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Tipping on Wine [ Split from Manhattan ]

[ Note: This thread was split from the Manhattan board at http://www.chowhound.com/topics/361713 -- The Chowhound Team


You should NEVER include wine for the tip. So, to answer your question, yes.

Also, if you consider how much labor goes into the food at Per Se, you'll realize that $210 is actually quite reasonable. I have seen $40 entrees at some restaurants that have nothing to recommend of themselves other than the fact that they think that they can somehow ride on the coat tails of places like Per Se in price but not quality or service.

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  1. Are you saying that people should subtract the alcohol from their bill before calculating the tip? I've never heard this before. I've always tipped 20% on the bill unless something unusual happened.

    1. Why shouldn't you include wine in the tip? The server has to open the bottle, pour it, and constantly refill your glass. In many cases, the wine needs to be decanted. The server also has to answer questions about the wine. If the server has done this for you, why haven't they earned a tip?

      1 Reply
      1. re: Fielding

        Of course wine should be included in the tip... in the same manner as for the rest of the meal.

        There has always been the following attitude around regarding tipping on wine... the server (waiter, sommelier, etc) shouldn't be tipped the same percentage as for the meal because wine is so variable in price... ie. the waiter/sommelier does the approximately the same thing (open/pour) for a $40 bottle as they do for a $500 bottle. In fact, it's a little more work (and requires more expertise) to open a more expensive bottle most of the time (often its older, more delicate cork, sediment, etc). In any case, certainly one can understand the logic of this argument. I don't agree with it.

        My view, is that you figure the tip the same across the board if the service is good. If you order a $500 bottle, you must expect to tip accordingly. Figure it in to the price of the bottle. In Europe, tax and tip are included in the prices you see on the wine list. You pay the same tip percentage no matter what the price... $40 or $10,000.

        That said, where a tip isn't included, I think its appropriate to tip a lower percentage if you order a very expensive bottle and the wine service was not good. Say for example the wine is $500 and they don't handle it properly, its not the right temperature, or they don't refill the glasses properly. If you're not happy with the wine service, lower the tip % accordingly. Basically, its the same concept as for the food portion.

        Good service should be rewarded with a nice tip... the fact that its food or wine doesn't make a difference.

      2. Why wouldn't you tip 20% on the wine? This doesn't make any sense to me. A lot of work goes into wine selection and maintenance, particularly at a high end restaurant.

        Here's my policy: if you can afford the food & wine, you can afford the tip. I don't honestly believe there are people out there that can shell out $1500 for a bottle of wine at dinner, but can't afford the $300 tip. Leaving less is just cheap.

        1. I thought it was clear, but sorry if I was confusing. I agree with you. I stated that you should tip on the wine just as you do for the food.

          1 Reply
          1. re: WineTravel

            WineTravel, I was responding to the OP, not you. :)

            Sorry -- these new boards take some getting used to!

          2. I'll admit it- I take out wine before I tip and add a little on to my tip for wine service after the 20% is calculated. There's no reason a waiter gets 40 bucks on a 200 dollar bottle of wine. You didn't really do anything to earn it. Now 10-20 bucks on a 200 dollar bottle maybe, but I'm never giving more than about 20 bucks per bottle back to the server.

            9 Replies
            1. re: jpschust

              My take on this is that the server didn't do anything to earn a larger tip amount on a $50 menu food item than on a $15 one, but you don't seem to begrudge that. So....... for wine within a reasonable price range, I don't see why a 20% tip is unreasonable at all. Where I personally get into this is for wine that is significantly above the range of the food prices. For some reason I think there's a difference..... though I wouldn't want to try to defend that position based on the 'if you can afford the item you can afford the tip' argument. I must be basically cheap, because I would have trouble tipping 20% on a $200 bottle of wine with a $75 meal bill. Go figure.

              1. re: Midlife

                I think we are right on the same page. OK- I get when I order a 40 dollar entrecote, a 15 dollar truffle appetizer and a 12 dollar dessert why the waiter gets a 20% tip on 67 dollars. I just don't get why if I pair it all with a 200 dollar bottle of wine why my tip has to go from about $13 to about $53 for making very little effort, especially if I chose the wine. The waiter didn't have to get the vintage reserved ahead of time. He didn't have to make sure it was prepared to my liking. He didn't have to do anything but take the foil off the bottle and pop the cork to let me taste it. Frankly waiters should be glad they get tipped even 10% on nice bottles of wine. I'm happy to tip over 20% on food, and I regularly do, but on wine you'll never see it from me.

                1. re: jpschust

                  That makes NO sense! The waiter didn't work any harder on your $40 entrecote than he did on your $12 appetizer or your $200 wine, yet you're giving him the full 20% on the food only. And in fact, the waiter does have to ensure you like the wine -- that's why they pour a taste.

                  Again, if you can afford a $200 wine, you can afford a $40 tip. If that seems too rich for your blood, don't order a $200 wine. It's not fair to stiff the waiter.

                  1. re: oolah

                    He's not getting stiffed- he's still getting tipped on food, just not on wine. He is doing more work- he's going to be the one to deal with it when I send my food back if it isn't done correctly, he is the one dealing with the kitchen staff, he's the one who's got to make sure the service is timely, he's got a lot more responsibility on the food side than on the wine side where all he has to do is grab the bottle and open it. He's not even going to be the one pouring it as I'm going to do that. It's not too rich for my blood, he just doesn't deserve it.

                    1. re: jpschust

                      if you order the $50 prime rib, and your friend just orders a salad, do you skew the tip?

                      better bottles of wine require (ok, should get) a better glass. if reidel, your server has to hand-wash those, btw. then it must be decanted. that vessel also must be hand-washed later.

                      the hostility of guests who insist on pouring their own wine has always scared me a little. a polite remark along the lines of, "we'd like the bottle to last through dinner," should suffice. if the waiter remains overly aggressive, THAT should affect the tip. besides, nobody is making you rush to empty your glass.

                      when you mentally juggle out, oh this perecent for food and only this percent for wine, your waiter has no idea what your arithmetic is. if you're ordering $100 bottle, is $20 instead of $10 really such a huge deal in your universal picture?

                      if service is crap, then so should be the tip. fuzzy math from guests just leaves your server wondering if he did something wrong.

                      a friend of mine worked at a place with notoriously high wine prices. a table of 4 men ordered 5 very pricey bottles and lots of expensive food --truffle and caviar supplements, etc. he and the sommelier had been running their butts to keep up with the questions, the glassware, the decanting and the table maintenance. the total check was nearly $3000 and the wines came to about $2000. when the host paid the bill, he said, "the wine prices here are outrageous, so i'm tipping you on what i think the bottles should cost." he left a $200 tip. that was 7 years and the arrogance still astounds me.

                      1. re: hotoynoodle

                        That's not even a tip on the wine, and I'm not talking about that. But what would have been sufficient? Surely not a 600 dollar tip on that meal were 400 of the tip comes from wine. You've got to be kidding me if that's what you are expecting.

                        $1000.00 meal = 200 or so in tip (give or take a bit for better or worse service)
                        4 bottles at $500 a bottle = maybe an 80-100 dollar tip, perhaps more if we are talking about decanting.

                        That said, we are now talking let's say a 300-350 tip- I'd think that would be more than generous for that.

                        1. re: jpschust

                          i never said anything about what my friend "expected." however, it was a table that was very labor-intensive for both wine and food, and as i mentioned i've never been more shocked by a customer's arrogance in all my life.

                          can you imagine saying to a waiter, "the truffles this year aren't as good as last, so i'm tipping you on what i think that dish should have cost"? or to that ignorant guy, "gee, that stock is trading for $50 a share, but i think it's only worth $30, so that's all the commission i'm willing to pay you."

                          1. re: hotoynoodle

                            If I could do that with stocks my portfolio would look better :)

                            I think there are fair tips and fair expectations, my ultimate perception is that the expectation of 20% on a high priced bottle of wine is an unfair expectation.

                        2. re: hotoynoodle

                          In your first case- yes I skew the tip a little bit up. There's no purely defined calculation here for how I tip, though I will say most of my tips end in the 20-25% range for food and in about the 10% range for wine.

                          I prefer to pour my own wines and I expect a server to respect that. It's not done out of hostility and it's always done politely. It's easier for us at the table to gauge our own speed that way and my groups tend to prefer that.

              2. Did I answer your questions about the wines on the wine list? Did I help you make a good choice? Did I present/decant/pour properly? Did I keep your glass full, as I would your water glass?

                My goal is to make your dining experience wonderful.

                If I'm not reimbursed fairly, why don't I just put the bottle on the table & walk away?

                Sorry if I sound a bit snippy, this subject always raises my ire.

                11 Replies
                1. re: finewineserver

                  Conversely, for the person who knows what they want and doesn't want you to pour (namely since servers often seem to have a heavy hand on the bottle early on in the night) do you deserve to be reimbursed at 20% for the work that just isn't being done?

                  1. re: jpschust

                    So if you don't ask any questions about your food or the menu, and you don't send anything back, the waiter doesn't deserve 20% on your food either? Again, you're applying a different logic to wine than food for no real reason.

                    You are, of course, entitled to tip as you like, but if you're tipping less than 20% for good service on the whole bill, you're tipping less than is customary.

                    1. re: oolah

                      I also don't believe 20% is customary (I think 15% is) but that's another story. Food and wine require two very different levels of effort. I'm more likely to tip more on something that requires effort than something that requires minimal effort on the part of the server. This said, I don't consider myself a stingy tipper as I am often leaving upwards of 30% on a meal for excellent service. I'm more concerned with my service of the food than the service of the wine since in my opinion wine still requires very little service in the big picture of things.

                    2. re: jpschust

                      How about this, I'll reimburse you that 20% if you go get the bottle, open it, decant it, polish the glasses before and after using them, and go give proper service to my other 20 customers while I'm doing all that for you. Oh, and be sure to keep a smile on your face, no matter how much the customer is acting like a scrooge.

                      1. re: MBShapiro

                        How about this- I'll tip you based on the service I get for the food portion of my meal, and I'll tip generously at that for you to do your job, and when the wine comes I'll give you something decent as a tip, but I'm not giving you 20% on a $200+ bottle of wine.

                        1. re: jpschust

                          Let's say you order food and get a $80 supplement to get white truffles shaved on top of your food by the expediter in the kitchen. Are you tipping on that $80? If so, then that is something that required no effort on behalf of the server. If not, then you are not tipping on the food portion of the meal.
                          Servers make $4 an hour. The ones who work at nice restaurants with good wine lists are generally better at their job than those who work at places without expensive wine. Why not give them a tip (the vast majority of their income) for knowing proper wine service along with knowing about all the wines. The beverage program at a restaurant is a part of the overall experience, which your server is providing access to.

                          1. re: MBShapiro

                            in this state waiters make $2.63 per hour.

                            1. re: MBShapiro

                              on supplements I tend to tip minimally to be honest- though I can't ever recall any suplement I've ever ordered being more than about $25, even for truffles (and white albas at that).

                              1. re: jpschust

                                The bottom line is, service charges aren't included in the price you pay for a meal off the menu. In this country, servers make their money from tips, and the better service they give, generally, the more money they make.
                                I just don't see why one type of item from the menu is arbitrarily left off when deciding the final tip amount. In this case, it's the wine. What if the entrees were brought up by a runner, and, because the waiter was at another table, a manager brought the food over to the table. Should I not tip on the entree? In this case, the waiter was not involved in getting the entree to the table. What if i made it a practice to not tip on the entree?
                                I think that the argument for not tipping on wine stems from the fact that it can be the most expensive thing on a bill, and, unlike an entree, is an optional part of a meal. But the bottom line is, that a server is just as responsible for getting the wine in front of you as the food, so why not tip accordingly? As someone else suggested, if you don't feel comfortable tipping the same amount on wine as on food, then instead of buying a $200 bottle and tipping 10% on it, get a $185 bottle and tip 20%. It comes out to the same amount.

                                1. re: MBShapiro

                                  All very good points. I do not agree with them all, but they are all very palatable positions. Let me ask a question to you because you seem very reasoned.

                                  I have been to some restos in which the hostess brings the menus and the first time we see the waiter is when he asks if we are ready to order. We order from him. The runners bring the meals, the water boys fill the glass. The waiter may stop byto ask if everything is OK. His next drive by is when he asks if we would like coffee or dessert. Sometimes you get the feeling he is hoping for a "no" so he can turn the table now versu getting his percentage os a $5 coffee and an $8 dessert. He may take the order and then we see him when the check is presented.

                                  The dinner was lovely, the service fine and unobstrusive, thanks to the waiter's support.

                                  So the question is what tip should be given to the waiter who stopped by a couple of times, wrote our order and gave us the check?

                                  Just interested in your perspective.

                                  1. re: jfood

                                    I know that at my restaurant, and many others around NY (and I think increasingly more restaurants around the country), tips are pooled, meaning that the hostess gets a tiny bit of your tip, the guy who cleared your table gets a little more, the runner some more, and the one who filled your water a bit more than that. The "waiter" gets the most, but it's no more than a 15% bump over the last person. The "waiter" is basically the one orchestrating all the service in the section, so he/she is more involved than you might think. At least that's how things work at my restaurant, and I have a feeling it's pretty universal. Thus, tip as you normally would, and rest assured that the money will be filtered appropriately.

                    3. Here's the absolute most common sense essay on tipping I have ever read. From NYC food blogger augieland.

                      Not tipping 20% on wine makes no sense whatsoever - just like not tipping a bartender.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: livetotravel

                        Although this is a well thought through article and well written, I just do not a gree with many of the conclusions. I may be wrong, augie may be wrong or there is some middle ground.

                        1 - If the preception of the current wait staff that 20% is customary, then I will continue to disappoint them. I am 15-18% range. My customary haunts garner the "customary" 20% but they take care of me. I think that some of the major cities believe 20 is the entitled amount but there are many threads on CH that have many differing opinions.
                        2 - The difference between a 15 and 20% tip is $5 and it is worth more to the waiter. One of the first rule I learned in math is A = A. So the $5 in the waiters pocket is worth EXACTLY the same amout as in my pocket. When we go to Starby's the next day and order large black coffee, we both get the same change back from our respective $5 payment.
                        3 - Tip on wine - I do not drink so please take this from an outsider looking in. I think there is a break-point in which the percentage tip on the price on the bottle goes down. Order a $40 bottle at a resto with $30's entrees, full percentage. Go for a $200+ bottle at the same place, I have a problem with the same percentage. I do not postulate on the dollar-value of the break point but there should be one.
                        4 - If you can afford... I always cringe when people tell me what I can and cannot afford. I do not tell people how to spend their money and I expect the same respect from others.
                        5 - Bartender tips - I like the cost per at $1. Sounds crazy to pay the same for a $5 beer and a $9 mixed but watch the tender, each probab;y takes about the same time and effort.
                        6 - Deciding who is cheap and not - Any waiter who calls someone who leave a 15% tip cheap is just wrong. Any waiter who calls any customer a name should have a good speaking to by the manager, remember without the customer, the tip percentage multiplied by zero dollars sold is really a bad tip. It is so easy to call someone cheap if they do not meet these "entitled" expectations that I cringe.

                        These may not be the opinions of anyone else on this thread and definitiely not in agreement with Augie, but I will not buy into much of this just because the voices preaching are louder than the quiet voices.

                        1. re: jfood

                          RE: point 5 (I'm in Los Angeles; adjust prices accordingly):

                          Anyone who can read or recognize a label can serve a beer. A mixed drink is another matter. I have sent back many a 10-15 dollar cocktail because it was poorly made. Yet the hole-in-the-wall places that charge 4-5 bucks usually get it right. Oh wait. Those places hire experienced (often elderly, sometimes perpetually shaking) bartenders while the pricier joints (other than some of the high end hotels) hire 20-something unemployed "models" and "actors" who look pretty. Or maybe that's only in Los Angeles.

                          A competent bartender knows on the order of a hundred recipes and can pour accurately without measuring, i.e., measure accurately by pouring.

                          Anyhow, whatever one's "standard" for bar tips, I'd encourage raising it a hair when ordering anything with multiple ingredients.

                      2. Forget about all this talk about who is doing what, decanting, serving, cracking lobsters, refilling glasses, deboning fish, polishing glasses, giving neck massages.... just give the tip on the total bill (food + wine) and do so according to the level of service.

                        As I stated previously, there are no complaints in Europe where all the restaurants have "service compris"... meaning the tax and tip are already included in every price. If a wine is $2,000 the tip is already included at the same rate as anything else that you order. You don't have a choice... everyone seems fine with it. Why should it be any different here?

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: WineTravel

                          for some reason unknown to me, people seem to feel there is excessive wiggle room with wine prices. i can't tell you how many times guys (yes, always guys) have tried to bargain with me: "this quintessa is on your list for for $180, i only want to pay $100. what can you do for me?" ARE YOU KIDDING ME? they would never say,"gee, this lobster is $45, but i only wanna pay $35."

                          i realize wine mark-up is a sensitive issue, as is tipping. but your service staff doesn't set the prices. i will never understand other people's rationale on why they don't tip on wine. or why if they had 6 drinks and the bill came to $75, they only give the guy $5. the twain never shall meet.

                          eric asimov's blog in the ny times has had some VERY heated discussions on this.

                          1. re: WineTravel

                            Because we leave the choice in the hands of the customer. And not all of us agree with the paradigm.

                            Here's an example. Waiter serves a bottle of $6 Pelligrino with his left hand and a bottle of basic $40 white wine in his right. Ok, he uncorks one and twists the other to open. Going forward, they are both kept chilled and the waiter pours as needed. Why does he receive $6 for the wine and $0.90 for the water?

                            I agree this argument can hold true to why does he receive 15% of a $35 entree and a $18 entree at the same table? Same work, right?

                            No right answer, but as many opinions as there are customers.

                          2. One point that has not been brought up yet on this thread is how wine figures into the waiter's accounts at the end of the night.

                            When I waited tables I was responsible for tipping out my bartender or my sommelier. I had to fork over 10% of the bar bill to the person who poured the drinks I brought to the table. So when someone decided to splurge and buy a bottle of Dom Perignon, and didn't tip on it, I had to hand over more than half of my tip to the sommelier for that large, rowdy and high maintenence table. (There was a remark that "Hey, they deserved the best service since they splurged on the wine.") The house made money that night; I did not.

                            1. Why make dining out such an ordeal? I dine out to enjoy myself. I prefer to pour my own wine, but its not so I can gip the waiter. I always leave 20-25% on the entire check and I and my guests leave happy and are welcomed back with open arms.

                              I am embarrassed to dine with people who try to find ways to pinch pennies by screwing the waiter out of his tip.

                              4 Replies
                                  1. re: Le Den

                                    Actually, often I like to pour my own wine too. Don't do it in high end places where it would be bad form... and generally they have waitstaff/sommeiers that know what they're doing. But that's my choice.... and as you... would never think of lowering the tip.

                                    The reason I like to pour? Cause often waiters don't know how to handle wine. They overpour, refill glasses of people that don't want more wine (not always their fault as the person doesn't say anything (man does that irk me). Then the wine sits in the glass and goes to waste. In any case, when the bottle is not in the hands of a pro, I often take control.

                                    I agree with you 100%... this topic has been beaten up.... people should tip on the whole meal... stop overanalyzing... tip your servers well... and enjoy yourselves when you dine out.

                                    1. re: WineTravel

                                      Report from Jfood, the guy who does not drink.

                                      WT, it irks you that they fill/refill my glass and it irks some of us on the other side as well. I do not drink and fell embarassed and upset that the waiter has taken the pleasure of the bottle away from my companions, who choose wine carefully and want to enjoy every last delicious drop.

                                      I've placed my hand over the glass, told the waiter, everything to stop the initial onslaught, probably 60% effective. I have found the ONLY way (since they seem to sneak up when I am speaking to someone and do not notice) is turn the wine glass upside down. So far i've received no wine, so it seems to work.

                                  2. That A=A argument doesn't make any sense. $50 to a bus boy means quite a bit more than $50 to a radiologist. That's not some radical leftist point of view. It's why civilized countries have things like progressive income tax.

                                    I think 20% is good on the whole bill. When I can't afford it, I go to the store and make myself a nice meal. I don't stiff the waitstaff.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: JeremyEG

                                      So let's continue your logic. With your progressive income tax, the $50 after tax to the radiologist is worth $100 pretax (assuming a 50% fed/state all-in tax rate), and the $50 to the busboy is worth probably $50-60 at his tax rate. So pre-tax dollars radiologist has much more nominal value. But the radiologist makes TONS more than the busboy, so as a percentage of income you are absolutely correct in that conclusion.

                                      But, to further continue and say that the wait staff got "stiff" is not correct. There is a difference of opinion on the customary percentage as you will see on many thread and I believe customary is 15-18% while others believe its 20-25%. The wait staff has benefitted from a rise in menu prices and their 15-18% has, likewise, on a nominal basis increased. My point has, and always has been, to both give them the greater nominal dollars on the increase in menu prices PLUS multiply it by a higher percentage is, in essence double-dipping on the tip.

                                      Remember some say po-tay-toe and others say po-tah-toe.

                                      1. re: jfood

                                        I'm more in the 15-20% range myself. 15% being standard service and 20% being good service.

                                        I really wish more places would INCLUDE service charge in their prices (Per Se being the only restaurant I know that does this).

                                        It's so easy dining in Europe, Japan, Hong Kong, etc.