The Tipping Fatigue Struggle Is Real

The rising cost of goods and services has given some consumers pause over how much gratuity they are willing to leave at restaurants. With inflation continuing to reach near 40-year highs, tipping for takeout and delivery dropped to 14.5 percent in the second quarter of 2022. With the holidays coming up, restaurants don’t want to be caught short-staffed and underprepared for the increase in customer volume, as this can contribute to patron dissatisfaction and lower tips. They still have time to set themselves up for success and higher tipping potential. 

Food costs have been rising due to inflation, but Americans’ appetite for professionally prepared food remains. The Consumer Price Index for September shows an 8.5 percent increase over the last year for food away from home, indicating that inflation has made a significant impact. But a recent Deliverect global survey of 7,000 consumers shows more people today are purchasing up to three takeout or delivery orders per week than they were before the recent increase in cost of living. Today in the U.S., 42 percent of people receive up to three food deliveries a week, while pre-pandemic habits were closer to 40 percent. However, this is not to say that customers are ordering from the same restaurant every week. A multitude of factors are still playing into people’s decisions on where to eat, including delivery time, costs, and whether the restaurant fulfilled the order correctly.  

Restaurants are still facing key challenges post pandemic. Staffing shortages are continuing to plague many restaurants as in person dining and delivery orders begin to return to pre-pandemic levels, with over one million jobs left vacant. The labor shortage is not only being felt by restaurant owners and back of house workers. Nearly one third (31%) of U.S. consumers surveyed are most frustrated by long delivery times. Much of customer frustration stems from restaurants’ unreliability with orders, be they incomplete, delayed, or overpriced. This can lead to a loss in revenue over time and some customers may take their frustrations out on restaurants by offering little to no gratuity. A positive customer experience is part of what drives loyalty and even one bad experience when ordering takeout or delivery can result in a lack of repeat customers. More than a third of customers didn’t order from a restaurant again after they had a bad delivery experience and 23% of those same people told their friends or family not to buy from the restaurant either. Making sure kitchens are receiving clear orders will circumvent incorrect orders and ensure patrons have a positive impression of their dining experience. 

Proactive preparation can help restaurants avoid the pitfalls that can lead to irate or underwhelmed customers, who are unlikely to be big tippers. Several measures restaurants can take include: 

  • Integrating sales channels and Point-of-Sale systems to streamline orders. Employing back-of-house technology to centralize and collect orders in a single place can help workers minimize errors and save time. Orders can be automatically pushed straight to the kitchen and printed in one standardized format, improving operational flow and prep time.   
  • Automating order management. Ensuring that the order the kitchen receives is identical to what the customer asked for through automated technology will keep mistakes to a minimum and workers on task by circumventing the need to manually copy orders across various channels. This is especially critical when teams are moving quickly or are understaffed. 
  • Syncing menus across all channels to maintain consistency. Restaurants who update their menu on their website to reflect recent changes but fail to do so on their app or on third party delivery sites (e.g., Seamless, DoorDash, etc.) can disappoint customers who only learn of a specific item’s unavailability when their order arrives incorrectly or is delayed due to the miscommunication. Keeping menus automatically synced across multiple locations will help maintain customers’ expectations with what’s available at their favorite eatery. 

Providing customers with a positive experience, be it through takeout or delivery, is vital to a restaurant’s success, especially in this topsy-turvy climate. Inflation continues to impact consumers’ spending habits, and when customers lose faith in a restaurant’s reliability or have a less than stellar experience, they may not be inclined to tip as generously as they once did. In this busy holiday season, getting ahead of it through proactive staffing and menu management can send a strong message to customers that their satisfaction is paramount, and their loyalty is valued.