This is an interesting question.  Why does it matter what you tip?  How can it affect you?  Doesn’t the delivery person get a portion of the delivery charge?  As a former pizza delivery person, I can answer all of these questions and provide a glimpse of what goes on behind the scenes of your local pizza shop.  But don’t worry; I am not biased because I am a customer as well.  Hopefully, after this article, you will have a better idea of what you should be tipping based on many factors such as service quality, food quality, special requests etc…

Delivery Charge

     Every place charges you for delivery.  The only difference is that some places are more honest about it than others.  The ones who do not show the charge are simply adding the cost to the pizzas in order to cover it because they are required to compensate the driver (delivery person) for mileage and gas expenses.  The exception to this is if they use company vehicles which, with today’s fuel prices, would not be a good business decision as they would lose money since the charge does not cover the cost of fuel.  This does not mean that the delivery charge goes to your driver.  Out of a $2.00 delivery charge, the driver gets $1.00 to cover gas and mileage.  This can have a neutral or negative effect depending on the type of vehicle the driver owns and how far you live from the pizza shop.  The other $1.00 goes to the store to cover the cost of delivering the dough every few weeks.  In this case, the driver has taken only one pizza on a single “run” (delivery to a single address).  If they take a “double” (two deliveries on a single trip), they make $1.00 on the first and $0.80 on the second and nothing on a third.  Delivery people almost always take single runs unless it is extremely busy and is quite rare.

Delivery Persons Wages

     The pizza delivery person makes minimum wage.  When they go out on a run they make $1.00 less per hour while out since it is expected that they make tips.  So if they make $7.25 per hour and go on a run, they make $6.25 per hour plus tips.  This is similar to the way waitresses and waiters make money as they are paid less than minimum wage because they make tips however, drivers also have the added cost of gas and mileage.  They also cannot deliver as many pizzas per night as a waiter can service tables.  Waiters get 15% of the order but this “rule” doesn’t seem to apply to pizza delivery.  On a busy night where they are constantly on a run for 8 hours, they can average about 15 deliveries.  This is considering optimal conditions and a more realistic average is 10 deliveries.

Food Cost

     Over the years, I have seen this as a major factor in the way people tip.  Sometimes, the cost of their order is quite high and so they are less likely to tip well (if at all).  Remember, the driver is on your side!  If you do not like how much your food cost, ask the driver for tips on how to save money or get a better deal on your next order.  They will be more than happy to tell you the best deal they know of.  Just don’t take too much time as the longer they remain on delivery, the less they make.  Additionally, the driver takes orders a lot of the time if they are waiting on their run so just ask for their specials when you call.  Make sure you let them know what you are looking for as there are many products available and they won’t be guessing what you want to eat.  If you leave it general by asking, “What are your specials?” they are required to first say the items that make the store the most profit before they say the rest.  This does not mean that those specials won’t save you money but it will not be the most cost effective.

Food Quality

     Although it is not common for drivers to prepare your food before it goes into the oven, it does happen.  It is more common that they are the ones taking it out, cutting, topping (sauce etc.), and boxing your pizza.  The amount that a person tips the driver directly affects the quality of the food.  This does not mean that you will get sub standard food if you do not tip well but you definitely will not get special service.  How can the delivery person remember specific addresses?  There are three classes of customers that the driver thinks of when on a delivery.

The Bad Tipper

     This type of customer is one who either does not tip or tips very little e.g. less than $1.00 with a “keep the change” type of non-verbal communication.  Regardless of what you tip, your driver will smile, say thank you, and run off to their next delivery most likely in a hurry as to make up for the poor tip.  Their address stands out from the rest and all the drivers know what’s going to happen to the driver who gets that order.  I have to say that the customer is not required to tip however; it is in your best interest to do so.  This type of tipper never gets special treatment and is always delivered to second on a double run since the other customer might be a better tipper.  Why would they deliver to a bad tipper first when they know what they are going to get?  There is a grey area where the customer can be considered a bad or average tipper which is between $1.00 and $1.99.  Generally, less than $2.00 is automatically placed in the “bad” category.  Pizza delivery personnel are not without heart and can sympathize with those who earn a lower income so don’t feel bad if you’re a bad tipper if that is all you can afford.  Don’t forget to ask the driver for tips on how to make better use of your money when ordering.

The Average Tipper

     This type of tipper does not stand out in the mind of the driver.  They are the ones who tip the middle of the line, around $2.00 - $3.00.  They will get standard service with no delay in delivery.  They driver will deliver (if on a double) to the house which is more efficient on time.  Only when they arrive at your location will they remember what kind of tipper you are and what they can expect.  They will arrive and depart in an efficient manner as to get on with more deliveries.  There is a grey area between an average and a good tipper, $4.00 tippers.  Generally, the $4.00 tippers will be placed high on the list of the average tippers and might be remembered.

The Good Tipper

     This type of tipper will defiantly stand out in the mind of the driver.  They are those who tip on the high end, around $5.00 - $10.00.  They will get superior service in delivery time, food quality, and special requests.  Their address stands out from the rest and the driver (if preparing the food) will most likely put extra toppings on and take extra care in cutting and boxing their food.  The driver will arrive ahead of schedule and ensure that you are satisfied with your order before departing.

Quality of Your Driver

     Well, enough about the quality of the customer.  How about the driver?!  The quality of your driver should affect the tip they receive.  They are required to be in uniform and keep up their appearance.  They can have facial hair, rings, earrings etc… but are required to keep it trimmed and looking professional.  Did your driver arrive on time?  Sometimes it can’t be helped as the order is already late before it leaves the store.  If your pizza company has an online tracker, it should let you know when it left the store so you can tell how long the driver took in getting it to you.  Does your driver go the extra mile?  Do they have a GPS to increase efficiency?  Do they have a clipboard with non-slip gripping attached with their own pen which never fails to write?  Do they take their time getting out of their vehicle or rush to your door?  Is their car clean and professional looking?  Do they smile?  All of these can be used to determine the quality of your driver.  You’ll want to tip the higher quality driver more as you want to give them incentive to keep working so you can keep getting better service.

So, how much should I tip?

     This all depends on what kind of tipper you would like to be classified as and what kind of service you would like to receive.  If you want fast deliveries, extra sauces (drivers expense), and better food quality, then be a “good tipper”, $5.00+.  If food quality and delivery times do not matter then be an “average tipper”, $3.00.  Obviously no one wants poor service and delivery times but what can you do?

Restoring Your Reputation

     If you have tarnished your reputation, all is not lost.  You can very quickly recover from this set back by increasing your tips on your next order.  You can also state the tip to the person who is taking your order and they can add it on the comments section of your order.  A separate sticker will be printed out and can be placed on your pizza box where the driver will see it and adjust service accordingly.  If you state your tip over the phone and then fail to deliver without reasonable cause (e.g. late delivery), you can seriously damage your reputation and will only be able to restore it the longer way, tipping higher on every order after such an event.

How Can I Get Better Service

     It is very common for a driver to have a hard time finding your location due to poor lighting.  This can add several minutes to the delivery time so it would be best if you kept your porch light on (if applicable).  The exception to this is if your house number is right under the light which makes it unreadable as it blinds the driver.  Ensure that your house number is readable from the street in the dark to increase delivery times.  You can also make sure that there is a walking path to your door.  The delivery person does not want to walk all over your grass as yard maintenance is expensive and some people really don’t like people to walk on it.  They will try to walk on the path but sometimes it is blocked by vehicles which are parked too close, leaving no choice to the driver.

The Special Request

     Your local pizza shop is not against special requests as long as they are within reason.  They get quite a few people who try to get free food by requesting difficult items to make and then complaining about them to get another order while not returning the messed up item.  People who return the food uneaten are the customers who are legitimately complaining and will receive free items with no harm to their reputation.  The way pizza works is that toppings must be on the pizza for it to cook properly.  They cannot cook them separately as the dough would puff up and burn.  I have seen this request before.  It is usually requested by customers who fear under-cooked food.  All ingredients are pre-cooked or partially cooked and only require to be finished.  The oven has a rack that moves at a constant speed and maintains a temperature of 450-475F.  There should be no concern over if the food is cooked properly.  The food is so hot when it comes out it can actually blister you when you cut into it.  I still have a scare on my finger from a pepperoni that jumped off the pizza while I was cutting it.  Again, they are happy to accommodate your reasonable requests, just don’t get too crazy with it.