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Proper tip on wine? Seeking waiter's perspective

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Many of you may have read a recent article where a wealthy man had spent an obscene amount of money on wine while dining. The Wine far exceeded the food bill. The total was in the thousands for food and wine.
What is appropriate in this situation with regards to tipping. If one tips twenty percent on the food, my question is as was posed in the article, what is the appropriate percentage for wine which may exceed the food by hundreds or thousands and is often self poured. Where does the waiter weigh in on such a scenario.

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  1. If there was a wine steward involved (as one might expect in such a scenario), the question is not necessarily going to be answered by the waiter but by the older custom of how to tip a wine steward or sommelier.

    1. If you buy a special bottle of wine, and there's a wine wait[er|ress], a wine steward[ess], a sommeli[er|ère], or whatever you want to call it, it's polite to invite him or her over to have a bit of the wine. I've never bought a thousand-dollar bottle of wine but I don't think I'd tip $200 on it.

      I could be totally wrong and rude, though.

      1. This is one area where it may be helpful to know your state's income tax law as relates to income from tips. When I was waiting tables, I remember having to report 8% of the total of my tickets for the evening (and I can't remember if that was 8% of pre- or post- sales tax). The appropriate income tax on that 8% was then deducted from my paycheck (the whopping $2.01/hr I was making). If an expensive wine was ordered, it was included on my evening total, and I would be taxed on it. I understand completely not wanting to tip $200 for a bottle of wine (even if it is a $1000 bottle), but at the same time, I would hate to be responsible for a server getting taxed for income he did not receive. I have no idea what the laws regarding tips and income tax are, state-to-state, but I imagine that every state has at least some reporting regulation to cover federal income taxes.

        Anyone else know more about the tax angle?

        1. all tips are required to be reported... not just 8% of sales. but since a lot of wait staff don't report all their tips, or in the absence of documentation as to the actual amount of tips received, tip income can be re-calculated based on the average tips for the area, type of restaurant, etc. I think that is why most restaurants end up using some sort of construct like the 8%.

          frankly.. I have to pay taxes on every dollar I earn, i don't see why it should be any different for wait staff.

          and if you have the cash to spend that much money on wine... and assuming you are eating in a restaurant that offers full wine service & probably a sommelier... then why stiff the waiter on the tip? there is a lot of extra work that goes in to properly decanting and serving wine.

          20 Replies
          1. re: withalonge

            What's the extra effort between decanting and serving a $100 bottle of wine and a $1000 bottle of wine, besides $180 in tip?

            I'm not trying to be mean, and I did work as a waiter, but I never got tipped 20% on fancy bottles of wine.

            1. re: Das Ubergeek

              well, I would assume that if you ordered a bottle that cost $1,000 vs. $100, there would be a elevated level of "wine service". i.e. at that level one would think that you wouldn't be pouring your own wine at all... perhaps fresh glasses with new bottles, etc. so I do think that there is extra effort, time and expense involved.

              sure there is a line there where 15%-20% of the cost of the wine is a bit steep for a tip, but I guess my point is that if you're that serious of a wine drinker... and are at an establishment that recognizes that, then don't be cheap. I would think the tip should at the very least cover the normal corkage charge, plus.

              1. re: withalonge

                Poppycock! Pouring wine is pouring wine!


                1. re: TexasToast

                  Balderdash TT!

                  I disagree.. you order a bottle of wine in one restaurant and you get 1. the bottle opened and 2. the first glass poured. you order a bottle of wine at another restaurant and you never have to pick up the bottle after it is opened.. *and* you get fresh glasses if you switch from white to red.. or even between varietals. there is totally a difference in levels of "wine service". not to mention getting a "uhm, we have a house red and a house white" vs. "the chardonnay would be a much better accompaniment to your pasta madame".

                  1. re: withalonge

                    The OP asked about whether the tip should be increased for a really expensive wine. The post I replied to said that there would be a different level of service simply because one wine cost more than another. While that may be true, why SHOULD it be? It takes no more effort to pour a $10 bottle, than it does a $1000 bottle. The act of physically pouring the wine into a glass is EXACTLY the same, no matter what the cost of the bottle.


                    1. re: TexasToast

                      Your wrong....A $1000 bottle a wine should never be treated the same as a $10 bottle of wine. From the way it's handled, to the way it's presented, uncorked, aerated, and poured. Every aspect should be handled with a lot of care and calmness.

                      1. re: Infomaniac

                        Are these things ever priced into the price of the bottle?

                        1. re: MMRuth

                          I would think so, but I'm not 100% sure.
                          I've never ordered a $1000.+ bottle, but have seen one refused after it was presented, looked at, smelled and tasted. What happens to that bottle after it has been opened?
                          My host was never charged, and his excuse was accepted by the restaurant. I'll have to ask him about that the next time I talk to him.
                          The whole scene was not ordinary though, and it was handled in a manor that I had never experienced with food or wine.

                          1. re: Infomaniac

                            Infomaniac, sometimes the wine is corked, or bad. In that case, it would be sent back and the restaurant would receive credit from the seller for the wine. On occasion, the wine may be fine, but the restaurant chooses to make a VIP guest happy, accept their opinion of the wine being bad, and then offer it by the glass to other VIP guests or drink it and use it for (very expensive) server training!

                            1. re: psfoodgirl

                              if the wine is bad the resto gets a refund.

                              if the wine was fine the resto can always sell it off by the glass.

                              1. re: psfoodgirl


                                [I know that this is an old thread, but was recently cited on a much more recent, and very similar one.]

                                You are correct. With a good relationship between the restaurant, and the distributor (in a 3-tier system), all flawed wines should be credited. [In many cases, the individual purchaser, and drinker, is sort of "out of luck," unless they do really good business with the retailer, from whom they purchased that bottle, six years ago - last month, then it usually works the same way.]

                                Restaurants DO have to "eat" good wine, and it's usually due to a patron's ego, or lack of knowledge. When that happens, a good sommelier, who knows his "room," will approach other patrons, and make them a great deal. I have been the recipient of such an instance, maybe a dozen times. Even if the wine did not really fit into my dishes, if it was interesting enough, or perhaps a really "great deal," I normally helped out, and did some B-T-G selections, that would normally not be there. In a very few instances, I have had two glasses of the returned wine poured, and gifted to us, but the general idea, is to recoup some ROI, and I understand that.

                                In my observations (when I was near-by), the return was usually part of a show by the patron, or was due to their lack of knowledge, but tempered by their ego. One was the return of a Le Montrachet, because, "As any fool knows, all Burgundies are RED!" That one yielded the entire bottle for us, at about 1/4 of the listed price - it was great! Right time - right place, and a sommelier who knew that we loved Montrachets, especially Le Montrachet. And, of course, we got to wink and nod, over the other patron's "knowledge" of wines, and especially those of Burgundy.


                            2. re: MMRuth

                              MMRuth, which things? The tip no. The expense of storing a wine like this, yes, but has no impact on the server - the house has the expense and charges for it.

                              1. re: psfoodgirl

                                And the return should go to the resto that took that risk. The waiter did not take the risk of all these items and should not benefit as the resto does. He should get a good amount for the pour, not all the other stuff that went into the bottle being so expensive.

                              2. re: MMRuth


                                [I know that this is an old thread, but was recently cited on a much more recent, and very similar one.]

                                The restaurant should normally factor in such aspects, reflected in the price of the wine.

                                One often sees this reflection with different vintages. Let's take out many Old World vintages, as they DO change, and prices can fluctuate, depending on what the winemaker thinks the market can bear. If one considers older bottles of wine X, from Napa, it is likely that the restaurant, if they have a serious wine program, will purchase that wine from the same distributor, as the next vintage of the same wine. Due to fluctuations with inflation, the older vintage might have actually cost less, that more recent vintages, but because of the storage, and the longer term for ROI, the older will likely be priced above the next, and the next vintages. This is not always the case, and seldom accurately reflects, say Bdx. vintages, where a great vintage can double, or triple, the price of the otherwise same wine, to the restaurant. With such vintages, the 2005 might well be more expensive, than the 2004 (random examples), because of the market's perceived value, though the cost of storage, and the time for ROI, to the restaurant, is greater, for the '04.

                                When discussing regions/countries, where "vintage" have less impact, the older (though possible less expensive in the $'s of that day) is likely to be more expensive, because of storage, and ROI.


                              3. re: Infomaniac

                                Of course you CAN treat the two bottles differently, infomaniac, but the actual pouring remains the same. You can choose to alter it, but it's not necessary to the defacto pouring.


                              4. re: TexasToast

                                Actually TexasToast and Das Ubergeek - Infomaniac is correct and you are wrong. More expensive wines tend to be older and therefore must be handled differently. It takes much more care to open a 20 yr old Bordeaux than a 6 month old chardonnay. If you shake or spin the bottle while opening the sentiment will stir up into the wine (not good). If you poor it too fast it will stir. You may need to decant it. To imply that opening a bottle is just opening a bottle is just not the way it is! I also HOPE a restaurant serving $1000 bottle of wine does offer better service than one serving a $10 bottle (by the way – where IS this restaurant!?) Do I think you need to tip 20% on a $1000 bottle of wine? No. But as someone who has worked in the industry for years, the portion of a server’s tip that they have to give to other people is often based on their sales and can be as much as 45% of what they started with. 20% on food and then 10% to 15% on expensive wine would make most servers happy I think, but then what is expensive? I agree with asiege2, when the wine reaches the value of the dinner and or over $200, 10% is appropriate. If you want to be really nice, offer a taste!

                          2. re: withalonge

                            See below I do not drink so I am an outside looking in observer.

                            If the definition of elevated is fresh glasses with a new bottle, isn't there a new ringy on the register and tip meter with the new bottle. I think the resto and the waiter got that covered.

                          3. re: Das Ubergeek

                            whats the extra effort between carrying a hot dog or a filet mignon to the table, besides the amount of the tip?

                            i always tip with the wine price included

                            1. re: thew


                              [I know that this is an old thread, but was recently cited on a much more recent, and very similar one.]

                              There is not that much difference, but you are aware of the differences between a 1er Cru Bdx., with some years on it, and a hot-dog - at least by your next statement.


                        2. when I have a big night out and spend big bucks on wine I ask for two checks - 1 for food and 1 for wine - then I tip according to the services provided by each staff. (typically 25% for food and 10 % for wines.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: drobbia

                            That's an interesting approach. It tries to get back to the traditional tip for wine stewards, which IIRC was 10% (higher for cheap wines, lower for very expensive wines; and the invitation to share a bit).

                            1. I'm probably atypical in this respect, but as a waiter I don't mind a customer tipping significantly less on a bottle as the bottle price rises or as bottles accumulate. If the kitchen doesn't accidentally flambe your tartare and I keep up my end of the deal, I expect that I'll receive somewhere in the neighborhood of 20% on food and the same amount on wine itself.

                              That is until wine reaches something like 100% of food costs. Once you've spent as much on wine as you have on food I think slack is in order. I think 10% or so is still warranted after you've reached/surpassed food costs, but 20% gets a little crazy. That said, once the price of a bottle passes $200 or so, it's just kind of greedy to expect 20% (in my opinion!).

                              I've never really thought that out before, so I'm not sure that makes perfect sense, but it seems about right to me.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: asiege2

                                I second that, Asiege. The tip percentage generally goes down for pricey bottles. Occasionally people will tip 20% on really expensive bottles, but I considered that a bonus/windfall, certainly not what was expected.

                                1. re: asiege2


                                  [I know that this is an old thread, but was recently cited on a much more recent, and very similar one.]

                                  Many feel, just as you do. I tip on the total bill, wines included, and the amount reflects the level of service, for both.

                                  Is that the "correct" way to do it? For some (like me), maybe, but I can certainly see the points made by others. In the end, it comes down to personal choices.

                                  For great work by the sommelier, I will often tip on the full bill, and then hand that person a separate, cash tip. That is my personal choice.


                                2. I made my living as a Wine Steward for many years and the Waitstaff had to tip us out on 12% of the overall wine sales. This seemed pretty equitable.

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: Winemark

                                    I find this an enlightening comment...so, if a diner only tips 8-10% on the cost of the bottle of wine because it's quite expensive, then the would have to tip out to you more than they received in their tip for the wine? In other words, they would have to pay you for the diner shorting them?

                                    And no, I'm not blaming you or saying the practice is unfair, or inequitable. I'm just looking for clarification. Actually I think the policy of ensuring the wine steward receives an appropriate tip as opposed to the waiter receiving the full tip makes sense. I'm just wondering what happens when a diner tips less than the 12% on the wine because the price is fairly high.

                                    1. re: OrganicGal

                                      It is very equitable as we crunched the numbers and our guests typically tipped 18-20% on the overall bill. Therefore the waitstaff was making money from our knowledge and service. When someone got a bit stiffed on the wine we still got our 12%, based on the fact that they consistently made money on us and it would come out in the wash. We offered to meet the waitstaff and take an identical tip to them and the smart ones balked at the idea as they knew they would be losing thousands or the year. We did give every member of the staff one "Pass per year", the younger ones would use it early on a $200.00 bottle saving $24.00. Then have to pay us out on a $2000.00 or $3000.00 dollar bottle.

                                    2. re: Winemark

                                      Most restaurants in the city don't do that.

                                      1. re: Winemark


                                        [I know that this is an old thread, but was recently cited on a much more recent, and very similar one.]

                                        Interesting concept, and one that I am not familiar with.

                                        Thanks for that information.


                                      2. i've said this before on previous threads about this subject. if you're spending big $$ on a bottle of wine, most likely you're celebrating an occassion and are expecting to have a special and memorable night. if you have the money to spend on all the items that signify a special night out, why would you then nickel and dime the person who ties it all together and makes it all happen for you (i.e. the server)? she or he made your special night go off without a hitch so you should pay them accordingly.

                                        wine service shouldn't be treated any different than food service. in a way, wine service is more work. there are far more wines on a list to be familiar with than items on a menu, and to have even a basic knowledge of the list the server most likely spends their own money on wine books, bottles to drink at home and take notes on, maybe visit wineries on their own time. there's also the portion of service that includes polishing stemware, decanting, and refilling your wine glasses when needed (you should never have to pour your own wine).

                                        if you purchased a $100+ entree, would you not tip on the total for that just because it's more expensive?

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: rebs

                                          To: rebs Oct 8, 2006"

                                          Since when did paying 10% on an expensive bottle of wine (that didn't take as much effort to serve as the less expensive meal) become "nickel and diming" ? (& isn't that cliche reserved for the person paying as opposed to receiving money ?). That's still a lot of money for a few minutes of work. Sounds rather ungrateful to me.

                                          What hitch are you referring to ? What rocket science are you in control of ? You submit our order to the chef and later bring us the plates. You may check on us a couple of times to see if we desire anything else. Grab a bottle of wine, open it and pour (you say wine service is more work than the meal ... gimme a break !) Bring us the check and thank your customer.

                                          $100 plus entrees: it usually takes as much effort to bring those plates out as a $20 plate. In a perfect world waiter should be tipped on a straight rate regardless of the cost of the entree. If anything the chef should be tipped for the additional effort on an expensive entree.

                                          1. re: SteamboatII

                                            I could not agree more. I live in Chicago and recently went out for a special occasion at one our 200 or so restaurants that are trying to position themsleves as uber high end wine experts. You could grow old trying to list them all. Due to all the law firms, derivatives exchanges etc, these places are busy all week serving $500+ bottles of wine at multiple tables. If you are lucky/skilled enough to be chosen to wait tables at one of these establishements, you are going to out earn your skill set no matter what percentages are used. You are expected to be an ace, so there's no need to be extra rewarded for that. It's why you are there in the first place. The far higher base cost of the meal is your reward, not some idiotic bump on top of that.

                                            Here is my point. I dont care how much the wine steward expects to be tipped by the waiter. You are already doing the sommelier, the waiter, and the owner a huge favor by even ordering $1,000 worth of wine. These people wouldnt be employable without those orders. Go get your 20% on top of that at the racetrack! I just ordered $1,000 worth of wine, that's how you got your job. Most of that goes to the owner? Then work hard and become an owner, or go to law school. 10% on $300+ bottles of wine is more than generous. Particulalrly where the customer is him or herself an expert on wines.

                                            In this case, I spoke with the wine steward. His sense of taste was utterly different than mine. Had I followed his ideas blindly, I doubt I would have been satisfied. He was also upselling as it so happened - not uncommon in these situations. How much should I take back for my massive contribution to vetting their considerably large list and making the night for me and my guests special by my own rights? Nothing is my answer, which is another reason why 10% is very very generous.

                                          2. re: rebs


                                            [I know that this is an old thread, but was recently cited on a much more recent, and very similar one.]

                                            Well-stated, and something that I ascribe to. Though my wine selections are seldom "special purchases," per se, they ARE "special" to me/us.

                                            If I cannot tip on the total, then I will just order "down," and be done with it.

                                            Again, this is personal, and is not, in any way, intended to portray the "correct" answer - just how I do it. Others are more than welcome to tip, per their personal feelings.


                                          3. I do not drink wine (or any other alcohol) so I have no dog in this hunt, but I think that expecting 20% on an expensive bottle of wine is ludicrous. Yes there is a slight bit more work on decanting, pouring slowly, etc., but come on $200 on a bottle of $1000 wine. I would say the same thing to the customer who orders a $1000 of wine, come on that's ludicrous, i just don't get it from either side. Heh, I said I don't drink.

                                            12 Replies
                                            1. re: jfood

                                              I think one point that is being missed here is how important quality wine service becomes as the price of the bottle increases. Any server can server a bottle of yellowtail, but when you are talking about a 1964 Lafite-Rothschild, do you really want that 18 year old server from applebee's pouring it?

                                              Absolutely not because they could ruin the wine experience. People who serve top quality wines are professionals and should be treated as such. They need to know wether or not to decant your wine, if a filter is to be used, how to prevent the sediment from the wine from getting into the wine in your glass. Handling good wine is like handling a baby. If you've never done it, you just don't understand the importance. I don't think 20% is excessive and often see people tip higher than that on expensive bottles. A server I've worked with was recently waiting on a table of 4 and their check ended up being around 5-6k. The people ended up leaving about a 30% tip. While that may seem insane, the type of people who order ultra high quality wine at restaurants tend to be *very* well of and recognize the value of the professionals that serve them. Most waiters make 20-30k a year. Servers in fine dining probably average around 50K, with very few making more than 70-80k. Considering the stress and work that goes into the job, I don't think that is excessive.

                                              1. re: SixMileDrive


                                                I am not downplaying the importance at all and nowhere did I say or even allude to treating them unprofessionally. In fact, I get kidded all the time because I make conversation with everybody when I travel. How many people thank the TSA when they go through security at the airport. Jfood does.

                                                But I do not think its is a justifiable position that the wine server receives 30% of the price. I understand that many posters state that this guy earns that and that guys earns this, but I do not interview the servers in various restos to tailor my tip if one owner pays them $3 and another $30 per hour, or if there are 2 splits of the tip or 20. And wrt the stress level, everyone has different levels of stress. Most people would cut off a toe versus deal with the stress I have every day, but I do not have any problem with it, I love it. I felt more stress 20 years ago when I was earning 1/10 of what I earn now so I do not buy into the more stress equals more earnings equation, either.

                                                If someone wants to leave a 30% tip on a >$1000 bottle of wine, more power to them, but i do not feel that should be the expectation

                                                1. re: SixMileDrive

                                                  I agree that an expensive bottle takes more care to serve than a less expensive one, but you guys make it sound like you're doing brain surgery. You forgot to talk about simonizing the wine glasses, being able to find it in the first place, blah, blah, blah. Come on !

                                                  30K to 80 K for a server is absolutely ridiculous for that skill level. It's basic labor with a little people skills mixed in. What stress would you have that an Engineer, Hydrologist, Lawyer, or Doctor wouldn't ??

                                                  Of course you don't think 20 - 30 % is excessive, because you undoubtedly work in the industry.

                                                  1. re: SteamboatII

                                                    Wow, i thought "simonizing" had something to do with the sin of Simony.
                                                    The things you learn on CH!

                                                    I agree the restaurant money people are assuming some risk keeping
                                                    wine [tied up capital, somebody has to assume the risk of it going bad,
                                                    theft/damage risk, expensive glasses etc] and are entitied to a larger market,
                                                    but to push for tips linear in price is kinda leem. "returns to capital" != compesation
                                                    for effort.

                                                    1. re: SteamboatII

                                                      "30K to 80 K for a server is absolutely ridiculous for that skill level"

                                                      The jump from 30k to 80k seems to me to indicate a jump in skill level. 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.

                                                      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 and 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.

                                                      1. re: jonich24

                                                        Well said! You really hit the nail on the head.

                                                        1. re: jonich24

                                                          OK with the theory but let's take it out of the theoretical and into reality just to understand the hypothesis

                                                          Scenario 1 - Two-top; apps at $20 ; entrees at $50; dessert at $20; drinks at $25. total before tip $115 - great service
                                                          Scenario 2 - Two-top apps at $40; entrees at $90; dessert at $40; drinks at $250 total. total before tip $420 - great service

                                                          what would you leave in each case?

                                                          1. re: jfood

                                                            jfood, math not being my strongpoint...
                                                            scen. 1- would not the total as you described things be $155, and for scen. 2- 480?

                                                            Regardless of whether it is new math or old... if the before tip total is $115, so considering great service I would tip anywhere from $25 to $35, depending on how demanding of a table we had been.

                                                            With the tab rising to $420 before tip and considering great service I would tip between $$85 and $100 again depending on how demanding of a table we had been.

                                                            I think a more telling scenario would be:
                                                            both scen. 2-- one with great service and one with poor service,for great service see above,
                                                            for poor service on a $420 bill, I would most likely leave somewhere between $30 and $42 as the tip, along with finding a way to inform the manager of the reason( even if this is via phone).
                                                            If you were to tip 20-25% on just the food, deducting $250 would put the bill at $170, so the tip would be $25-$35, and then leaving an arbitrary sum of $10 for the mere bottle opening would leave the service staff with a very similar amount of money. Even if the amount of tip on the drinks is a full 10%. that still leaves the total tip in the below average range.

                                                            I truly think that great service stands on it's own, regardless of total bill, or even locale for that matter. I also think poor service is inexcusable, and should not be rewarded with an automatic 15-20%. Nor should the service staff be confused about whether they provided great service and were simply not rewarded adequately, or whether they simply performed poorly.

                                                            1. re: jonich24


                                                              Corrected the post by removing "each" so nums should work. never try to post on the terrace in the sun.


                                                              Let jfood understand. In the numerical example you set the great service in both at ~25%, fair point. but in your previous post to which jfood responded you stated that the the custo should NOT tip as a percentage. So jfood is having a brain cramp on this.

                                                              Either you set a price point of say $2 per app; $7/entree and $2/dessert, etc irrespective of the cost of each or you do as a percentage of the total. Or are you saying that you do a percentage of the total food and then add a number for the wine service.

                                                              Please help this old dog.

                                                              1. re: jfood


                                                                Admire the dedication to chow in that you are posting in the terrace on the sun, I personally would be dreaming of oysters and chablis... or at least the oysters if no chablis is available.

                                                                In answer to your question, I am advocating neither. Rather than saying anything about not tipping a percentage or tipping a percentage. My attempted point is for the diner to tip according to the service said diner has received and according to said diner's usual method of tipping. The 25% in question came from a forgotten(shame on me, i know...obviously my brain is cramping as well) post somewhere higher in the thread, in which the poster was fine with 25% on the food but not on the wine.

                                                                Every diner has a different method of arriving at an appropriate tip, whether that is a tip card with percentages figured per 50 cents or whether that is doubling or tripling the sales tax, or even a set dollar amount per course as you have suggested. Rather than attempt to advance my particular method as the "one" method, I would prefer to see good service rewarded accordingly and consistently, and poor service unrewarded accordingly and consistently.

                                                                If the diner's tipping habits trend towards a fixed dollar to item ratio then a bottle of wine would constitute four glasses. Following the dollar/item method would then necessitate the exact same tip for both the $115 and $420 meals. Perhaps this is jfood's method of rewarding great service at both places.

                                                                If a diner chooses to spend lavishly on a bottle of wine, how is this different than spending lavishly on food. If a diner regularly rewards great service with 25% then this should remain that diner's habit regardless of the cost of any individual item, chewed or sipped.

                                                                I find it a rather confusing that, while service consistently ranks as one of the most complained about and therefore seemingly most important facets of dining out, great service would either go unrewarded or be inconsistently rewarded.

                                                                As I mentioned above, if the diner is unable to distinguish between tomato quality, levels of service, school cafeteria meat and Wagyu beef, Yellowtail and Lafite '89 (the possible comparisons are endless) then perhaps that diner should stick to the school cafeteria meat and the Yellowtail. On the other hand, if the diner has discerning enough taste to order the Wagyu and the Lafite '89, then hopefully that diner will recognize either great or poor service and tip accordingly.

                                                                As I am guessing the sun has set in your neighborhood, and so is sadly no longer a distraction, I hope you have found other distractions worthy of keeping you from reading this reply immediately. My worthy distraction is about to be a bottle of Tavel and some feta stuffed sweet peppers with my lovely wife.

                                                                1. re: jonich24

                                                                  thanks j, yes darkness has fallen at casa jfood and now watching top chef with mrs jfood as little jfood has her bf over watching in another room. but thanks for the thoughts. and jfood is thinking more of when to get up for a nectarine versus chablis and oysters since he does not drink and August does not have an "r".

                                                                  As mentioned the cost of a bottle of wine never hits the radar since the jfood are water people. likewise jfood believes that the menu prices give a nice proxy to tip guidance. start at 15-20% and hopefully can increase so it's a win-win. hate having to leave a 10%'er because that meals it was a complete dysfunctional experience.

                                                                  So jfood takes the KISS approach and does the percentage againstthe total bill. gets a percentage in his head based on theoverall experience and then multiplies and rounds up.

                                                    2. From my experience of working at one of the most expensive French restaurants in the country, my colleagues and I found it reasonable and fair to be tipped 10% for wines over $600.

                                                      Many times, though, customers did not calculate the wine cost separately, and tipped us full 20% for the whole meal, which, of course, we appreciated.

                                                      There are no written rules for tipping on wine. My suggestion is, if you can afford to tip 20% for the wine and - the most important part - if the overall service justified the quality and the price of the wine itself, by all means tip generously. Not only do we remember specific wines oneophiles ordered on prior visits, but we also recall whether we were tipped for the wine.

                                                      Tipping on wine service, especially on very nice wines, is a sure way for you to be treated as a good customer on your next visit.

                                                      15 Replies
                                                      1. re: baconstrip


                                                        I'm sure I'd find it "reasonable" to make $60 for a few minutes work too. Affording it is irrelevant to the original question. I can "afford" to tip 1000 percent on a $600 bottle, so what ? By the way, I also don’t like strawberry ice cream. And I always love the subtle veiled threat of inflicting poor service on the next visit if you "recall" we didn't tip big before.

                                                        Dealing with server expectations when tipping on wine is quite annoying. Despite the opinion of many wine etiquette web sites and professional chefs calling for 5 to 10% tipping on wine (especially expensive wine that are near or exceed the meal cost), there are many industry advocates pushing for 20 % or more on the total tab, including tax and wine.

                                                        • Doesn’t matter that there’s a 100 to 400 % mark up already there.
                                                        • Doesn’t matter if the bottle costs $20 (which is getting rarer) or $200.
                                                        • Does it take 10 times more effort to pour a $200 bottle of wine versus a $20 one ? (And I’m not talking about using the services of a professional sommelier).
                                                        • Does a $200 bottle take up 10 times more storage space than a $20 bottle ?
                                                        • AND MOST IMPORTANTLY - Does a $200 dollar bottle of wine take as much effort to serve as the preparation, presentation, and serving of a $200 meal ?

                                                        1. re: SteamboatII

                                                          If you can afford the wine you can afford the tip.

                                                          1. re: KTinNYC

                                                            Do you honestly believe that "argument" or is this posturing?

                                                            Do you also believe "if you can afford to eat in my restaurant
                                                            you can afford a bottle of wine"? Do you get annoyed at people
                                                            who wont have a bottle with dinner? [assuming there is no
                                                            religious/medical issue].

                                                            That Steam2 fellow clearly has an opinion on the matter but
                                                            wrote a thoughtful post. A one line assertion doesnt advance
                                                            this discussion.

                                                            How would you like a reply along the lines of "if you dont
                                                            like the lower tip on wines, get a different job".

                                                            I think an interesting question is "do customers only consider
                                                            the out of pocket costs or do they care about the composition
                                                            of the costs" ... i.e. would you tip better on 200% markup bottle
                                                            than a 300% markup bottle. In my case I dont know what the
                                                            markup is 95% of the time, so ... I think it is not unreasonable to
                                                            factor that in if you do know.

                                                            The wine person isnt just in "competition' with the diner's wallet
                                                            but also with the restaurant owner, I'd think. Do the wine-employees
                                                            like high or lower margins on wine? Are the wine margins linear
                                                            from a $50 to a $500 to bottle?

                                                            BTW, S2: I think the most complelling argument for lower wine
                                                            tips is the large markup builtin, rather than the effort issue.
                                                            I'm not sure about the finances of stocking wine in a restaurant ...
                                                            it can represent a fair amount of capital tied up, somebody has
                                                            to assume the risk of a bottle going bad, the storage costs are
                                                            non-zero, dunno what the markups are between the wholesaler-resto
                                                            vs resto-customer ... but those would all affect my views on what seems
                                                            fair [it was interesting to learn the resto gets a refund on genuinely
                                                            bad bottles, but not sure what what happens when the bottle is
                                                            "improvidently refused"].

                                                            1. re: psb

                                                              I don’t know why wine markup causes so many posters to all of the sudden become worse tippers than they normally would be.

                                                              I’m sure it’s not a surprise to everyone that there is a markup on everything in the restaurant. Why aren’t people upset about paying $8 for a salad? Some baby greens, a little goat cheese, pear, some pumpkin seeds, olive oil and wine vinegar. What is the cost to the restaurant including labor? $2 dollars? A four time markup?! So what is the proper tip if you just order the salad? $1.60 or $0.40?

                                                              As you point out, PSB, there are other cost involved in serving wine. Storage, stemware, training, etc, I have a friend who owns a winebar and he builds in a four time markup for all the wines. So with wines that are sold by the glass, the first glass essentially pays for the entire bottle. And before you think this is excessive than you should never order beer or liquor at a bar because the markup is ten times plus.

                                                              1. re: KTinNYC

                                                                re: salad ...
                                                                you have to factor in scale issues, not just percentages.
                                                                nobody cares about the difference between 10% and 18% on $8 salad ...
                                                                it comes to 50cents.

                                                                a better example is "should i tip differently on a $60 caviar supplement".
                                                                and you know what? i think the logic of lowering the tip applies there too.
                                                                just as i'm sure you would argue "if you can afford the caviar, you can
                                                                afford the extra $10".

                                                                the costs for the wine service should go to the people putting up the
                                                                capital, i.e. the owners. some fellow above mentions the extra special
                                                                glasses for the $1000 wine ... well it's not like the wine dood runs home
                                                                to get them when somebody ordered the cheval blanc. how about this:
                                                                when i order a $1000 bottle [hah!] you give me $300 bottle service and
                                                                i'll leave you $400 boottle 15% tip.

                                                                1. re: KTinNYC

                                                                  Where I live full-on wine bars with kitchens and hot food menus also charge about 4 times cost per glass. There are lots of smaller wine venues (usually wine shops with tasting bars - some of which are 'almost' wine bars) that typically charge two or 2 1/2 times cost for their pours/flights. The customer gets better value but less ambience and menu choice. Interestingly, the 'real' wine bars seem to be busier.

                                                                  1. re: KTinNYC

                                                                    Re: KTinNYC Jul 14, 2007 09:50AM

                                                                    I don't accept the premise that tipping less on wine makes you a "worse tipper" than normal (more name calling). As PSB indicates below, insisting on an uncapped linear tip on wine, is a self-serving [pun intended] perspective, not a fair and equitable one. You lack all credibility by advocating higher windfall tips for a moderate effort (despite all the pontificating above). A significant mark up is already there. Don't be greedy - just appreciate the fact you get a piece of the action.

                                                                    I don't have a problem with tipping extra well for a superior effort on the part of the server. The question to me is what is ETHICAL, and whether I can afford it is frankly, irrelevant. I don't see the extra/superior effort with opening and pouring wine that justifies big tip $$$.

                                                                    Have a safe day.

                                                                    1. re: SteamboatII

                                                                      You go to the same restaurant twice the first time you order a $12 chicken main. The next time you go and order a $30 steak. Do you tip less on the steak because it is the same effort for the waiter to bring the chicken as the steak? No extra or superior effort to bring one over the other.

                                                                      1. re: KTinNYC

                                                                        Jfood thinks the concept of percentage and dollars once again gets melded into the argument. In the case you present, the obvious answer is no, win some lose some, but the extra $3-4 is basically a so-what.

                                                                        When you start approaching multiple hundreds of dollars and 20% on those orders,the actual dollars versus percentages sorta come into play. Let's add a zero to your axample for a $120 and $300 bottle of wine. Now the delta in the tip is not the $4 differential of the chicken-steak analysis but $35-40 for the wine. Now it's real money.

                                                                        Jfood does not think that there would be any argument if the wine was $12 and $30 for keeping the percentage the same but when it goes from so-what to real dollars, then the analysis andds another line to the program.

                                                                        Unless of course you are suggesting to tip on the lowest entree ordered and you use the "no extra work" argument to justify. Not a good answer though from the server's perspective, though.

                                                            2. re: baconstrip

                                                              Tipping is a very interesting and widely varying thing. We operate a retail wine shop and wine tasting bar and do mostly pre-fixe wine flights, but customers often buy bottles to take home. We've had everything from no tip at all to people who will (and it is rather surprising) tip 20% on the entire bill INCLUDING bottles they are taking home.
                                                              The only conclusion I can come to is that some feel a pre-fix flight is not 'real service' (even though they usually get 20 to 30 minutes of my wine knowledge with the flight) and others look at the tip as an amount they feel appropriate for what they've received while with us.

                                                              Tipping on the retail purchase is unnecessary and way over the top, but it happens more often than one might think. BTW I've never been tipped on a straight retail purchase..... only when it is part of a tasting bill.

                                                              1. re: Midlife

                                                                Do you think one should "tip" a stereo salesman at a stereo store
                                                                who gives you advice, sets up a listening session in the stores
                                                                sound room etc [the equivalent of a "tasting"].

                                                                does it matter if you are buying $500 or $15k in equipment/speakers?

                                                                does it matter if you are dealing with employees/owners?
                                                                [when i rec'd a lot of help under these circumstances, i wrote
                                                                a detailed letter to the manager expressing my thankfulness to
                                                                the guy who helped me and perhaps more importantly made
                                                                many detailed recommendation for this store/salesperson]

                                                                I dont think the issue is "is this real service" but "does somebody tip
                                                                in a wine store" [i.,e. they dont perceive themselves to be in a bar].

                                                                1. re: psb

                                                                  We have an 18' long granite bar with wrought iron leather-seated bar stools and 3 round-topped bistro tables with the same stools. We serve cheeses and small-plate appetizers too. There's music playing and a flat screen TV. The 400+ sq feet of the segregated 'bar' area is very visibly a wine bar. Not sure if you've been exposed to this business model where you are. That said...... some people just DO 'see' it as a retail store.

                                                                  1. re: Midlife

                                                                    oh sure, fair enough.

                                                                    i'm talking more about the large stores that have might have an occasionally
                                                                    staffed <8ft stand-and-taste area ... that clearly isnt a tasting destination in
                                                                    itself. [for SF people: see e.g. coit liquor, city beer].

                                                                    of course at a real store+desination wine bar, it would be churlish not to
                                                                    be on "bar behavior" [again for SF people, e.g. the arlequin/amphora operation

                                                                    btw, i also think not tipping hired bartenders at "open bar" situations is kinda
                                                                    lame although i think a lot of people see themselves as excused from paying
                                                                    and tipping. do people think different standards apply here whether it is a
                                                                    coporate-type setting vs say a wedding reception ... i suppose if it is a catering
                                                                    situation, that is different. but i think it is fair to acknolwedge the difference
                                                                    between having somebody make you a bloody mary vs just handing you a
                                                                    pre-poured chardonnay. ok tnx.

                                                                    1. re: psb

                                                                      When we hired caterers for our wedding we specifically noted that we did NOT want the bartenders putting out those little tip cups at the open bar. We arranged for a generous gratuity for them in advance and if someone offered them a tip the bartenders were supposed to tell them “thanks, but the bride and groom have taken care of that.” Of course, if the person offered yet again (presumably for service above and beyond) I told them that would be fine.

                                                                      Just an aside on the issue of tipping at catered events. My feeling is that when I am hosting, I don’t want my guests to have to lift a finger or spend a dime.

                                                                      On the topic at hand, I suppose if one ordered a very expensive bottle at middle-of-the-road place (like the rappers swigging Cristal) I could see the justification, but were I buying an expensive bottle I would be doing it at a place where I would expect a very high level of knowledge and service from the wait staff , sommelier and wine steward, so I would have no problem tipping accordingly. Then again, our most expensive restaurant buys have been in the $100-150 range.

                                                              2. re: baconstrip

                                                                Great sentiments, Baconstrip.

                                                                [I know that this is an old thread, but was recently cited on a much more recent, and very similar one.]

                                                                Before I order an expensive bottle of wine, or bottles of wine, I do a rough calculation of the tab. If I cannot afford to tip my norm, on the total bill, I back off on those wines. If I can handle it, I order them, and IF the wine service is in keeping with that/those wine(s), then it's in my tip.

                                                                Again, this is personal, and is, in no way, indicative of what others should do.

                                                                If I have great food service, but poor wine service, then the tip might be factored down (sorry about that food servers), but I do not want to spend the evening doing calculus on my bill.


                                                              3. Psb, your server has no control over the wine markup. If you think you're being ripped off, I suggest finding a restaurant with more economical markups, or perhaps calling the owners and letting them know you wanted to purchase off their list, but became dissuaded once you saw the gauging going on (gauging going in a row is kind of cute, no?).

                                                                If said restaurant pays $12 per pound of Prime Porterhouse and charges you $60, are you only going to tip on the $12? That's a $2.40 tip versus a $12 tip, so I think percentage-wise it's pertinent to the wine markup.

                                                                4 Replies
                                                                1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                  (are you replying to my long comment in this parallel thread?


                                                                  >Psb, your server has no control over the wine markup
                                                                  no kidding. the point is the markup going to the resto owner is a "return to capital".
                                                                  he is laying out the money for the wine, pays the mark up from the distributor or whatever,
                                                                  he has to store the wine, he has to buy the wine glasses, somebody takes a risk of the
                                                                  wine going bad etc. but the *labor* involved in the wine, is low compared to
                                                                  food prep. [hence the service -> retail spectrum].

                                                                  the $12 -> $60 porterhouse isnt not a markup, it is a "value add" by skilled preparation.
                                                                  i am paying for somebody's time and skill. it is not a "return to capital". so the "basis"
                                                                  is not $12. now if you want to ask "why tip differently between a $40 steak and a $60
                                                                  steak" which have 95% identical serivce ... well, those are the breaks ... you can look
                                                                  at it either as "why should the waiter only get $8 when you order the $40 steak" or
                                                                  "why should the customer have to pay an extra $4 at the $12 marginal tip on the $60
                                                                  steak" ... my answer is "because that is the social contract" ... you dont get to do "work/
                                                                  effort analysis" on an a la carte basis, but are obligated to consider the food price.
                                                                  [similarly a patron does not really "get" to say "i am a low maint customer, so please
                                                                  tailor your service to my 12-16% tipping range]

                                                                  oh also:
                                                                  i dont really have any awareness about what the markups are since i dont know the
                                                                  retail prices of fancier wines. i only used the 300-400% because that's the range i hear
                                                                  discussed. i think it is kinda amazing the markups continue to be linear as far as they do, but i understand there is a lot of somebody's capital tied up, storage isnt free, demand is uncertain and hard to model, somebody has to assume theft and wine going bad risk etc. anyway, i dont think i used "ripped off" anywhere ... the price is clearly stated. i'm getting
                                                                  at this more nuanced matter of "the social contract" between the diner and waiter and the diner and the resto owners.

                                                                  so the resto owner i assume faces much greater costs to turn a $12cut of meat
                                                                  into a $60 steak on the menu than to take a $12 bottle of wine and be able to provide
                                                                  that at $40 on the wine list ... so in that case, i dont think it is reasonable to pass thru
                                                                  the service costs of the wine side of the operation to the customer at quite the same
                                                                  rate. nevertheless, at $40, who cares about 5%. however, turn that into a $120 -> $400
                                                                  bottle, then it is obnoxious for the resto not to allocate some of his profits to paying
                                                                  for the wine labor [presumably by paying the sommalier better than a waiter etc]
                                                                  and if the resto is indeed doing so, it is in poor form for the sommelier to expect
                                                                  a windfall here.

                                                                  look i realize it sucks when a lot of your compensation is based in somebody's
                                                                  whims about how much they want to pay. but that's the way it is and publicly
                                                                  "talking up" the percentages in a forum like this comes with a risk of backlash.

                                                                  re: finding a more economical resto, calling the owners etc ...
                                                                  that's not for me since it would almost totally be free for me to not drink wine
                                                                  with dinner. i think it is viable to reflect on what is reasonable rather than
                                                                  either stop doing business or complain ... i dont tell restos "if they dont think
                                                                  they arent making enough money on me they should ask me not return" or
                                                                  they should tell me "i really should spend more money on wine" ... i try to have
                                                                  a sense of fairness and ask for the same in return. insisting on uncapped linear
                                                                  tips on wine, is a self-serving [no pun intended] perspective, not a fair one.

                                                                  1. re: psb

                                                                    Some restaurants with good sized, thought out winelists don't have sommeliers, just waiters making $2.63 an hour (in MA).
                                                                    Restaurants don't subsidize that salary based on how much of their expensive wines a waiter sells; it's still $2.63.

                                                                    As "obnoxious" as you may find that, it's the truth.

                                                                    Do I think restaurant owners should pay their waiters more per hour? Yes. Do I think it's the customer's responsibility to ensure good waiters make $80,000 per year? No. Perhaps restaurants should just bump up the price of everything they sell by 15-20%, with that money going to the waiters. Then the option to screw over your waiter wouldn't be nonexistant.

                                                                    I do think you get what you pay for. If you have a memorable dining experience, is 15% on wine really that big a deal?

                                                                    For great dinners with perfect service, I've (gasp!) left over 20%, including pricey wine. Why? Was I throwing my hard earned money down the drain? I don't think so. I think if a waiter goes out of his way to ensure an excellent dining experience, I'd like to ensure an excellent tip.

                                                                    I guess I see dining out including the social contract you mentioned above. I know that if I endulge in expensive food and wine (and have excellent service), I will be tipping on my entire bill and factor that into my budget for the evening.

                                                                    In fact, I'd be embarrassed to leave a bad tip.

                                                                    1. re: psb

                                                                      Thank you ! Well thought out and resonable.

                                                                  2. I know there are several threads on tipping on wine, but I haven't seen this addressed anywhere. If there is a sommelier that you tip separately, is it also customary to tip the waiter on the wine? We never have (or lower the percentage) but it seems like the waiter is going to have to tip out other staff on the wine purchase. Can anyone chime in?

                                                                    5 Replies
                                                                    1. re: JFla

                                                                      One of the problems with the wine tipping situation is that there are several different ways restos deal with the tip share; from paying the somm a salary and not expecting that person to rely on tips, to paying that person a bare minimum and expecting tips to be a major part of their income. If you do tip the somm separately, I ( as a former somm) think it would be fair of you to ask that person if the server will still have to tip out, on the wine. While some people may be uncomfortable with this, if you are truly concerned with whether the server will have to sacrifice income,that is the quickest and easiest way to discover the restos tip share policy.

                                                                      1. re: jonich24

                                                                        As many other's have observed, the right norm CANNOT depend on the
                                                                        customer knowing about the resto's tip xfer policy ... should we have
                                                                        a different tipping policy in states that do not have a tip credit, or higher
                                                                        than national minimum wage [e.g. San Francisco, so the waiter is making
                                                                        ~$8/hr not ~$2.50]. No, that is crazy, but less crazy than knowing about
                                                                        the resto's internal system. It is up to the people exposed to the success
                                                                        or the pathologies of the system to decide what to do about it. It's not
                                                                        a priori obvious what is the right things to do in this regard, just as different
                                                                        organizations may reward seniority in different ways. Can I explain "since i
                                                                        made my rsvp i just learned one of my investments went down in value so
                                                                        i am suffering a wealth effect reversal and i will not be able to tip as well as
                                                                        i was expecting to" ... no.

                                                                        If you want to get rid of/reduce volatility, switch to not tip + service charge
                                                                        disclosed on the menu. If there is an 18% service chanrge on wine, the
                                                                        management can decide whether or not to change the wine markup and
                                                                        then roll the dice.

                                                                        1. re: psb

                                                                          No argument. IMO diners should spend their time enjoying the dining portion of their evening, tip according to service, and not stress about who makes what. IF the servers or the somm, or anybody else is unhappy with the way they are compensated, it is up to that person as to how they will address that issue

                                                                          However, the post from jfla addressed the question of restos internal policy and it's affect on tip share. This really only applies to diners who are concerned with that specific issue. If a diner is going to be stressed or bothered by this situation, then the solution I mentioned is appropriate, but certainly not expected.

                                                                          Every diner has different expectations. Many diners are rightfully unconcerned with how a resto and it's employees distribute the nightly take. this could be seen as the transactional view of dining. I dined, I payed, I left.

                                                                          On the other hand there are diners who become more involved with the process of their evening and as a by-product of this involvement are more concerned with how their gratuity is divided.

                                                                          Neither approach should be judged better or worse... but it is certainly fair for both diners to receive satisfaction. It is absolutely unfair for the transactional diner to be encumbered with anything other than dining and paying. So why would it be unfair for the the other diner to be able to resolve his conflict concerning the tip division?

                                                                        2. re: jonich24

                                                                          i'd just like to say that whether or not there is a sommelier employed by the restaurant, there are staff who must stock and look after the wine-- in less-than-high-end places usually bartenders and bar mgrs. the waitstaff tips out the barstaff (and for that matter, the bus/dish staff) at the same percentage rate, usually around 10% of THEIR tips-- these staff members schlep the cases of wine downstairs & store, chill, stock & inventory them, same as the cokes & bottled water and other things. lets say our theoretical diners are tipping at 20%.

                                                                          order a $2 coke-- cust. tips 20%=40 cents for server= 4 cents for bartender (and 1 of those 4 cents goes in turn to the barback, so it's actually 3 cents)

                                                                          fair so far?

                                                                          order a $10 martini-- cust tips 20%= $2 for the server= 40 cents for the bartender (and 10 cents goes to the barback, so it's actually 30 cents)

                                                                          order a $200 bottle of wine-- cust tips 20%=$40 for the server= $4($3) for the bartender and a buck goes to the barback who probably schlepped the damn case down the stairs only to have to haul it back up again.

                                                                          or tip 10% and leave the kid fifty cents, if you want. the point is someone's labor, care and knowledge went into that bottle of wine you're drinking

                                                                          btw if you tip 10% on a $20 bottle of wine the barback is looking at a nickel. the POINT is that people who order the $200 bottle of wine are covering a lot of 10% on $20 bottle customers in terms of actual labor, otherwise it would be tough indeed to get anyone to do this work at all. and anyone who thinks someone's just taking "$40 for a few minutes' work"-- well actually it would really be $36, right-- oh bus/dish-- okay $32? isn't looking at the labor that happens before any customers arrive at the restaurant, or the labor that happens after they are gone.

                                                                        3. re: JFla

                                                                          If you tip the sommelier then you shouldn't tip the server on the wine. Tip what you deem to be the appropriate amount once and leave it to the staff to sort it out between themselves.

                                                                          As noted above, different restaurants work differently, and the customer shouldn't have to figure out who gets what. When I've worked with sommeliers there's been a standard tip out--a percentage of sales, or of tips, or of wine sales. When the sommelier receives a tip directly, he or she tells the server and the server adjusts his or her tip out accordingly.

                                                                        4. This truly is a crazy situation. Let's look at the craziness:

                                                                          Resto 1 - It's a BYOB with no corkage
                                                                          Resto 2 - It's BYOB with no wine offerings and charges $5-10 for corkage
                                                                          Resto 3 - No sommelier with wine offerings from $20-100 but allows BYOB with a $10 corkage
                                                                          Resto 4 - No sommelier with wine offerings from $50-500 but allows BYOB with a $50 corkage
                                                                          Resto 5 - No sommelier with a wine list of $40-300; No BYOB allowed
                                                                          Resto 6 - Full sommelier advice with wines from $40-4000

                                                                          Assume the server doe not offer pairings on restos 1-5. Now with a 20% tip the server receives (let's keep custo deciding to leave extra for this analysis):

                                                                          Resto 1 - Zero
                                                                          Resto 2 - Potential $1-2
                                                                          Resto 3 - Potential $1-20
                                                                          Resto 4 - Potential $10-100
                                                                          Resto 5 - Potential $8-60
                                                                          Resto 6 - Whatever.

                                                                          How silly is this? such a wide range for the same service.

                                                                          8 Replies
                                                                          1. re: jfood

                                                                            Just a note- I don't think I've ever seen a wine list go over 100 or so without a sommolier.

                                                                            1. re: jpschust

                                                                              I used to work at a restaurant that had 250 selections sans sommelier. The owners were into wine and didn't feel they needed one.

                                                                              1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                                To be fair, isn't having owners on site who know wine effectively the same as having sommolier?

                                                                                1. re: jpschust


                                                                                  You don't tip the owners.

                                                                                  Also, who says they're onsite?

                                                                                  1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                                    Sorry my assumption- and you don't directly tip a sommolier unless you are really really impressed. I've yet to find more than 4-5 sommoliers in thousands of dining experiences that are truly worth their weight in gold. And yes, I've eaten at some of the top restaurants in the country and world.

                                                                                    1. re: jpschust

                                                                                      I wasn't necessarily referring to the guest directly tipping the sommelier.

                                                                                      The waitstaff has to tip a sommelier, yes, but does not have to tip owners.

                                                                            2. re: jfood

                                                                              jfood, if your post is tongue-in-cheek, I apologize. I haven't had time to read everything in this topic recently. If you're serious I can't fathom your examples #s 1 or 2. Re #1 - Unless you're pouring your own BYOB wine into cups you brought with you, how do you feel comfortable with no tip at all??? #2 - if there's a server pouring and the resto is providing glassware, there really should (I think anyway), be a minimal tip of several dollars ($5??). I don't feel that what you're tipping for is only pairing advice, but the pouring service.

                                                                              There are also many people who would tip a % of the value of the wine they're bringing in as appreciation for the service.

                                                                              1. re: Midlife

                                                                                Not tongue in cheek but just laying out the silliness of all the arguments so jfood is probably sticking tongue out instead of in cheek. Basically jfood is saying there is no correct answer other than do the right thing. But the right thing gets muddled. The server (at least many on these boards) insist that 20% whether its $10 wine or $1000 wine is the right thing stating if you can afford the wine you can blah blah blah. The custos may feel differntly about that percentage on higher end prices.

                                                                                And yes scenarios 1 & 2 are the most silly on one end and no way is jfood endorsing. So, NO, jfood's post was not a guideline of ANY sort and he tried to point that out in the last sentence.

                                                                                Sorry for the confusion.

                                                                            3. Admittedly I have not read through every post in this thread, but will throw in my own personal experience for what it's worth. I regularly eat out at mid-priced to high-priced restaurants. Sometimes, I pay a lot for a bottle of wine. Never $1,000, but let's call it $200-$400, maybe $500-$600 on a special occasion. I like food and wine, so I allocate a disproportionate amount of my disposable income towards those pursuits. I don't think I'm one of those people who can "afford to tip $200 when they're already paying $1,000 for a bottle of wine". When I choose a wine off a list, I do factor in the 20% tip when attempting to figure out what fits. That being said, I've recently begun to rethink my 20-25% tipping policy. It doesn't make sense, especially since I've been sampling more and more expensive wines as my tastes evolve. And having returned to the same restaurants and ordered wines that span the full price spectrum, I can say that wine service does not vary much as a function of the price of the bottle. A restaurant either has good wine service or bad wine service. So I tend to view the tip in absolute $$ vs. percentages. Tipping $50 for a bottle of wine is fine with me. $100, regardless of the bottle's price, seems a little high. Anything beyond that is hard to justify.

                                                                              Finally, for those who ask about tipping policy on $100 entrees -- you just don't see too many of those around. And if I were to order a $100 dish (an ounce of caviar, for example), I'd be inclined to tip the full 20-25% on that because I just don't do it that often. I am, however, regularly ordering $200-$400 bottles of wine, so I think I need to be more thoughtful about how I'm tipping on those bottles.

                                                                              Just presenting my own experiences and how I'm starting to think about this. I recently saw an $800 bottle of wine at a restaurant in New York, a wine I've always wanted to try. It's attractive at that price. But not when you factor in another $160 for the tip. On higher-priced bottles, customer's buying decisions are definitely affected by the prospect of tacking on another 20% for gratuity. It's like the buyer's premium you pay at wine auctions. The problem is you're already paying a mark-up at the restaurant above wholesale, so again it's hard to swallow another 20% on top of that.

                                                                              1. What about tax? Do you tip on the tax or before?

                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                1. re: Tonto

                                                                                  unless the tax is over 10% just tip on tax- it's generally 1% or less for your tip

                                                                                2. I guess one thing about this discussion that really needs to be challenged again is the notion that it takes no more effort to pour a bottle of $1000 wine than a bottle of $100 wine. Yes, the pouring of the wine takes no more effort. But as a restaurant that has a lot of $100 to $200 wines and a lot of under $30 wines, there is a vast difference in the prior knowledge and prior experience needed to give good service on the 100+ wines. If a customer comes in and buys a $150 wine by just pointing to it with no asking for help, then I agree, a lower tip percentage is reasonable. But most people in my restaurant spending that kind of time are looking for advice. I personally go to the table, try to find out what they like, what their experiences are and tailor a selection to their responses. I then am asked about the wine, its history, where can the customer buy it etc. I usually go back to the table several times over the course of the meal to see how the wine is unfolding as they drink it.

                                                                                  Of course I am the owner and their waiters get the tip. If I were the sommelier in a restaurant, then I would be tipped. To say that a sommelier is not entitled to a reward for the investment in human capital they have made is not really fair. In my restaurant's case, the customers who tip well based on my addition to their experience make for very happy waiters which makes for a better dining experience so they win in the long run.

                                                                                  My suggestion is to tip on an expensive bottle commensurate with the service you get. If the som spends a lot of time with you and leads you to something you would not have had otherwise, then be generous. Not 20% on $1000 necessarily, but generous. If you know exactly what you want and all they do is open and pour, then a much lower tip is warranted as you received less service. No the same as on a $40 bottle of wine, as there is much more care taken with an expensive bottle and it takes up more of the som's time and effort for the night.

                                                                                  You are not tipping (paying) for the physical labor any more than you are paying for the physical labor of a heart surgeon when you are getting open heart surgery. You are paying for the total experience. The guy who did my heart surgery says he is not more than a plumber, but I sure as hell know he makes more than the $100 a hour or so a master plumber would get. And I am glad to pay it. When I go to a restaurant and a sommelier turns me on to something new and exciting in today's world of bland ho hum all taste the same wines, I am willing to reward him/her for the pleasure. It took a lot of effort behind the scene for that person to get the knowledge necessary to make my evening more special.