Tipping Etiquette 101: Do You Tip At Sonic?

Do You Tip At SonicA shift in our culture has occurred. It happened when the flow of currency went paperless. Most companies adjusted accordingly. One occupation slipped through the cracks, however. To this day, it’s hard to get a unified answer from managers, employees, and customers on what is the right thing to do. One such question we’ll explore today is: Do you tip at Sonic?

I’m not here to cram my opinions down your throat, simply to explore this topic to its fullest. Should carhops receive a tip for the services they perform?

Tipping Etiquette 101: Do You Tip At Sonic?

We typically tackle topics like extreme frugality and chopping debt here at ELYM. Today, let’s open the floor for some discussion about your own opinions on gratuity at drive-ins.

If you’ve never visited a Sonic Drive-In to sample one of their SuperSonic Double Cheeseburgers with chili cheese fries, you’re missing out. You’ve also never experienced being waited on by a car hop.

A carhop is simply a server at a drive-in restaurant.

Many drive-in restaurants take your order via a device at your parking space. The carhop typically delivers your food (either by roller skates or on foot), runs your transaction, and leaves you be. Others come and check on your periodically. But since this style of restaurant is somewhat like fast food, is a tip expected?

First, let’s look at their wages.

People discussed their own views and experiences about wages at Sonic in a discussion on Reddit. When one user asked if Sonic employees still receive tips now that credit machines are in place, the answers were mixed.

“I live in TX and the Sonic I worked at paid us about $6 an hour,” wrote one Reddit user. “The Sonic about 10 miles down the road paid their car hops a little over $2 but I heard that was I busier Sonic so they were expected to get more tips.”

Another Reddit user wrote, “…the car hops only make minimum wage for tipped employees, meaning they get paid the same hourly as the server at Applebee’s across the street. If they don’t receive enough tips they end up being paid enough to make it minimum wage overall for hours worked.”

Others observed that a Sonic they’d visited did not include a “Tip” area on their credit card slip. To them, this answered the question that no gratuity was expected.

If it’s true that car hops receive minimum wage (currently $7.25 per hour), then they’re not in the same financial position as traditional restaurant servers earning a few dollars per hour of base pay before tips. If some Sonic Drive-Ins do pay a lower rate with the expectation of tips, I truly hope that is made clear to the patrons on the credit slip.

Based on the information we’ve reviewed, the general consensus appears to be:

Tipping isn’t expected at Sonic, but it’s welcome.

What say you?

Now that we’ve covered what others think about tipping car hops, it’s time for you to weigh in. Do you tip at Sonic? Have you worked in a drive-in before and can share your insights? Share below!


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Image Credit: Mike Mozart (Creative Commons)


  1. says

    That’s a tough one because I generally only tip when I have been seated to eat. I never to tip when picking up food. Sonic is in a grey area, but, not to sound harsh but I’m not tipping.

  2. Laura Harris says

    I totally understand, George. Definitely a gray area. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us!