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Jun 27, 2010 01:36 PM

how much do I tip the sommelier?

I am having a dinner at a restaurant for 11 people. The sommelier has been helpful in helping me select wines before the event. How much do I tip him? Do I need to tip him above and beyond the 20% for the total bill (which I think is split by everyone)?

Please help! Thanks all.

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  1. How expensive is the restaurant and what are spending on wine?

    1 Reply
    1. re: gutsofsteel

      Barbuto, chef's table. I'm spending $120 a head on food. I"m thinking wine will likely come to around $1,000 (Champagne, red and white throughout several courses for 11 people). Your advice would be most welcome!

    2. i would think ten percent would be acceptable. i like wine stewards that are friendly and attentive. they appreciate your thoughtfulness, but are not always rewarded for their service. if she or he has gone out of his/her way for you, it would be a nice gesture, especially if you have developed a pleasant relationship.

      13 Replies
      1. re: quarterback

        10 percent? Are you living in the 70s?
        Just like your wait staff, they don't deserve anything less than the norm for the wait staff today. I'd say that 20% is the minimum especially with the help that the OP got with the planning for the wines.

        1. re: RCC

          You think the OP should hand the sommelier $200? No way. I agree with quarterback - $100 is plenty. The OP is already tipping 20% for service, which is presumably shared in some way by the staff. Not to mention the proft the restaurant is making on the wine markup.

          1. re: gutsofsteel

            This is the correct answer. He's being cashed out of the tip pool. I'd palm him a hundy.

            1. re: gutsofsteel

              Excuse me? 11 people being accorded good wine service (to be split evenly, presumably) and you don't think that the same percentage as in food service should be not be reserved for tipping?
              Btw, it's not only wine service, but the costs of proper storage of wines. Do you ever store good wines at proper provenance yourself and if so do you know the costs involved?

              1. re: RCC

                That cost has nothing to do with the services of the sommelier. That is the resturant's cost and is built into their profit margin. A tip is for service, not for the restaurant's overhead costs. Surely you're not suggesting that a sommelier's tip be calculated in part based on the restaurant's wine storage costs. A tip goes to the serviceperson, not into the restaurant's bottom lline. Just as tips for waiters don't go to the restaurants costs for napkins and silverware.

                1. re: gutsofsteel

                  It's the service alone for consulting beforehand and the task of serving, and prepping the wines, possible use of decanters, etc. and making sure that right glasses are served according to the wines and the pairings. A lot of things, as in this case, went into planning for and presmably serving wines ... not just, as you probaby think, uncorking a bottle and pouring them into glasses.

                  1. re: RCC

                    I am very well aware of the elements of a good wine department/service in a restaurant. However, this is part and parcel of what should be included in a fine restaurant. As I said, good service deserves a tip. But a sommelier doing his/her job is just that....doing his/her job.

                    I agree that the sommerlier should get a tip, and I think 10% of the cost of the wine is sufficient, on top of the 20% that is already being paid for service, in which the sommelier will also participate.

              2. re: gutsofsteel

                Sommelier's get tipped 15%-20% of the wine bill if you've received special attention. I don't see how the profit made by the restaurant has anything to do with the percentage of tip given.

                1. re: bookhound

                  Furthermore, I don't think asking a restaurant, through its somellier, to help choose wines for a group dinner of this size is "special attention."

                  1. re: gutsofsteel

                    "I don't think asking a restaurant, through its somellier, to help choose wines for a group dinner of this size is "special attention.""

                    Huh? What makes you think that?

                    1. re: RCC

                      It's the sommelier doing his/her job in order to help the restaurant make a profit. Good service deserves a tip, but it's not "special" any more than a good waiter providing good service is not "special."

                      1. re: gutsofsteel

                        And just exactly how much do you tip your waiter for good service nowadays? 10%?

                        1. re: gutsofsteel

                          The definition of "special attention" in Emily Post's Etiquette 75th Anniversary Edition is, "assistance in making your selection, attention to your needs and budget, and service when your glasses need to be filled again". This is exactly the service the OP is receiving.

            2. I'm a sommelier (well, was, until I very recently was promoted to wine director). Every house pools differently. I'd simply call the establishment and ask the host/maitre d if the sommelier gets a cut of the waiter's tips or not. If yes, I'd slip him about 50 extra bucks or so. If not, I'd probably shoot him about a buck fifty.

              8 Replies
              1. re: invinotheresverde

                well well well, congrats on the promotion and new gig. and to think these boards knew you when you were just a free sip from an expensive bottle. :-))

                1. re: invinotheresverde

                  Question: in the latter case, does the server get tipped fully on the wine portion of the sale, too?

                  The reason I asked is, back before the IRS made things more linear, where there was a sommelier/wine steward, one tipped the wine steward on the wine, but did *not* tip the server on the wine (this was the original of the question in some people's minds about whether to tip servers on wine as a general rule - they don't realize the issue arose from a division of labor in the past).

                  1. re: Karl S

                    No. There's no need to double tip. The house will have an adequate system for the division.

                    1. re: invinotheresverde

                      Good. That's what I would expect, but comments from people sometimes indicate an expectation of double-tipping....

                      1. re: Karl S

                        exactly; he already said he was tipping 20% on the *total* and then people give him a hard time for "only" *another* 10% on the wine. So 30% on wine????

                        So to clarify, not that I ever expect to be in such a situation. Is it expected to tip 20% on the wine, and then a "nice tip" for the sommelier, depending on how he's tipped by the establishment?

                        1. re: DGresh

                          I understand invinotheresverde's comment to mean 20% to the server on the bill *ex*-wine, and 15% on the wine portion to the sommelier.

                      2. re: invinotheresverde

                        Thank you invinotheresverde. This is clearly a slightly confusing area and your experience and advice have been very helpful!

                  2. As someone completely inexperienced in this world, please allow me to ask a further, highly novice question.
                    If I am having a simple dinner for 2-4 people, and the sommelier comes over and assists us in our wine choice, do I need to tip him then? I had been simply tipping on the total of the bill to the server at the end of the night (on the food and all beverages) and assuming it would go to the correct person.
                    Please let me know if I'm going about that wrong!

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: hyacinthgirl

                      Well after a year of reading I had to sign up just so I could ask this newbie question too. I've never used a sommelier before but plan to try a few restaurants soon, and was planning to ask for wine recommendations just for my glass. Is it inappropriate to occupy their time for such a simple task? And I was always under the impression that sommeliers were salaried and so you don't tip them unless they've done a ton of work for a large party. Is that wrong?
                      Thanks.... :o)

                      1. re: Sugarella

                        Read my first post above.

                        As for the btg question, no, it's not "wrong" to occupy their time, but most likely your server will be able to answer any question about wines poured by the glass, as well as provide you a taste.