She or he typically gets a paycheck in my state (TX) of 15-50 dollars a week after SSI and taxes.

Pizza delivery 15-20% tipping is a scam. I will tip 10% and round it up to the nearest dollar. SO that means my $28.50 order in route that I also paid a $1.99 delivery surcharge on….. gets a $3 tip.

4 Sara May 5, 2010 at 7:34 pm

When I was a kid and my parents ordered pizza, they tipped the driver $1 or $2, and if there was a delivery charge, they would consider that to be part of the tip. It’s weird, because they are actually very generous tippers at restaurants, but apparently they were cheap with pizza delivery!

I actually avoid getting food delivered because I don’t know how much I’m suppose to tip. If I’m getting pizza, I will just go and pick it up rather than try to guess about the tip. I wish they could just decide how much delivery should cost and charge that instead of expecting tips.

5 enne May 28, 2010 at 2:54 am

First off, that “delivery charge” is a scam, the establishment gets a dollar or more…for what? They didn’t deliver the pizza, they didn’t have to put gas in the car, they didn’t do anything and they make that dollar each time there is a delivery, people think it goes to the delivery guy — but it doesn’t.

Secondly, for just about any order you have to to tip at least two dollars, for any order, seriously. Realistically two is upkeep and three involves a tip (of a dollar). Many people don’t tip at all, almost half I would say, (the change of a dollar is not a tip). The amount of stress your car goes through requires extra maintenance and gas of course. Waiters have to drive to and from their work once a night.

Thirdly, delivery guys are not “doing just fine”, 20 dollars an hour? Not in any type of urban area. 8 – 9 dollars, maybe. And again, upkeep.

On another note I would never hassle anyone for not tipping or tipping very small. I still say thank you. However I do think if you can’t tip maybe you shouldn’t be ordering an expensive pizza in the first place.

6 fine June 29, 2010 at 1:47 pm

I was just surfing this topic to see if I tip enough. I tip about 20%…more if that’s what it takes to round it up to $20 or $35 or whatever.

When I order pizza during a snow event or the tail end of a hurricane, I usually add $5 above the tip.

7 Andrew Wallace September 12, 2010 at 7:40 pm

yes a waitress may do more work and have more social time with the customer than a pizza driver……. but think about it, Pizza drivers deserve a higher tip than a waitress, if anything. A pizza driver drives their own car, not the companys, which means you rack miles up on your car and will have to get a new car much sooner….. I bought an ’04 chevy aveo in ’05, and in ’06 I had over 100,000 miles on it. Not only that, what about gas prices? The pizza driver has to fill his own tank of gas. Most of the delivery fee, doesnt go to the driver. Out of the 5 pizza delivery jobs ive had, the highest i got for deliveries was $1, and thats when gas prices had rocketed.

8 Sam Ives November 5, 2010 at 1:58 pm

Being a delivery driver, I can relate to a lot of things people said. With me if you would of given me $5 bucks for a 50 dollar order, would of smiled and said thank you 🙂 and would of been cool with it. To add to what your asking

Oil Changes 30 bucks a pop once a month, new tires each year at 300 bucks a pop. Usually about 20 bucks in gas a night, it all adds up. Our pizza place charges $3.50 a delivery, and we get 1.50, which at the end of the night is barely enough to cover the gas.

9 Chris Robert March 30, 2011 at 10:09 pm

I hand them a couple condoms and tell them their good to go.
There is to much of this “tipping business” here in the US.
A tip should be for “above & beyond” normal service…not an expected
part of their income.

Kimberly Brooke Reply:

@Chris Robert, Most workers who get tips, work for tips. It’s annoying hoe foreign people don’t tip. No, its not only annoying, its RUDE. EXTREMELY RUDE. I don’t buy the whole “I’m forgein I don’t know any better shit.” In America, we appreciate our service. If you have bad service: 10% tip. If you have average service: 15% tip. If you have better service: 20% tip.
Personally, I usually do not tip less than 20%. Keep in mind that most of the workers that we tip WORK FOR TIPS. They get paid way less than minimum wage hourly. As for delivery guys? I don’t know how they get paid but I still feel guilty if I tip less than 15% anywhere – no matter what the service.

Kimberly Brooke Reply:

@Chris Robert, And seriously, the delivery guy drives their own car. It’s insanely rude and verrrrrry inconsiderate and ignorant to not tip at all let alone less than 15%.

Kimberly Brooke Reply:


10 Kimberly Brooke October 21, 2011 at 6:57 pm

You foreigners are too damn stingy and have no consideration.

11 Luke Yancey December 16, 2016 at 9:08 am

I agree that $4-$5 is enough to tip a delivery driver if they haven’t traveled very far and their order is small. However, I recommend tipping a little more if your order is more than three pizzas. I worked as a delivery driver in the past and we always split the tips between everyone who worked during a night. In your case of the large order, $5 really wouldn’t have been that much for the amount of service you requested.

12 Darla July 26, 2018 at 9:24 pm

If the pizza place is literally 5 minutes away. Why wouldn’t you pick it up yourself. Many pizza delivery guys receive no hourly wage and are providing a service. I only have food delivered when I want to remain in the comfort of my own home,without waiting in line, finding a parking spot and having to look presentable. When I do choose this option I am willing to give the person providing that service what I would expect to be compensated.

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