Do we tip on the wine?
- Clarice Jul 24, 2001 09:56 AM
Question for New York Chowhounds...
My husband and I are going to Daniel this week and were just wondering if we tip on the meal with or without the wine???
Any advice would be great.
My daughter and I were comped a bottle of champagne at a celebratory dinner this spring but since my daughter was pregnant (but not obviously ) we politely declined. I had a cocktail and wine by the glass with the tasting menu. My drinks were comped on our bill. We did take the alcohol into account though when we added the tip. That's how I did it, don't know if there's a "rule". pat
re: pat hammond
One normally does tip on the wine. You should tip on the total cost of the bill, less the tax. Since the tax in New York City is 8.25%, roughly doubling the tax, and rounding it off gives a little over 16%. If there is a sommelier, one usually tips the sommelier 5% of the wine bill. But if you do that, you tip 15% or so to the others.
I have eaten in many of the more expensive restaurants in NY on business, but never paid. So, I never saw the bill. Are you saying that the sponsor was supposed to tip $135 on a $900 bottle of wine? That's a nice tip for a little work. I am not a winehound, indeed I am ignorant of all but the basic wine knowledge and would be content if the sponsor spent a mere $50. Accordingly, I am clueless.
What is "corkage fee"?
re: pat hammond
Your post reminded me of an experinence I had at Le Cirque 10 years ago. Sorry to get off track. I sent them a letter about an aweful diner my wife and I had thier. Sirio (sp) wrote me back offering us a free lunch.
He met with us and sat us personally. He explained that we can eat whatever we wanted and if we did not see it on the menu, to ask. Anyway, we shared several drinks and a relatively expensive bottle of wine. Obviously, I expected to pay for the alcohol and tip, so asked for the check at the end. Sirio came back to the table and said "a check will not be necessary, lunch was compliments of the house." I was stunned. But, I was also at a complete loss as to how I should tip. I did not have any recollection of the price of our meals or the drinks. I could not guess within 50 bucks. I think I left a $100 tip, which made it the most expensive lunch I never paid for. True story!
Please don't take this the wrong way, but why would you (or anyone) think that you shouldn't tip on wine? Is it some vestige of puritan/prohibitionary practice? Is it an excuse for saving money?
As for as I'm concerned wine is served like anything else, and, given the custom in u.s. restaurants, a tip is obligatory. I recognize that some people think that it is ridiculous to tip the same percentage for an expensive bottle of wine, in the several hundred dollar range, as one would for a more modest bottle. After all, there's isn't much difference in service is there? Actually there might be. Having worked as a sommelier, I can tell you that we treated service differently for expensive bottles than others. We used better glasses and, depending on the wine, could take great pains to decant the wine "properly," with bottle cradles, candles, etc. We also made greater efforts to see that the wine was served properly throughout the evening, forbidding other waitstaff, who haven't properly trained, to touch the wine.
Few suggest that you tip a smaller percentage on the steak that costs $35 versus the chicken that costs $19. So, why suggest the same for wine (and I don't mean that you are necessarily saying that, but others do)? If a wine is really, really expensive, several hundred dollars or more, one can leave ten percent. Don't, however think that throwing down a twenty will do the trick. If one can't afford the tip, he or she can't afford the wine. Incidentally, except for dining in them, I have nothing to do with restaurants these days, and have to shell out like everyone else.
Incidentally, each restaurant has a different policy when it comes to sharing tips. Some houses accumulate all the night's tips into one pool and distribute them according to a predetermined formula. Sometimes sommeliers are not included in this distribution because it is assumed that customers, following a some vague, archaic tradition, will tip the sommelier on their own. If you want to guarantee that a sommelier receives a gratuity, I suggest you tip him or her separately. If it is "shared" house, he or she can always add that tip to the pool and receive his or her cut. And, if you don't feel that you received "proper" service, whether advise or attention, follow the same custom you would if food service was not to standard: reduce the tip. In NY, custom has that the minimal tip be 15% of the pre-tax total. Twenty percent has become more common, as well as the practice of doubling the tax, yielding a 16.5% tip. If you've received poor service (and servers usually know when they're not doing a proper job), a fifteen percent tip - less, of course if really aweful, plus a chat with the manager/owner) will convey your displeasure.
Daniel has a tremendous wine list, including many wines that are very reasonably priced. Just make sure to ask the sommelier for assistance. He or she will guide you well.
While I have no objection to separately tipping the sommelier, I think it's the restaurant's job to distribute the tip and mine to leave it. Unless one of the employees does something exceptional, I rarely tip out separately; I leave 15-25 percent and assume everyone is going to get some. If that doesn't happen, well, it's not my problem.
re: Ira Kaplan
i don't disagree. i think that all employees (including the kitchen) should get a cut of the pool. i was just pointing out that if someone really wants to tip the sommelier for rendering particularly excellent service should be aware that leaving a larger general tip might not get to the sommelier at all. i wouldn't give the sommelier, or any particular employee, a special tip unless he or she provided service that was far better than everyone else's. either.
JR, I didn't think you were disagreeing with me, and in fact I agree with you, too, that it's nice to recognize great wine service with an extra something for the sommelier, especially when unsure whether he or she will be participate in the pool. I just wanted to clarify the way the tip pool works at Daniel, since that's specifically what Clarice asked about...
re: Leslie Brenner
i was actually responding to ira kaplan's statement that unless a particular server is extraordinary, he leaves a general 15-25% tip - adding that it's not his problem how the house decides to dole it out. my point was that i think he's right, but if one leaves an especially large general tip because he or she wants to reward the sommelier for exceptionial service, he or she ought to be aware that the money might not end up in the intended pockets.
JR, as you suggest, at Daniel, all the tips are indeed pooled, and the sommeliers receive a fixed percentage of tips. However, since some people do tip sommeliers in cash, at Daniel sommeliers only participate in the credit card tip pool, not the cash tip pool.
(DISCLOSURE: I have something of a connection with the restaurant, since I'm writing a book about it.)
Having just read and posted on the other wine tipping thread, I am re-posting a good portion( with minor adjustments) of that post here along with some elaboration as i think several points germane to the issue of tipping on wine in specific as well as tipping in general.
I truly don't think anybody who has eaten out more than a few times would argue with the fact that there can be a vast difference in the skill level of service from server to server as well as from resto to resto.
Perhaps rather than setting an arbitrary and self-serving base rate for tipping, diners should tip according to the level of service they receive. This would mean taking into account all aspects of service, were the glasses and silver on your table polished or full of streaks and fingerprints, was your service informative and polite or passive and non-descript. Did you have to ask for water refills and silverware for the next course or did your meal proceed seamlessly throughout. The better the service the better the tip including the $1000 bottle of wine or the $100 dollar entree. Usually just the fact that the person is employed in a resto that has bottles of wine sold for thousands of dollars indicates a certain level of experience and knowledge as well as mechanical and mental skill. If you receive average to poor service the tip should reflect that, if you receive good to great service the tip should reflect that as well.
There seems to be many diners who espouse the ideal that the more expensive an item or the bill, the the lower the tip percentage should be as there is no added skill.
If anybody thinks that working in a good to great expensive restaurant is "simple, unskilled, or basic labor" that person should try doing that same job first before judging the difficulty and or skills required. Generalizing about service in all restos being "basic labor with a little people skills mixed in" is like claiming there is no difference between a perfectly ripe heirloom tomato from a local sustainable farmer to the gas ripened Mexican tomato with the texture of styrofoam from a big box store.
Those diners who would make no distinction between different tomatoes or different levels of service should stick to the styrofoamy big box tomato as the sustainably grown heirloom would just be a basic tomato with a little different color.
>diners should tip according to the level of service they receive
i think you are still missing the point [as is clearly demonstrated by the
if i order a large pizza and a pitcher of coke, the difference betwee +1sd*
service and -1sd service is simply not that big, and guess what,
the difference between a +1sd tip and -1sd tip isnt that big either
on the attendant $25 bill. and guess what again, nobody is looking
for +3sd service here.
so it doesnt matter whether the dood serving you can tell you about the
history of the pizza since etruscan times. the question never arises.
and if the server did proceed with the lecture, and in return expects
a 30% tip, to compensate his rare talent, i think you as a diner can reject
this "bundling". in these scearios, i dont think anybody thinks too hard
about the "earned tip percentage".
however, there is opportunity to "show your stuff" and tell the difference
between good/bad/ok service in a 4hr tasting menu type meal. this is
called "resolving power". many of us feel, a $500 bottle of wine:
1. has less resolving power than 4 x $125 tasting menus
2. the +3sd experience isnt desired when it comes to the wine ... or
at least some parts of the +3sd experience are "returns to capital" and
not "earned for service' [e.g. the restaurant owner is to be compensated
for having extra expensive glasses for extra expensive wine ... and
many of us feel with the 300-400% markup on wine, he is reasonably
anyway, this isnt a great forum for a nuanced economic analysis,'but i'll
meantion two other things:
1. a resto has a spectrum of offerings from service to retail.
when i buy a complicated dish from a restaurant, i am paying for
ingredient procurement, selection, preparation, a venue to consume it,
the plates, the service etc. if i get a bottle of the resto's special bbq
sauce, that is a pure retail transaction. the resto is basically a store.
wine is somewhere in the middle. when i buy a 300% mark up bottle
of wine, it's mostly a retail transaction. the tipping RANGE
reasonably follows this spectrum as it goes from service-domainated
transaction to a financial/retail transaction: max tip for "extended dining" [say
18-25%] to no tip at the resto's souvenir shop. middle tip for take out food [0-10%] ...
wine also is in the middle, and certainly isnt in the 0-10%, but i also dont
think it should be in the 15-20% range.
2. i was going to talk about the "bundling" problem but i'm out of
energy to do so. basically the idea is there is a social contract between
the diner and the resto ... e.g. that tipping is not really optional, but
it's not reasonable to force a patron into +3sd service and obligate him
to pay for it. the flip side of "diner's should tip on the service they
recieve" is "should a no fuss diner who let's the service off easy
be allowed to lowball his tips" ... say you bring me a pastrami sandwich
instead of the roast beef i ordered, can i just say "i'll just eat the
pastrami and dock your tip". you no doubt feel the customer is obligated
to let you make it up and earn your tip. but that contradicts what you are
saying, since a valid way for the customer to look at this is "i've already
rec'd bad service and getting a new sandwich doesnt compensate me
as much as saving $2 on my tip" ... i'm not defending the customer
docking your tip when you offer to fix the problem, but my point is things
are more complicated than you make out.
3. by the logic of many of you claiming same tipping percentage on
high end wine, high end wines should have higher corkage fees.
[which i think is probably defensible on the planet vulcan, but might
irritate earthing diners]. do any restos actually charge high corkage
on a $500 bottle than a $50?
4. there have been other discussions about this, but i still
wonder about the "high end diner's social contract" to order
wine at a high end resto. i have to say i feel a little pressure
to do so, eventhough i dont get that much milage out of
wine [again given the 300% markup] ... and much of the
"pressure/social contract" is from my fellow diners who do
see wine as a mandatory presenence for a high end meal.
but these "if you can afford the wine, you can afford the tip"
types really do cause me to consider their position less
sympathetically when i reflect on these social contract issues.
[i wonder if some of these really believe "if you can afford the
tasting menu, you can afford a bottle of wine to go with it."
or for some "if you are too lame to get a decent bottle of
wine with our excusite cuisine, you dont really deserve to
eat here." ... excepting religous non-drinkers, pregnant people etc].
[*+1sd means +1 standard deviation, which is a way of dealing with
scale factors ... e.g. say the police decided to give speading tickets to
people driving faster than 80% of the traffic, that might be 7mph over the
speed limit on a city road, but 18mph over the limit on the fwy].
"but my point is things are more complicated than you make out."
I agree completely with you that things are much more complicated than you make out. Perhaps that is part of the problem, but that is another discussion.
By creating a separate category for wine, you have made things more complicated. By comparing a $500 bottle of wine to a pitcher of coke you have now oversimplified the variables.
As is evidenced by not understanding the tomato reference though, the wine to coke comparison is put into perspective. I will maintain that anybody who cannot see the difference between tomatoes or between fine wine and pitchers of coke. should probably stick to the pitchers of coke. IF that diner chooses to spend their money on a bottle of wine, they should expect as much service (in the form of information, selling, care with product, understanding of the nuances of flavors and pairings, etc.)as they do in the ordering of 4x $125 tasting menus.
As for the implied social contract you claim. Rather than tipping only because a diner feels obligated to, My thoughts are that the diner should tip on the service they receive, good or bad. While some might find it convenient to put words in my mouth, for the convenience of their own arguments, nowhere have I said anything about customers being obligated to do anything other than be consistent. If you would rather eat the pastrami and not tip, then feel free to do so ( please note that all of the above comparisons used for the sake of refuting my points are from fast service or casual service situations, not full service or fine dining situations). I have also never advocated the idea that "if you can afford the bottle you can afford the tip. IMO that is an amateur approach to what should be a professional situation. Somewhat along the lines of telling a Mercedes driver that they have to put high octane in their tank because they can obviously afford it.
By your own admission you "don't get that much mileage out of wine".
If this is the case then you should order what you do get mileage out of, whether that be tap water or straight gin. The follow up to that is that you should also tip appropriate to the service you receive for those things. If you never get a water refill, or your straight gin is in a dirty glass then those variables should figure in to what tip is given.
Referring back to 1:
you have allocated many factors that can go into the food (which i can wholeheartedly agree with), and completely ignore the many factors that can go into the wine. I fail to see how a wine purchase is in any way different than a food purchase. For a diner who pointed out all of the complications in these scenarios, it boggles the mind to try to understand how every part of the dining experience can be so complex, except wine and it's service. If the service staff is informative, helpful graceful, timely, and accurate with the wine just as they should be with the food, then how is this a retail transaction. IF you receive poor or lackadaisical service with respect to any aspect of your meal, that should be reflected in the tip, rather than a based on what any one item cost.
Diners will tip according to their own prerogative. Which is why it is called a gratuity. But for a diner to justify over or under tipping based on simplistic and juvenile arguments such as " if you can afford the bottle you can afford the tip", or conversely " all they did was open up the bottle, how is that service" confounds me. If a diner can appreciate the intricacies and skill involved in great food, and great wine, how is that any different than great service, whether for food or for beverage.
Yes, you should tip on wine. There is a lot of discussion over the difference in a $20 bottle or $500+ bottle. If you don't want to tip 18-20% on a $500 bottle then don't but keep in mind your servers tip-out to the assistants, bar, host, ect. on the total of the bill. They still have to tip-out on the wine whether or not you tip.
When I go somewhere fairly normal (one server per table), I always tip 20-25%, including the price of the wine. When I go somewhere a bit more upscale (L' Espalier in Boston, for example), there's a dedicated sommelier, and multiple wait staff, do I tip the sommelier separately from the group for that 20% of the wine (and remove that from the general tip), or tip him a little bit if he's been helpful ($20), and assume that some portion of my tip is going to go to him? It sounds like I should do the later from the above discussion, but in the past I've tipped the staff %20, then the sommelier 10%. That adds up when your initial meal price is >$500.
i'm pretty sure (i can only speak for the restaurants i know) that sommelier is a manager position. he/she gets a salary and in some places may get a cut of the tippool. so it's not proper to tip the sommelier. the waiter gets minimum hourly wage (or less) and relies on tips.
i think in the old days it was common practice to go around tipping everyone separately with cash- the maitre d', the wine steward, the waiter, etc. now that we have credit cards the "system" has evolved into tipping an appropriate percentage on the whole bill and the restaurant divides it up.
so...my advice. decide what tip you want to leave and trust the staff to divide it amongst themselves.
but...if there's one person who did extra for you- say a busboy who returned to fill up your water/coffee while your server was busy- there's absolutely nothing wrong with slipping him a few dollars.
Can I just add that waiting tables is a sales job and that in most sales job the salesman earns more money on more expensive items. Granted the sales commission is included in the price, but if someone sells you a Mercedes instead of a VW you don't give a flat fee, the commission is based on the price of the item. But would we be having a discussion about the fact that the salesman did the exact same sales job for both items? Or that one doesn't take any more knowledge than the other? If tips were added into restaurant bills, I'm pretty sure the percentage would be based on the total of the bill.
Having bought both low and high end cars in his life, jfood would disagree that the two salespeople are the same.
The MB/BMW salepeople are significantly more trained and understanding than the Buick/VW salepeople jfood has met.
Likewise the difference in the resto servers at a high end resto and a diner. Both perform their roles but there is a difference, let's be fair.
The point you make, jfood, about there being a difference in training and knowledge at different levels (and therefore price points) of service, is one that bears repeating. it also bears on the question of tipping on wine. Earlier on this thread you laid out a series of scenarios of wine service ranging from expensive wines to byobs, noting that at a byob, the server doesn't get a tipped percentage, yet still opens the wine. True, but that server doesn't need to spend time learning a wine list, putting away cases of wine, coming in early for wine tastings and to talk to wine reps.
I'm not saying that there is a completely proportional difference between opening a $50 bottle and opening a $200 bottle. However, wine service and developing wine knowledge is time-consuming, and it goes far beyond the actual opening at the table.
And, before I get a host of flaming emails about how learning wine is part of the job and if servers don't like it they should go get other jobs, it *is* part of the job. And that's one of the reasons servers are tipped on wines. They don't get paid to come in an hour early and do wine tastings, but after doing so they can better help you select a wine that you'd like, better know which wines will pair with which foods, and which wines need to be decanted. Then they see financial compensation in their tips.
Servers at diners or less expensive restaurants and chains don't spend nearly as much time outside of work learning about food and drink, and that's one of the reasons they often earn less.
jfood absolutely agrees with what you say, that the knowledge base that servers achieve by that extra work should be compensated. Any flamers on that should think twice because many of us have spent thousands of hours of our "own" time learning how to do our jobs better. It's part of trying to get ahead.
At some point though there is a theory of diminishing returns. Let's take the high end, a $400 and a $4000 bottle of wine. You probably want someone who has knowledge in both cases. But does the server deserve 10X the tip if the custo orders the $4000? Just a hard argument to accept.
And the point of the jfood scenarios is to show how utterly silly the whole discussion can become. Notice how jfood did not come to or offer conclusion or position, just the scenarios. Heck for silliness how about the argument that the reso has decidied that corkage is $25. That's the value add that the market (in this case the resto) has decided. Then custo leaves the tip based on the $25 corkage value-add (at 20% the custo leaves $5, irrespective of the bottle ordered) even if custo orders a $500 bottle. Talk about silliness.
So jfood's thoughts are that the apps, entrees, desserts all have a pretty tight price range and that the tip based on a standard percentage is a good proxie. Once you get to the wine list where the price from lowest to highest may be many multiples, the water does get a little murky.
I agree about the diminishing returns, which is why I not it's not directly proportional. I think it makes sense to tip a smaller percentage on very expensive wines, and lots of people do so. As a customer, I can't afford very expensive winse, so it's not an issue I have to deal with. I tip the same percent on wine as I do on food.
When I was a server who sold very expensive wines, I would generally figure people would tip less--i think 10% is reasonable on expensive bottles. However, some tipped a full 20 on really pricey bottles and I was quite glad to receive it. I realize that where you draw the line between inexpensive and expensive is complex, and that's a whole 'nother story.
To use your $400/$4000 example. If were given an $80 tip on a $400 bottle of wine I'd be beside myself--I wouldn't have expected it. If I sold a $4000 bottle of wine, I would have gotten a manager, or perhaps the sommelier to open it. There's no way I would want to be responsible for something that expensive. I would have been nervous every time I refilled glasses for fear of spilling a drop. to be honest, I wouldn't want the stress of serving a $4000 bottle of wine.
most high end restos have at least 5% tip-out. so on a $4000 btl the server pays out $200. regardless of what the tip you leave is.
we can debate all day on multiple threads (oh wait, we are!) on what the tip should be on such a bottle, and how tippool systems aren't our concern, but at the end of the day the server WILL have to pay $200.
keep that in mind.
here's a suggestion....
say you order a $4000 bottle, and you genuinely think $100 is an appropriate tip. fine. why not speak to the manager and explain how you feel and kindly ask him to arrange it so that the server is still taken care of. then wouldn't everyone win? maybe if the super high end diners raised some awareness in the right way restaurants would eventually change their tippool policies to make exceptions in these cases.
that said, i hope one day i'm in a position to walk into a restaurant and order a $4000 bottle of wine. and if i am in that position, you bet i'll tip my server a rediculous amount. ;)
re: excuse me miss
I hate to disagree with you (excuse me miss), since I enjoy so many of your posts, but in my experience, tip outs vary. Most high end (actually, I think all of them) restaurants I have worked in work tip outs by percentage of tips not sales. I also think that selling a $4000 bottle is such a rarity, that the restaurant would work something out with the tip out so the server is not screwed of of her night's pay.
and for the millionth time--the government taxes waiters on what they declare. the government does not automatically tax them on a certain amount. However, most restaurants insist that servers declare a minimum percentage of their sales each night--8% and 12% are the most common numbers I've seen.
thank you nc for the government and tax point. jfood thought he was solo on this point. yes the resto can file its "employye estimate" but the employee files his/her 1040 like the rest of us with the actual amount. therefore records need to be kept on a daily basis in the event of audit. the waiter, the busboy and the owner of the resto are subject to the same tax regulations as the rest of us.
so it's probably different in the USA, but ALL the restaurants i have worked in (in the past 8 years) and where friends have worked tip out on percentage of SALES, not tips. my SO and i currently tipout 6% of sales in high end resto serving positions.
i know in CANADA when i tax is deductued from my paycheck, it's only based on my hourly (less than minimum) wage. when i do my yearly taxes, since i am a server i must put something down for tips and as long as it's a reasonable looking amount they don't look twice. if they were to audit THEN they would look at all things- like my sales.
re: excuse me miss
Actually, all the high end resto's that I know of in the US tipout is based on sales and if you get no tip ( as I did last night, when a table separated off the wine and left zero on that portion) you still tip out on that sale, ie. I tipped out 7 dollars on the 80 dollar sale. And no, most managers won't allow you to not tip out, they figure it all comes out in the wash. Which means when some one is very generous you get extra and it balances out those zero tippers.
I completely agree with jfood in that the discussion does become a little silly after a certain point.
How can the theory of diminishing returns apply to only service staff in restaurants.
As jfood has acknowledged there is a parallel between car salespeople and service staff. Perhaps real estate brokers can fit in this model as well, where the order of difference between a house that sells for $100,000 and a house that sells for $1,000,000 is even larger when you break the commission down to actual dollars rather than percentages.
I will agree that "You probably want someone who has knowledge in both cases.", and would add that any reasonable person can apply the same thinking to different sales situations, regardless of the product involved in the transaction.
I find it odd that the principles of economics, or the principles of fairness, or a combination of both can be applied in such a haphazard way to the dining process, especially when it is compared to other buying situations in everyday life.
Whether the diner chooses to look at the dining experience from a basic transactional viewpoint, or from an emotional experiential viewpoint there are going to be differences in levels of quality for food, service and atmosphere. If the diner can recognize the difference and willingly pay for the difference between levels of quality for food and atmosphere, I find it hard to believe that this same diner is unwilling to recognize the difference between levels of quality for service. Unfortunately, judging from the fact that this post has drawn so many responses, while seemingly all diners recognize the difference in levels of service (sadly) not all diners are willing to pay for that difference.
>Perhaps real estate brokers can fit in
>this model as well, where the order of
>difference between a house that sells for
>$100,000 and a house that sells for
>$1,000,000 is even larger when you
>break the commission down to actual
>dollars rather than percentages.
this is much discussed. see e.g. the NYT Magazine article by
the Freakonomists ...
which cased some waves [or gnashing of teeth
and frothing at the mouth, among those whose ox/commisions
were being being gored].
note: the issue isnt just ability to tell the difference between service
bands but the bundling of the service and food product ... if i get a
$1000 wine, can i opt to have in in the "regular" wine glasses and
otherwise say i am ok with $500bottle level of service?
to say "no" would be sort of a form of upselling [although again,
"bundling" or "tying" is the better term].
what makes the tip case different from real estate fees, or travel agent
fees, or lawyer's contingency fees is those are contractual and agreed
to ahead of time, but the tip if dicreationaly but bound by convention ...
which isnt arbitrarily broad, but obviously vaguer than the precise fees
in the other cases [there are some other difference as well, but we dont
need to go there ... providing a serivice vs. information, no self-help option
in a resto etc].