Industry Trends Tip Basics February 16, 2024 5 min read

The Gig Economy & Restaurant Staff

The Gig Economy & Restaurant Staff

Forget your usual order, because the restaurant industry is serving up a new dish – the rise of gig workers. From delivery drivers to kitchen prep staff, gig workers are filling in the staffing gaps. This trend throws traditional tipping culture into disarray. Let’s explore the challenges and potential solutions:

What is a Gig Worker? 

A gig worker is an individual who engages in temporary jobs, often within the service sector, as an independent contractor or freelancer. Think delivery drivers, freelance writers, or even cleaning service contractors. While they trade the stability of a full-time job for the freedom to set their own schedules, be their own boss, and even work remotely, there’s a flip side.

The Rise of Gig Workers in the Restaurant Industry

Gig workers are a double-edged sword for restaurants. They offer flexibility and cost savings by filling temporary needs and covering peak hours. However, inconsistent quality, training challenges, and potential employee resentment pose risks. Ultimately, responsible integration and fair treatment are key to unlocking the benefits of gig workers while ensuring a sustainable and ethical environment for everyone involved.

Tipping Traditions Face Modern Challenges:

Traditionally, tips have served as a form of customer appreciation for direct service received, primarily benefiting full-time waitstaff. This system works well for traditional table service where interaction fuels tip amounts. However, the gig economy introduces diverse roles like delivery drivers and kitchen prep staff who contribute significantly but may have less direct customer interaction, potentially limiting their access to tips. Studies even suggest gig workers receive significantly lower gratitudes compared to traditional staff, raising concerns about equitable compensation.

Example: Meet John, a student working as an Uber delivery driver. He hustles through traffic, his phone his lifeline, delivering pizzas. Unlike waiters directly interacting with customers, John rarely sees a dime in tips. This raises a crucial question: Are gig workers, like John, left out of the tipping equation?

Imagine Sarah, a seasoned waitress, navigating a packed dining room. Every smile, every refill, fuels her tip expectations. But with delivery apps surging, Sarah sees fewer tables, impacting her income. Is the shift towards online orders leaving waitstaff high and dry?

Impact of Gig Economy Apps on Restaurant Tipping Practices:

With more customers ordering through delivery apps, the traditional in-person tipping experience has evolved. Instead of tipping servers directly, customers are now prompted to tip delivery drivers through the app’s interface. This change has implications for both traditional restaurant staff and gig workers, as it alters the distribution of tips and can impact overall earnings.

Gig economy apps also influence customer tipping behavior. Research shows that customers tend to tip less when ordering through delivery apps compared to dining in at a restaurant. Factors such as convenience fees, delivery charges, and the lack of face-to-face interaction may contribute to this trend. Consequently, traditional restaurant staff may experience a decline in tips, while gig workers may struggle to earn a fair wage despite their efforts.

Here is a survey from Bankrate where they showcase key tipping insights: 

Can TipHaus Bridge the Gap?

TipHaus aims to simplify and streamline the tip process, potentially bridging this gap. By automating tip calculations and facilitating flexible payout options, the platform can ensure transparency and consistency for all tipped workers, regardless of their role. Features like pooled tipping models, where gratitudes are shared across the team, could directly benefit gig workers by including them in the tip ecosystem.

However, limitations exist. While TipHaus tackles calculation and distribution, gig workers may still perceive less opportunity to earn substantial tips compared to roles with direct customer interaction. Additionally, integrating gig workers into existing tip structures within a restaurant requires buy-in from both traditional staff and management.

Looking Ahead: Innovation and Solutions:

As the gig economy evolves, innovative solutions are needed to ensure fair compensation for all restaurant workers. Some possibilities include:

  • Dynamic Pricing and Service Fees: Adjust service fees and delivery charges based on peak times and demand. This allows restaurants to offer competitive wages for gig workers without placing the burden solely on customers. 
  • Customer Recognition Programs: Implement loyalty programs that reward customers for tipping fairly on delivery apps.  
  • Transparency and Communication: Foster open communication within the restaurant, involving all staff in discussions about tipping models and fairer compensation strategies. This builds trust, promotes collaboration, and empowers all workers to advocate for their needs.
  • Shared Tip Pools: Establish restaurant-wide tip pools that distribute gratitudes based on a weighted system considering hours worked, role complexity, and customer interaction. This ensures everyone, from servers to prep cooks and delivery drivers, shares in the rewards.


The gig worker wave has swept through the restaurant industry, reshaping the tipping landscape. Amidst the challenges lie opportunities for innovation and fairness.

From delivery drivers like John to seasoned servers like Sarah, everyone deserves fair compensation. Solutions like TipHaus are a start, but we need more – more transparency, flexibility, and a unified understanding of each role’s value.

Let’s rethink tipping beyond direct interaction, embrace dynamic pricing, and foster open communication within restaurants. The future of tipping doesn’t have to be a bitter pill. Working together, we can create a system that nourishes everyone who brings a dish to the table.

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