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Food Trucks- To tip or not to tip?

As a food truck owner-operator, I have a strong opinion on tipping. Attracting staff in Seattle is a challenging task, to say the least. During the 2023 season, I ran ads relentlessly to find staff for my truck and had only marginal success. The truth is, working on a food truck is a hard job. Dealing with extreme weather, traffic, and entitled customers who can make your life miserable is not easy. Food truck staff who are aware of these conditions are reluctant to come to work, and those who do not know any better are usually in for a surprise.

One thing that makes it better for my staff is the tipping and without it, maintaining a crew would be very difficult if not impossible. Thankfully, there is a strong percentage of customers who offer quite a decent tip, but unfortunately, there are many who refuse to tip. To be honest, tipping helps to support my hardworking staff and ensures they can continue to provide delicious food to the community.

Of course there are varying opinions on tipping, especially when it comes to food trucks. Some people believe that tipping is unnecessary since the food is prepared and served quickly. Others argue that tipping is essential because it helps support the hardworking individuals who run the food truck.

Here are a few comments that I came upon on Reddit:

The question was:

"Hi all, I would love some opinions about this from a Puget Sound perspective. I have a food truck coming to cater a work event. It’s 2 hours, and they are billing $35 per person for pizza/hot dogs. Would you tip on top of the invoice price? I googled it and one thing I read said no because it’s the owner of the food truck and they will get all the money anyway. One thing said 15-20%.

Opinions? I know tipping is kind of all over the place these days. I’m pro tipping, but I also feel like $35 for a pizza or a hot dog is a lot already? 😬"

Here are some of the responses:

"$35 per person for pizza and hot dogs? Is that an entire pizza per person? Sounds like they've included a tip in their pricing."

"If they put some xanax in the ecto coolers tip generously." (lol)

"I tip everyone sweating their asses off in the truck, owner or not.

They're getting tipped under normal (non catering) circumstances so why short-change them because it is a catered event?

Plus, it's a work event so work is paying for it. Even if it's your company, it's a write-off."

"$0. Everytime. I don't care if the person me doesn't own the food truck. Still going to be a $0 tip." - there was a response to this one which I thought was funny - "I am always sad when I see that there are people like you out there. Make sure that you remain unknown so nobody spits in your food lol"

Well these are some of the opinions out there but you know what is said about opinions. And here's the thing, in the question, one vital piece of information was missing, i.e. how many people she was serving! If she was serving 20 people, $35 per person would have made a total of $700 for the truck which is barely breaking even! If on the other hand the guest count was at 200, the truck made a killing at $7000 for 2 hours serving pizza!

So my conclusion anyway is this: The decision to tip or not to tip is up to the individual, and it should be based on the quality of service and the overall experience. If you enjoyed your meal and received good service, it's always a nice gesture to tip the food truck staff. The amount you choose to tip is entirely up to you, but a standard range is usually 10-20% of your total bill. Tipping not only shows appreciation for the staff's hard work but also helps them continue to provide delicious food to the community.

Tipping staff at a food truck is no different than tipping at a restaurant. In fact one could argue that food truck staff is more deserving of tips than at brick and mortar restaurants.

In closing, A little "food for thought" (pun intended)

Food truck workers

Do all the prep work

Travel to the event in all kinds of traffic and weather conditions

Deal with sometimes very impatient and rude customers

Manage inventory and supplies

Do cleaning, restocking etc.

In addition, food truck workers often work long hours in a small space, which can be physically demanding and exhausting. Despite these challenges, they work hard to provide delicious food to the community and make people happy and are paid on average $20.00 per hour.

So if you do the math, maybe you can understand how much difference a tip makes to the person who just served you your dinner!

Bon Appetit!

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