HOME > Chowhound > Wine >

Discussion

Tipping on wine in restaurants?

Lets say I purchase a bottle of wine in a restaurant worth $100 retail, most restaurants would charge $200 to $400 for the same bottle. Lets say $250 for arguments sake ($270 including tax). What would the fine dining hounds tip on a $250 bottle of wine? $50 would be the customary 20% on the pre-tax bottle alone . Now, if the sommelier spent some time with me (as he should for a $250 bottle) and decanted the bottle, brought in wine specific glasses, etc., then just perhaps that's appropriate. But if a waiter just opens and pours, do you tip the full 20% on a bottle of wine that's likely already marked up 100% - 300% by the restaurant? I personally don't feel 20% is appropriate (I tend to tip only ~10% on heavily marked up wine), but am interested in what other experienced diners do.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
Posting Guidelines | FAQs | Feedback
Cancel
  1. I tip on all of it. For two reasons:

    1. Food is overpriced too. e.g. some kitchens split the tip with the kitchen staff but I wouldn't decrease the tip based on the QPR of each dish. So if a dish of ravioli made with butternut squash ran $28 I wouldn't only tip on $15 because I thought the dish was overpriced....*shrug*

    2. I don't really break down service that way - I feel it's up to the management/staff of a restaurant to figure out how the tip is split and different restaurants share the tips differently. So, I try not to speculate who knows if the sommelier gets part of that at all? And often the waiter is the one who has to hunt down the sommelier, source wine glasses, and help with pouring if the sommelier is otherwise busy

    8 Replies
    1. re: goldangl95

      1. If I'm paying for the preparation and technique, I don't mind a dish that's highly marked up one bit.

      2. I feel they have already made a big portion of their money on the wine mark up. Service from a sommelier is one thing, but just having a waiter open a bottle of wine that they are already making double to quadruple on, I don't think is fair to tip on this mark up.

      Admittedly this makes it more difficult to calculate tip, but I usually hand write the math on the receipt, so they see I'm only tipping 10% on the wine charge and 20% on the rest.

      1. re: RhonelyInsanediego

        Perhaps I could have been clearer - apologies. I'm not speaking of the profitability (which who knows? how profitable the restaurant is)

        Typical restaurant markup on food is say 300%
        Typical restaurant markup on high-end wine in my area is about 100 - 200%

        The restaurant markup goes completely to the restaurant owners. It does not matter if the kitchen staff just buys the food frozen and microwaves it or if they spend hours on the perfect sauce and individually inspect each grain of rice. The restaurant still receives the same markup.

        Same whether the wine is on a shelf above the stove and there's only two types of wine to pick from. Or whether the sommelier spends 15 minutes with you, let's you try a bottle, and helps you navigate a 50 page list. The markup regardless goes to the restaurant owners.

        Now tip is what is given to the servers. So I'm saying if you figure in the markup of wine (which goes to the restaurant owners) into the tip. Why do you not figure in the markup of the food into the tip??

        I'm not saying you are incorrect in your views....just trying to clarify the analogy.

        1. re: goldangl95

          speaking specifically to Southern CA where I am, typical wine markup is between 2.5 (the best) to 4 (unfortunately pretty normal these days) times the wholesale price of the wine. So, 250% at best to 400%...
          While I've heard restaurant managing friends talk about high food costs being around 30% of the item's sale price.
          Just to anchor that I'm not pulling these numbers out of the air, I work in the wine industry.

          1. re: jdwdeville

            To be clear 30% of the item's sale price is a 233% markup I believe.

            Yea at a lot of restaurants in the SF bay area most of the wine lists I notice that have bottles in the $180-280 range the mark up is pretty reasonable (e.g. a $90 bottle marked up to $180). Which is 50% of the item's sales price. Or a 100% markup.

            1. re: goldangl95

              Yeah, you are likely right about my math on the food part now that I think about it. Think all these "fiscal cliff" news reports are rotting my brain for numbers.

              Re the wine markup, are you going on the retail costs? We are basing our assumptions about food on the wholesale cost- it seems appropriate to do the same for wine, no?

              1. re: jdwdeville

                Someone can correct me if I'm wrong - but I dont think there's a huge wholesale discount on wines that retail in the $100+. Mainly because I don't think the restaurant itself would buy wines in that price range in large-scale bulk (an exception would be something like Ruth Chris which has a bunch of high end steak houses all over the country). The restauranteurs probably get a 15% discount but nothing too substantial.

                1. re: goldangl95

                  No, you're wrong . . .

                  To describe the myriad of discounts wholesalers offer to restaurants would take an hour (minimum) for me to write out, and would be boring as hell to read, but even $800/case wholesale wines can get discounts.

                  There are stand-alone discounts, brand discounts, family plan discounts, by-the-glass discounts, etc., etc., etc., and even if the case is "net" (no discount on that specific case), it qualifies OTHER wines for discount . . .

                  /\/\/\/\/\

                  And, FWIW, a 15 percent discount on the case is a lot!

                  $800/case one = $66.667 btl. $100 retail = 50% markup = 33% profit.

                  15% discount = $56.667 btl. $100 retail = 76.5% markup = 43.333% profit

      2. re: goldangl95

        I respectively disagree (totally). I don't think comparing the price of food to wine is reasonable.The price of dishes in a restaurant are relatively close to eachother in price, depending on the category of course such as appetizer, main course and dessert. The most one dish will vary from another in price, within a category, might be 50% less to 100% more or so. Therefore what you tip is not going to vary greatly with the price of the meal. This is not the case with wine. You will find wines on a typical restaurants wine list that can vary from $40 a bottle to $400 and much more. Does that mean you should tip 10 times as much on the latter bottle? I don't think so. Here's why:

        You can spend as much time with the sommelier about which bottle to choose amongst bottles that are priced between $40 and $60 as you do for ones that are between $40 and $400 a bottle. Also, it is the same work for the sommelier or server to choose one set of glasses over the other and bring them to your table. Pouring the wine is also the same amount of work. As far as decanting, whether the bottle should be or not does not necessarily depend on the price of the bottle.

        Therefore, the only reason to tip more is because of the price of the bottle and I feel this is not a good enough reason. You may have other reasons to do so but they should stand on their own, such as exceptional service, something that was served to you on a complementary basis or other reasons specific to your experience at the restaurant.

        Also, I think you should only tip on the pre-tax price of your meal and alcohol, not also on the government's tax. There is no reason the restaurant should get a bigger tip because the government taxes or increases their tax.

      3. I wouldn't hinge my tip amount for wine on the price. What's the difference to the somm if its a $75 bottle or a $750? The work involved is the same for him/ her. Decide what you'd like to tip based on service only and not on the price of the wine.

        7 Replies
        1. re: Chinon00

          Well yes. At some point the rule may be stretched to the point of incredulity, but I don't think that starts at the $200-300 bottle on the wine list. Let's say for two people a $50 dollars worth of ingredients meal pp cost $120 pp. And the wine was marked up from $100 to $250.

          The markup on the wine and food is about the same. I realize there are people on this board who regularly order bottles of wine off the wine list that are over $250 - but that's not most people - even on this board.

          And not to beat the analogy to death but what does it matter to the kitchen staff how costly/how much the markup on the ingredient is? It may be much more labor intensive to debone an inexpensive fish for example than to shave truffles over pasta.

          Also we, the consumer, subsidize the staff through tips. The salary the restaurant pays is not the true salary of the staff in the United States (even sometimes - the kitchen staff).

          1. re: Chinon00

            Exactly. This is evidenced by the flat corkage fees that restaurants charge. They are charging a flat fee for their costs on wine service. The value of the wine makes no difference in what they charge. Thus you are tipping only on their service fee.

            1. re: RhonelyInsanediego

              However, waiters are taxed on a percentage of their total sales for the year, and that includes alcohol.

              1. re: jdwdeville

                Is that pre-tax sales or do they get taxed on the tax?

                1. re: RhonelyInsanediego

                  Been out of the restaurant side and into the wine side of things for some years now but I recall it being something like 10% of your year's sales that it is assumed you made, so sales are not the total w tax.
                  That said, see my comment below- if you can afford it regularly, you should damn well tip on it. If not, well, be cool and offer a taste to the waiter- chances are they haven't tasted your 2000 Mouton before, either.

              2. re: RhonelyInsanediego

                The corkage fee goes to the restaurant owners. It's mainly to replace the lost opportunity on a wine markup. It's calculated in order to benefit the restaurant owners.....why would use that calculation to measure how much to compensate your server? They're different constituencies.

                1. re: RhonelyInsanediego

                  As I have often pointed out in the past, when I ran the wine program in a wine bar back in the 1980s, we changed a flat FIVE DOLLARS OVER SUGGESTED RETAIL for all wines on our list.

                  So, if a wine carried a suggested retail price of, say, $20, it meant that my wholesale cost was $13.33. My wine list price was $25, and my Beginning Gross Profit was $11.667 a bottle, or 46.667% That $50 retail bottle cost me $33.33; I sold it for $55, and my BGP was $21.67, or 39.394%. $100 retail? $105 on the list, $38.333 and 36.5% profit. The more expensive the bottle, the higher dollar profit, but the lower the percentage profit -- the more expensive bottles were a better deal for the customers.

                  Corkage started out at a flat $5, too, but we eventually raised it to $10 -- even so, we rarely had people bring in bottles; our wines were just so affordable!

              3. Here's my take:
                Is it a super-special splurge bottle you've saved up for that you'd never be able to afford under normal circumstances? Tip what you can, then, and be super nice and cool to the somm and waiter.
                Is it some screamingly expensive bottle that you buy every night because you can afford to drink that way? Then tip on the damn total, you can afford it, and it's probably good for your karma.

                1. I tip on the total, but I don't buy expensive bottles at restaurants.

                  I understand a premium on inexpensive bottles - it's another way of the restaurant recovering costs - and it's tolerable for being able to enjoy wine with my meal. Where that premium continues to be applied in the same percentage (usually exorbitant) without regard to the cost of the bottle, things become a little absurd. The finer the wine, the less it is merely an accompaniment to the meal; it is an experience in itself and a celebration of the wine. When that is the case, it is simply stupid to pay an additional $100-1000 for a bottle; the fact that I am drinking it at a restaurant rather than at home doesn't remotely justify the premium, and I would much rather have a better wine (or multiple bottles) at home than at a restaurant. Knowing what extortion it is would actually detract from the experience at a restaurant.

                  17 Replies
                  1. re: mugen

                    >>> I tip on the total, but I don't buy expensive bottles at restaurants. <<<

                    Agreed.

                    1. re: zin1953

                      Now, I have been known to do so, and tip on the wine, so long as the service is good.

                      For me, there are often "stemware selections," the caraffing of FR whites, and maybe a few other things. I expect those, especially when buying a "special bottle," and usually receive them.

                      In very general terms, my average restaurant wines are in the US $ 120 to $ 450 range, but have been exceptions, both up and down the scale. As more usually goes into the service of the upper-end wines, I do not hesitate to tip on those.

                      Hunt

                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                        Will you tip $90 on a $450 bottle of wine? I certainly wouldn't. Perhaps I'm a cheapskate, and perhaps I'm wrong, but my policy is this:
                        1) If the sommelier is obviously very knowledgeable and spends time assisting me in selecting the right bottle(s) of wine for dinner, I will generally give him/her $20 in cash after dinner...and,
                        2) I always tip at least 20%, but since I tip the sommelier separately, regardless of how expensive a bottle of wine I order, I'll never tip more than $25 for the wine portion of the check. (For example, if food is $400 and wine is $250, I'll leave $80 for food, and $25 for wine).
                        I think this is fair, and indeed appropriate.

                        1. re: josephnl

                          I agree with and like this policy. Seems fair and reasonable.

                          1. re: RhonelyInsanediego

                            And, I should have made clear (and this may where others think I'm cheap)...if the choice from the wine list is clear to me, and I've had no special help from the sommelier, the $25 max still applies...or perhaps a bit more if a 2nd bottle is ordered.

                            1. re: josephnl

                              I do not believe that anyone (and certainly not me), has claimed that you are "cheap." Your plan is your plan, and I will defend that, even if it's not what I might do, under the same circumstances.

                              Hunt

                              PS - with last night's example, I invited the sommelier to join us, and when we still had a bit "left-over" (lot of wine on my table last night), we "gifted" three light pours to other diners, all of whom thanked us profusely, and enjoyed those pours.

                          2. re: josephnl

                            <<Will you tip $90 on a $450 bottle of wine?>>

                            In a word, yes. I just did so last night, with a wonderful bottle of DRC, but I also got a good deal from the sommelier. My "discount" was greater, than the tip, in that particular case.

                            I have also given separate, cash tips to various sommeliers too, but it just depends on so many variables.

                            Different folk have different plans for tipping, and I am, in no way, indicating that mine is the "correct" way to address things - it is just what I normally do - nothing more, and nothing less.

                            Hunt

                            1. re: Bill Hunt

                              Very interesting! I've always considered myself a rather generous tipper. I essentially always tip at least 20% (aside from my wine policy as stated above), and almost always offer servers and sommeliers a pour of my wine whether it's purchased from the restaurant, or brought in from home (for corkage). Nevertheless, I find it difficult to understand why a server deserves a $90 tip if I decide to splurge on a $450 bottle of wine (a very rare occurrence for me), whereas he/she would only be tipped $20 for a $100 bottle of wine (which I frequently will order). The server is being paid for their service, and I would expect the same care, glassware, and service for a $100 bottle, as I would for the most expensive bottle in the house.

                              I'm also curious as to what others do when they bring a terrific and expensive bottle of wine in and pay corkage. I'll always offer a taste of the wine to the server, but have never even thought about tipping based upon the value of the wine. The corkage charge (at least in CA) is typically about $25, and I, as well as most others (I think), simply tip ~20%, or perhaps a bit more, on the total bill.

                              1. re: josephnl

                                For me, and this is just for me, personally, I tip on the price of the wine. I do not advocate that anyone else do so. It is how I handle things - only.

                                For the BYOW, that is seldom a course of action for me. When it has been, I have never been charged any corkage fee, though I have been willing to pay such. Especially with something that I do bring, I always plan on sharing that wine with the sommelier, probably the chef, and likely the owner. Still, unlike many, I seldom arrive with my own bottle. When I do, I have spoken to the appropriate person(s), before showing up. IIRC, the last time that I did, the sommelier knew exactly how many pours he needed to get from a bottle of '48 Taylor-Fladgate VP, and he did it nicely - with a second pour for my wife, the "birthday girl."

                                When it comes to BYOW, I am the last person, who should comment.

                                Hunt

                                1. re: Bill Hunt

                                  I suppose it's a regional thing, but bringing wine to a restaurant for corkage is quite common in California. We were in the Napa Valley a few weeks ago, and in a few restaurants where we dined, it appeared that perhaps as many as 25% of the diners were bringing in wine. Some of these folks obviously worked in the industry (they brought in several bottles, we're known to the staff and shared their goodies with the staff) and some (like us) had picked up some terrific bottles visiting wineries and tasting. I have no idea what the appropriate tipping policy should be for this. Anyone?

                                  1. re: josephnl

                                    Besides regional differences, regarding mind set, one also has to consider the laws: state, county, and even municipal. They vary, and can vary greatly.

                                    As an example, in Hawai`i, only the County of Maui (the Island) did not allow BYOB/W, and also did not allow for re-corking of a bottle of wine, to take back to one's hotel room, or home. I understand that this changed recently, to align more with the other counties/Islands.

                                    Phoenix, AZ, has some strict rules on BYOB/W, and they apply to licenses, seating, etc.. One needs to check.

                                    However, we are in San Francisco about 30x per year, and even with the short flights, I do not think about bringing my own wines, when we dine (maybe 70x per year). Maybe it is just me?

                                    Thanks,

                                    Hunt

                              2. re: Bill Hunt

                                Bill, where is the world did you find a bottle of DRC for $450?! Dear god, even their worst vintage is over four figures here in Los Angeles.
                                In a case like that I can certainly understand the tip being in the $100 range...

                                1. re: jdwdeville

                                  In my case, it was at Campton Place, in San Francisco, and was the 2009, which was over-stocked, and needed to be moved.

                                  The price was a "special," and listed as a "take-out - one per table," but we sort of danced around that part.

                                  Also, along with the "sommelier's pairing" for the meal, we did a wonderful Montrachet, as a starter, so the wine tab was already "up there," before the DRC.

                                  On a slightly different note, at a restaurant in Phoenix, the sommelier approached me, with a beautiful DRC, that had just been rejected, but was more than perfectly fine. We were offered B-T-G for the bottle, at a really good price. The restaurant had a very good wine, that had been opened (that patron had ordered several, and rejected all... ), and we ended up drinking the bottle, at a more than fair price. One time, where befriending the sommelier paid dividends, and really good ones - too bad my investments never work out that way!

                                  Hunt

                                  1. re: jdwdeville

                                    Something about your question bothered me. I puzzled over it most of the night. Even this evening, I had to do a bit of research, to find what it was.

                                    The poster, to whom I responded, and from whom, I took a quote, used the figure $450/btl. I responded, without adequate clarification. The DRC, that I ordered, was US $650, and not $450. That lower figure was one cited by another.

                                    Just wanted to clarify, so that no one heads to that restaurant, screaming, "Well, Bill Hunt got it for $450." IIRC, the "regular" wine list price was ~ US $1200, but, to clear the cellar, with some stipulations, the price fell to about US $650, which was what I paid, and what I tipped on.

                                    Sorry if my replies might have led to some confusion, as that was never my intent.

                                    I hope that this clarification paints a more accurate picture, and that I can now sleep, without puzzling over "what was wrong there?"

                                    Hunt

                                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                                      Thank you for the clarification, though even at $650 (for an '09!?) it is surely a steal, if out of my normal drinking range. I do think I would make an exception for any of Aubert's children priced thusly, though.
                                      Down here in LA we have an Italian restaurant with a DRC page whose sub-heading is "THE LOWEST PRICES ON THE PLANET". While that hyperbole might occasionally be true, it also should probably say "the worst vintages from the winery"...

                                  2. re: Bill Hunt

                                    Where did you get a DRC for $450 in a restaurant? Just kidding, but green with envy.

                                    As Hunt notes, different strokes for different folks. I worked as a waiter all through college, sometimes at family places, sometimes at very fancy restaurants. (In the early 70s mind you.) So now that I can afford it, I tend to tip well. And as I noted above, I tend to tip on the total bill, including the wine, until the bottle gets over $250, then I tip a little less on the wine, but still tip on the food portion by a percentage of 20-25%.

                                    When I bring my own wine and pay a corkage fee, (and here in Maryland, you have to pay tax on the corkage fee btw) I tend to leave an extra tip for the server for the wine. How much depends on the service I receive, but normally an extra $15 to $25 depending how good a bottle it is and how much I saved by bringing it instead of buying something comparable from the list.

                                    And while it may cost the restaurant just as much to open that $30 bottle as it does the $300 bottle, that twit who wants to show off and sends back the $300 bottle just because he can, costs the restaurant a whole lot more than when someone sends back the $30 bottle. (Another story, a couple of years ago I was in a restaurant in Washington DC, when the guy at the table next to my party sent back a 2000 Gaja Langhe Conteisa, claiming it was corked. Included in our party were two wine experts, one a wine shop owner, the other a Beard award recipient sommelier. The sommelier saw them and offered them the returned bottle to taste. It was excellent. The lady with the twit who had sent the bottle back in an effort to impress her got up, said something to her date about not being impressed by pretentious assholes, and started to leave. My wife invited her to join our party instead. When she did, you could hear the comments from all over the restaurant. I would have hated to be that guy.)

                                    1. re: dinwiddie

                                      Actually, that was at Campton Place, in San Francisco, and the sommelier had added several DRC's to the cellar, but they were not selling quickly enough. During a meal, he offered me a "deal," and I took him up on it.

                                      Hunt

                          3. Tip on the total. Servers pay taxes as a percentage of their sales at a lot of places now.

                            If you can afford to go out and spend money on food and drink you can afford to take care of your server.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: twyst

                              Well I live in Canada and they don't tax waiters like that. They are expected to be honest and report their tips. Also I bet the way waiters are taxed in the US does not assume they are getting 15-20% tips on $400 bottles of ones.

                              1. re: Flexitarian

                                "Also I bet the way waiters are taxed in the US does not assume they are getting 15-20% tips on $400 bottles of ones."

                                8% is the minimum you can claim. If someone orders a $500 bottle of wine and tips less than 40 on it the government is still going to come looking for their piece of your $40 tip

                            2. One more reason to bring a great bottle to the restaurant and pay whatever the corkage. No reason that I should tip more for a $30 btl vs a $130 btl.

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: RhonelyInsanediego

                                >>> No reason that I should tip more for a $30 btl vs a $130 btl. <<<

                                Remind me never to go BACK to a restaurant after I've dined with you there . . . ;^)

                                1. re: zin1953

                                  How would you handle tipping on $30 vs $130 bottle of wine all things being equal?

                                  1. re: Chinon00

                                    On the same percentage, with a separate tip to the sommelier if special service was required (versus "suggested"). But $130 is really pushing the upper limits of what I am willing to spend in a restaurant, and even then, only if it's Champagne (generally) -- occasionally a specific Burgundy or Rhône, Rioja or Douro. Usually I keep things <$100.

                                    1. re: Chinon00

                                      I tip generously on food (20%) for good service, but I do not differentiate between a $30 and $130 bottle of wine.

                                      If the sommelier recommended something that I would not have chosen, I tip him directly.

                                      FYI I am a former restaurateur.

                                      1. re: collioure1

                                        This seems entirely reasonable.

                                2. Yes, yes, yes, tip normally, if you have $250 to spend on one bottle of wine, you have the money to tip properly.

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: waitress

                                    I don't get your logic. Maybe I have just enough to spend that $250 on the bottle of wine but only tip $6 for it (ie the tip I would give on a $40 bottle)? Am I then not supposed to get that $250 bottle because the waiter doesn't get a $40 tip? I think I should put my enjoyment ahead of the waiter's. I don't have to go to the restaurant at all you know.

                                    1. re: Flexitarian

                                      "Maybe I have just enough to spend that $250 on the bottle of wine but only tip $6 for it (ie the tip I would give on a $40 bottle)? Am I then not supposed to get that $250 bottle because the waiter doesn't get a $40 tip?"

                                      Thats exactly what she's saying. if you only have $256, perhaps spending $250 of it on wine is not the bes course of action for you.

                                      "I think I should put my enjoyment ahead of the waiter's."

                                      Why tip at all then if we only want to consider whats good for us!

                                      " I don't have to go to the restaurant at all you know."
                                      As someone who worked in the front of the house on my way through college, some people indeed shouldnt go to restaurants.

                                      1. re: twyst

                                        <<As someone who worked in the front of the house on my way through college, some people indeed shouldn't go to restaurants.>>

                                        Interesting observation, but I am not going there.

                                        Hunt

                                    2. re: waitress

                                      Agreed . . .

                                    3. Here's the relevent result from Zagat's recent tipping survey, if it helps:

                                      http://blog.zagat.com/2012/12/tipping...

                                      When Ordering Expensive Wine, How Do You Feel About Tipping on the Full Value?
                                      Appropriate: 29%
                                      Inappropriate: 28%
                                      Depends if a sommelier assists: 43%

                                      1. Normally, I do the 20% +/-, so long as the service is good.

                                        I have tipped a sommelier separately, when much more work was done, say multiple wines for multiple courses, with special handling of some. That has ranged from US $10 to $50, on top of the 20% for the staff. It does not often happen, but for special situations, I just slip them the bill, and say thank you.

                                        Hunt

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: Bill Hunt

                                          The minute I saw that you commented, I knew you tipped! lol

                                          1. re: waitress

                                            Yes. It saves me doing the math... [Grin]

                                            Hunt

                                        2. So let's turn this around for one moment . . .

                                          >>> But if a waiter just opens and pours, do you tip the full 20% on a bottle of wine that's likely already marked up 100% - 300% by the restaurant? <<<

                                          Just how much of that "already marked up" price tag do you think the waiter gets?

                                          Why are you punishing the waiter for the policy of the restaurant's owners?

                                          I'm just askin'

                                          8 Replies
                                          1. re: zin1953

                                            Hmmmm, "Rhonely," no response?

                                            1. re: zin1953

                                              Pretty weak Jason. No need to call me out. I have a real life with two teenagers (one applying to college) and tons of real world issues to deal with off this board!

                                              I tip on the true value of the wine. I just don't feel it's right to pay tip on the restaurants mark up, hence my 10% tip on the wine. I figure at the very minimum it's a 100% mark up (usually more) so rather than tip 20% on the wine, I usually tip 10%. But, as I said previously, if I receive some real wine service by the somm then I have no problem with the full 20%.

                                              1. re: RhonelyInsanediego

                                                Yes, but you didn't address my point . . .

                                                >>> Just how much of that "already marked up" price tag do you think the waiter gets? <<<
                                                A: "None."

                                                >>> Why are you punishing the waiter for the policy of the restaurant's owners? <<<
                                                A: I still don't know.

                                                /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

                                                I guess MY point would be, if you don't like what the restaurant is charging for their bottles of wine, don't buy them -- I have no problem with that. Indeed, I will OFTEN make it a point of telling the manager, for example, or the sommelier, that I would have ordered off their list (or more off their list) if they were't charging such ridiculous prices! (And remember, having been in the trade, I *know* what they're paying!) It is often "cheaper" to bring a bottle in and pay the $25, $30, even $50 (also outrageous) corkage fee than to buy off the list -- and you'll be getting a better wine besides! -- but by YOUR actions, you are ONLY punishing the waitstaff, and encouraging the restaurant . . . after all, you're still buying off the (overpriced, in your view) wine list -- the restaurant is still receiving ALL of its money; you're simply "shorting" the waiter on his or her tip.

                                                It's not the waiter's fault.

                                                1. re: zin1953

                                                  By tipping 10% on the wine, I don't feel I'm shorting the waiter one bit. Especially if the mark up is more than double. That huge price mark up is based on the whim of the restaurant. We can agree to disagree, but I feel 10% on wine (for just having the waiter open and poor is very reasonable). If I had brought my own bottle, for instance, then they would only be getting tipped (beside the extra glass) on the corkage right?

                                                  1. re: RhonelyInsanediego

                                                    >>> By tipping 10% on the wine, I don't feel I'm shorting the waiter one bit. Especially if the mark up is more than double. That huge price mark up is based on the whim of the restaurant. <<<
                                                    Hmmm . . . just curious: have you ever worked in a restaurant?

                                                    >>> If I had brought my own bottle, for instance, then they would only be getting tipped (beside the extra glass) on the corkage right? <<<
                                                    Well, I have no doubt that YOU would tip only on the corkage fee . . . most of the people that *I* know and work with, however, adopt a significantly different philosophy.

                                                    1. re: zin1953

                                                      To answer your question, YES.

                                                      I grew up in the restaurant industry. My Mother was 'Food and Bev Director' and then GM for several luxurty hotels and restaurants in a ski resort town. I started working in restaurants at the age of 10 and continued through my early/mid twenties. My fist job was vacuuming and polishing brass in the bar and restaurant. Beyond that I have worked basically in every position conceivable in a restaurant; from dishwasher, to bus boy, to prep cook, to line cook, to sous chef, to bar back, to bar tender, to head waiter (in charge of 10-20 waiters and all scheduling), to wine cellar rat, to working all aspects of banquet service - from set up and service to tear down. I have waited on a US President and a First Lady, on professional athletes, and actors.

                                                      I put myself through undergraduate and part of graduate school as a waiter. It took me over three years working as a Chemist before I exceeded my income from waiting tables. In summary, I know the restaurant biz pretty well from the inside.

                                                      I think I'm a generous tipper, who regularly tips 25% or more for good service, and 20% for mediocre service. I usually never tip below 20%, except on the rare occasion when service is truly atrocious and I've made my concerns known to mgt.. I relate to waiters as only a veteran on the floor can.

                                                      Yet I still only tip 10% on wine unless I've experienced exceptional wine service. I like good food, good wine, and both together are cherished. My disposable income as a family man makes those occasions more and more rare.

                                                      Bottom line is that I think tipping full amount on a big mark-up for wine is inherently flawed.

                                                      1. re: RhonelyInsanediego

                                                        I don't care about the percentage. But it puts your actions of punishing the waitstaff while rewarding the restaurant itself (and their bottom line) in an even less understandable light . . . to me. Clearly it works for you, though I doubt it works as well for your waiter.

                                                        1. re: zin1953

                                                          Thanks Jason. Actually, all the different thoughts and view points on this topic have been really interesting and is exactly the reason why I started this discussion.

                                          2. this is beginning to remind me of the Great "Priming the Glasses" debate a couple years back.

                                            1. I recall a Wine Spectator article from the 2000s saying that a $25-$30 flat tip per bottle opened regardless of price was appropriate.

                                              Even factoring in a bump for inflation, is there consensus amongst the commenters that such a practice is wholly inappropriate?

                                              12 Replies
                                              1. re: Julian Teoh

                                                Well, Julian, I'm not sure I've ever regarded the Speculator as an authority for anything. That said, I can see there is some logic behind their thinking -- the cost of refrigeration, storage, glassware, dishwashing, etc. is (roughly) the same for the $50 bottle as it is for the $500 bottle; and, at some point, I can understand where the (let's say 20 percent) tip can get outrageous (far more germane: does *anyone* honestly expect to RECEIVE a 20 percent tip on that $24,000 bottle of 1982 Pétrus?) -- but I don't agree with it . . . within reason.

                                                Where that "reason" begins varies with the individual. (See below.)

                                                /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

                                                Danger! Danger! Warning Will Robinson! Thread Drift approaching!

                                                * * * * *

                                                So my PERSONAL take on this goes something like this: I spent a long time in the wine trade, and have a wine cellar that is -- well, actually, I have no idea how big it is; let's say 40-50 cases. When I want to drink something old and rare, I pull it from my cellar and -- generally --enjoy it with my wife's excellent cooking. The hassle of taking an old(er) bottle, having to bounce it around in a car to drive anywhere from a mile (say, Chez Panisse) to 50-60 miles (French Laundry-Manresa) doesn't necessarily make a lot of sense to me. I do it for special occasions -- anniversary or birthday, perhaps -- but generally *not* when we "simply" go out to dinner. And I certainly can no longer fly with an older bottle to meet with friends in LA, New York or New Orleans . . . .

                                                So I frequently buy wines off of the restaurant's wine list.

                                                Now then, I do bring moderately aged bottles with me to some local restaurants on a more frequent basis. These are places where I know the chef, I know the wine list, and the bottle can travel without being harmed. Even so, I often buy off the list when bringing a bottle. But as I said somewhere above, I generally keep it under $100 (with a couple of specific exceptions).

                                                /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

                                                Now -- back to the topic at hand -- I wouldn't tip 20 percent on that $24,000 bottle of Pétrus, but on that $30-$130 bottle? Sure, I would . . . EVEN THOUGH "the cost of refrigeration, storage, glassware, dishwashing, etc. is (roughly) the same" regardless of the price of the bottle on the list.

                                                What dinwiddie said makes sense ***to me**** -- see http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8820...

                                                1. re: zin1953

                                                  So you'd tip less than what the Spectactor suggested.

                                                  1. re: Chinon00

                                                    Less than $25-$30 per bottle? Presuming good service, etc., etc., I tip 20% on the entire check, and do not separate out the wine from the rest of it.

                                                    IF, and only if, the sommelier (if there is one) provides an "extra" service, such as suggesting a wine I would never have otherwise thought of/purchased, then I tip him or her separately. And remember that normally, when the sommelier comes by and says "Can I help you," I just tell him/her what I want -- with no specific assistance whatsoever.

                                                    For me to tip $30 on the bottle of wine SPECIFICALLY, I would have to order a $150 bottle, and as I've said previously, I rarely spend that much on a bottle in a restaurant.

                                                    But -- again -- let me turn it around: the Speculator says tip a flat $25-$30 a bottle. If YOU buy a bottle of wine that's $50 on the list, would YOU tip $25-30???

                                                    1. re: zin1953

                                                      Ok I didn't know you meant for the entire bill. I understand.

                                                      1. re: zin1953

                                                        Sorry Jason, I should have clarified that the Spectator was suggesting a cap of $25-$30 for more expensive wines.

                                                        1. re: Julian Teoh

                                                          Well, I'm certainly more comfortable tipping $25-30 on that $24,000 bottle than I am $4,800 . . .

                                                          ;^)

                                                    2. re: zin1953

                                                      The cost of refrigeration, storage, glassware, dishwashing are borne by the restaurant and are irrelevant to the tip.

                                                      One tips for service, and frankly $25-$30 per bottle seems ridiculous to me. I think 15-20% of $30-$50 per bottle is reasonable.

                                                    3. re: Julian Teoh

                                                      Actually, I got interviewed for that article (back in the days when I was a subscriber to the print edition of WS) and I said the same thing I said here, if you can afford the wine, you should be able to afford the tip. I also noted that I did reduce the percentage when the price of the wine went north of $250. To be honest, I don't normally buy wines that cost that much, it is easier to bring something from my cellar instead, but when I do, I tip appropriately, usually in the 15% range or so.

                                                      1. re: dinwiddie

                                                        When you bring a bottle of wine from your cellar, what figure do you base your 15% tip on...the corkage charge, the retail price of the wine, or the likely menu price (3 - 4x retail)?

                                                        1. re: josephnl

                                                          Actually, in that case I just leave an amount of tip that approximates the amount of the corkage charge. Since the cost of the wine is not being reflected in the bill, the IRS does not assume the amount of tip. If there is no corkage charge I usually leave a tip that would approximate what a comparable bottle of wine would be from the list.

                                                          1. re: dinwiddie

                                                            Not sure I really understand what you are saying. Corkage in most restaurants near where I live averages about $20. So if you were bringing a bottle of wine that cost you $50 and they charged $20 corkage, you would tip ~$20. But if they didn't charge corkage, and that same bottle of wine were on the list for $150, you would tip $150?...or do you mean 15% of $150 or $22?

                                                            1. re: josephnl

                                                              I mean I tip a percentage based on what a comparable bottle would be on the list. In the case you put forth, I would tip about $20-25. Of course, part of the problem I have here is that I tend to collect small production wines that just do not appear on a wine list. It sometimes makes it difficult to figure out a comparable price because when they do appear, they tend to be very expensive because the restaurant had to buy them on the secondary market where the prices are much higher than buying them on allocation.

                                                              BTW, here in the DC area, corkage fees are all over the place but average in the $20-25 range. (Of course, there are days when certain restaurants advertise free corkage, usually Mondays or Tuesdays)

                                                    4. I buy a bottle off the list about 50% of the time, and about 50% of the time I dine out I take something from my cellar. When I buy off the list, I tip the same percentage as I do for food until the bottle gets into the $250 range, then I tend to adjust the tip downward a little on the wine. When I bring my own wine I leave an extra tip for the server unless the wine service was just awful. If the somm. spent time with me and did a good job, there us probably a separate tip for him/her. As to the comments on mark up, I try not to go to restaurants where the mark up is outrageous. In most restaurants the mark up on cheaper wines is generally higher than that on more expensive wines. But as others have noted, none of the markup goes to the server.

                                                      Bottom line, if you can afford the wine, you should be able to afford the tip on it. I would also note that servers are taxed on tips as an assumed percentage of the total of the check, and they have to split the tips with other staff (kitchen staff, bus staff, etc.)

                                                      Last point, if you drink $250 and up bottles of wine, you have enough money that you don't have to be cheap. Being a chowhound is one thing, being cheap is another. Assume that you bill, your total bill, is going to have to include a tip, and dine accordingly.

                                                      10 Replies
                                                      1. re: dinwiddie

                                                        This 'if you can afford the wine, you should be able to afford the tip on it' kills me.

                                                        That kind of dubious logic might apply if you think you should tip on the price of the bottle. I don't for bottles that are over 2 digits in price. I think it's absolutely ridiculous given it's the same work as any other bottle, same # of glasses, same work pouring, opening etc. This whole tipping business has totally gotten out of hand.

                                                        I am sure if the restaurant had a choice they would much rather have us eating at their establishment and drinking their wine even though we don't tip at a constant % of the price of the bottle regardless of how expensive, than going somewhere else with our 'capped at a certain limit' tip on the wine.

                                                        Anyway, we have to do what we are comfortable with and feel is appropriate. All those who want to tip on the value of the bottle as they are comfortable with that and feel it is appropriate should do so. I feel more comfortable and appropriate tipping up to a maximum limit on the bottle which for me is 15% on a $100 bottle, ie $15. It has nothing to do with what I can afford and definitely has nothing to do with being cheap.

                                                        1. re: Flexitarian

                                                          I'm not questioning your premise ("if you can afford the wine, you should be able to afford the tip on it"), but where you go with it strikes me as off-course.

                                                          >>> I am sure if the restaurant had a choice they would much rather have us eating at their establishment and drinking their wine even though we don't tip at a constant % of the price of the bottle regardless of how expensive, than going somewhere else with our 'capped at a certain limit' tip on the wine. <<<

                                                          Do you think the restaurant management CARES how much we tip to their employees? Or rather, do they care about us -- the patrons -- spending our money? In other words, OF COURSE theo want us eating and drinking in their establishment, and as long as we cover the price of the check, they don't give a $#|+ how much extra we tack on . . . .

                                                          1. re: zin1953

                                                            "OF COURSE theo want us eating and drinking in their establishment, and as long as we cover the price of the check, they don't give a $#|+ how much extra we tack on . . . "

                                                            Not true, Jason.

                                                            We do care. We care that our patrons receive quality service such that they will tip more than adequately.

                                                            Moreover, those of us who do our homework occasionally develop statistics from charge card receipts to review the tipping percentages received by each of our servers.

                                                            1. re: collioure

                                                              With respect, I would suggest you are in the minority. Certainly (as you know), the profession of being a waiter is variously held in high regard and contempt -- by both restauranteurs and patrons -- throughout the United States. Very few restaurants actually view being a waiter as a "career." To be fair, this is true for many waiters in the US as well.

                                                              The mindset is quite different in a handful of American restaurants, but I cannot think of but a handful of places that take it as "professionally" as they do in Europe, for example.

                                                              You may be the exception, but the only restaurant owners/managers I know/have worked with who have taken the time to "review tipping percentages" have done so only after the IRS ruled that tips could be counted as wages and thus, *had* to be tracked if only so the restaurant could pay less . . .

                                                              1. re: zin1953

                                                                I surely was in the minority in checking up on tips per waiter in that way, but I am not in the minority in any way as regards "we care that our patrons receive quality service."

                                                          2. re: Flexitarian

                                                            It doesn't take any more time to serve a hamburger than a filet, either.

                                                            1. re: dinwiddie

                                                              "It doesn't take any more time to serve a hamburger than a filet,"

                                                              Exactly the reason why tipping is a ripoff. Pay the servers a decent wage and end this terrible system.

                                                              1. re: grampart

                                                                I agree that it is a terrible system, but it is the one we have. The question was never about whether the system was a good one.

                                                                If you are going to dine out, at least if you are going someplace where you have a server, you have to deal with tipping. Having worked as a waiter while I was working my way through college, I know how hard the job really is. I tip well because I can afford to.

                                                                1. re: dinwiddie

                                                                  I went out to a bistro last weekend and disparity in price between the burger and the filet was $13. The difference between the highest and lowest priced bottle of wine was $72.

                                                                  1. re: Chinon00

                                                                    You aren't going to the right restaurants. (kidding)

                                                                    I've been to places where the difference between the highest and lowest priced bottle of wine is over $1000. I would assume that there wasn't much, if any, wine on the list for over $100, so that is a fairly inexpensive list. Of course the places where I find wines that are over $200, I usually can't get a hamburger.

                                                                    Of course, I don't buy $1000 bottles of wine, but there are several wines that I can think of that would go for that very easily. Even at restaurants with great, and very reasonably priced lists (meaning a reasonable markup), I've seen wines that go for well over $300. Let's face it, you are not going to find a Sine Qua Non Syrah or a Domaine de la Romanée-Conti cheaply. Of course, you won't find them on a bistro list either. The point is, some wines are extremely expensive, and when they are on a wine list, they are even more so. Complaining that wines are too expensive is a losing proposition. Either you are willing to spend it or not, it is your choice.

                                                        2. Can I just say that I wish I lived in place that allowed you to bring your own bottle!!! Here in Mass you can only do it at restaurants w/o a liquors license/dry towns.

                                                          Dining out I often do not drink the wines I would prefer because the cost is inhibitive. I have no problem buying a 50 dollar bottle of wine for an everyday dinner. However when dining out that $50 bottle becomes $75/$80 and then with tip you are talking about $90+. Crazy.

                                                          And since I never spend an outrageous amount of wine I tip on the total, pre tax. 20% is the average. I tip more as warranted. I don't tip too much less w/o talking to the manager/owner.

                                                          1. I think it's dubious to decide certain items on the menu aren't worth tipping what is customary. All servers would agree, "don't want to tip, stay home and drink."

                                                            Before everyone goes off, try over tipping one day, it feels so good! I always leave $1 to $5 extra. If 20% is $8 leave $10. If 20% is $20 leave $25. A tiny amount of money can make a server's day. Being generous in life in all aspects comes back ten fold!

                                                            2 Replies
                                                            1. re: waitress

                                                              What is customary for whom? and for what? What is customary for me on the pre-tax food portion of a meal is 15% and zero if the service is not good. You are just encouraging bad service if you tip at all for it. For wine I tip the same 15% of the price of the bottle pre-tax to a maximum of $15 ($20 if the sommelier really spent a lot of time with me and maybe even let me taste something).

                                                              That is what is 'customary' for me.

                                                              1. re: waitress

                                                                We patronize a particular resort, where our breakfasts are included, and are lovely. There is a gratuity included, but in most cases (the service is over the top), we also leave an additional tip, for our servers. Luckily, I have never hesitated, as they have always earned it with stellar service. A few extra $'s will never break me, and I am showing an appreciation for great service.

                                                                The same goes for me, regarding tipping on good, to great, wine service. If I cannot afford it, I do not order the higher-end wines. As mentioned above, I do not often do BYOW (especially where I live, as there are too many restrictions), though I have a very good, to great, cellar. As also mentioned, I travel about 2/3 of the year, so do not ship my wines with me. I buy from the wine lists, almost always. While I might have issues with some of the markups, and look for "deals," I factor in my tipping, when ordering. As for the US $ 28,000 bottle, if I could afford that, then I would probably be ready to tip on it. As I could not afford that, the issue is moot, at least to me.

                                                                Hunt

                                                              2. Happened to come across this thread and thought that it was quite interesting but a bit unfocused. There are quite a few different topics that are brought up but don't really have a strong correlation between them. I currently work in the restaurant industry as a restaurant/bar manager but I still also do serve and bartend a few nights a week so I see both the operation side of the restaurant (ordering, inventory, revenue, loss, etc) as well as the service side interacting with the guest. The topic seems to have gotten a bit heated between obviously individuals in the industry and consumers and I just want to try and shed some light. The following is based on the restaurants that I work in/have worked in and is very similar to a lot of restaurants in the area (casual to fine-dining).

                                                                I think a big thing to think about when considering the profitability of a restaurant is that based on national statistics 60% of restaurants fail within the first three years of opening. Profit margins have to be maintained in order to ensure the success of a restaurant so depending on what kind of experience you are looking for depends on the mark-up. What are you willing to pay for your experience?

                                                                Obviously we are all completely aware that food and beverage prices are inflated for the consumer, this is true in any industry. Hello capitalism! As far as restaurants are concerned, typically restaurants aim for a food cost of 30% (For a dish that costs $30 it should only take $10 to make). I feel like I shouldn't have to say this but sometimes we forget that the $20 discrepancy is NOT straight profit. This $20 is paying wages to the staff of the restaurant (managers, cooks, dishwashers, hosts, bussers, servers, etc), it's paying for the operational expenses (food and liquor licenses, rent, utilities, repairs, equipment, etc.), and what is left is what I consider a true profit. Keep in mind this is also true for liquor, beer, and wine.

                                                                Liquor cost varies between restaurants but typically it stays between 18-25%. Liquor however varies a lot more than food (which is why I don't think the food cost holds any relevance in this thread) due to the different levels of quality and value of the products. Spirits, beer, and wine also differ quite a bit between the three so let's just stick with wine for the sake of the original question. It all starts with ordering, whatever the price the restaurant buys dictates what it's going to cost for the consumer. If a specific wine is served by the glass, you can probably count on the mark-up being about 400%. Whatever you are paying for the glass is probably what the restaurant paid for the whole bottle. This is definitely not the case with more expensive wines. There is still a mark up but in most restaurants they want product continuously moving out and not just sitting on the shelves collecting dust (no one makes money if just sits there) so they price it accordingly to price points of their menu and demographic of the restaurant patrons.

                                                                Alright I hope that I addressed the operational aspect of cost appropriately to what was previously discussed. Moving onto the main topic of tipping...Rhonely is completely correct that there really isn't much difference in the service of one bottle between the next (not considering decanting, sommelier, etc) however I think your logic is not focused appropriately. The issue of tipping should be focused only on the server. Your tip SHOULD NOT be dictated by the mark-up from the restaurant, if you're concerned about the mark-up of the wine then don't purchase it. I don't think a lot of people understand how important tipping is in restaurants and I hope that I can clarify and enlighten some in the following:

                                                                First and foremost a server's wage is not a "living wage" (minimum income needed to meet basic needs i.e. housing, clothing, food, etc). In the US, server pay rates in most states range between $2-$4 per hour. The reason why is because tips are considered part of their income and accounted for. In order to ensure that the proper taxes are being paid employers are required to report to the IRS the amount of tips a server makes which is determined from their gross sales (including tax) and does appear on their W-9. Typically servers will not receive a paycheck because the hourly wage does not cover the appropriate amount of taxes taken out that is appropriate to their income (this leads to most servers owing money when tax season comes around...double-edged sword).

                                                                Not done yet...next is tip outs. Depending on the restaurant there is typically support staff; bartenders to make drinks, bussers to clean/re-set tables, food-runners, etc. All of these individuals are "tipped-out" at the end of the night by the servers for their role during the shift. Most restaurants have a set expectation of what is to be given to each position and base it again off of the total sales of the server. In my current restaurant the server tips out 3% of total sales to busser, 2% of total sales to food-runner, and 1% of total sales to bartender for a total of 6% being tipped out at the end of the night. If a server made 20% tips that actually only translates into 14% after tipping out the support staff. So if a server has $1000 in sales lets say they made $200 (20% tips) thats $30 to busser, $20 to food-runner, and $10 to bartender totaling $60 which means that the server is only walking with $140 at the end of the night. So even when you go to a restaurant and your server provided excellent service to you and you rewarded them with a 20% tip keep in mind that they do not get to keep that all for themselves. I'm not saying that you should be tipping more than 20% to account for this but rather to be conscious that anything less than 20% hurts a lot more than it may seem.

                                                                And the finale!!!! (I promise I'm almost done). Back to Rhonely's original question about tipping appropriately on wine I believe that it is absolutely necessary to tip based on the price of the bottle of wine. You are tipping on the full dining experience and I do not think that it is appropriate to compartmentalize different aspects of your meal and tip accordingly. Just like the kitchen works hard to put a great meal in front of you servers are required to put just as much effort in their knowledge and understanding of the wine on the menu. Most restaurants require their servers to learn the wines and test them to ensure that they provide you with the correct information. If you are dining in a restaurant with 400+ bottles of wine I can guarantee that those servers are constantly being put to the test to ensure they are providing the correct information to guests on every single wine on the list. If a server is going to expect the same tip from a $400 bottle of wine as he would a $40 bottle then why put in the effort to learn and provide that information to the guest? I don't condone the quality of service to differ based on a thought that they may not receive a high tip but if a server continuously strives to wow the guest and help guests try new wines but doesn't get anything in return where is the motivation to continue? Why should they care which wine you want? Why not just leave the cork screw on the table for you as well?

                                                                Personally I always tip at least 20% including wine and liquor because when I look at the menu I'm not worried about the tip at the end of the meal. I'm focusing on enjoying a lovely meal with friends and/or family with some great wine and great conversation and as long as the server doesn't completely make a mess of that then I have no problem with tipping them 20% because that is the expectation I have when I choose to go out to eat.

                                                                9 Replies
                                                                1. re: epicurean24

                                                                  An excellent post! I had no idea that the IRS includes tax. I'm shocked as I never tip on tax. Thank you!

                                                                  1. re: epicurean24

                                                                    Thanks for your very illuminating post.

                                                                    We live in California where almost every restaurant allows bringing wine for a corkage charge which varies from free to $25 (and rarely to $50-75). Most common is $20-25. I believe that the great majority of restaurant patrons who bring wine for corkage, tip as normal (~20%) on the entire bill (including corkage, but nothing extra) regardless of whether they bring a $25 bottle of wine or a $250 bottle of wine. Is this appropriate?

                                                                    1. re: epicurean24

                                                                      20%? That's outrageous. When did that start? It was always 15% for years and now it's getting inflated to 20%. Well maybe that's the US, but I live in Canada and everyone I know tips 15% and I think that's more reasonable. But then wages are higher here for servers than the $2-$4/hour you quoted.

                                                                      1. re: Flexitarian

                                                                        Not sure of the exact date, but I have used 20% as a base for adequate service for maybe two decades now.

                                                                        I do not ask my servers what their "salary" is, but tip on what I expect, and how that is provided.

                                                                        Hunt

                                                                        1. re: Flexitarian

                                                                          >>> 20%? That's outrageous. <<<

                                                                          No, it's not. Or, rather, perhaps it seems outrageous to YOU, but not to me. Like Bill, it's been roughly two decades or so that I've been tipping 20 percent . . . but here in the States, where the gratuity is NOT included (unless we're a party of six or more), 20 is pretty standard in my experience -- *especially* for people in the wine or restaurant trade . . .

                                                                          1. re: Flexitarian

                                                                            I am in my late thirties and for as long as I have been dining out I have always figured 20% to be the standard. I do live in NYC, although I am not sure that makes a difference.

                                                                            Aside, I have to say that I have never even thought about this topic. We have always tipped on the total bill. After reading a lot of these comments I am wondering if hubs and I have been over-tipping all these years. Before I was with him he was a waiter in fine dining, and he has never suggested we shouldn't tip on the price of the wine we order, but now I am curious and looking forward to asking his opinion tomorrow.

                                                                            1. re: Justpaula

                                                                              For me, we have almost always done the same, and have never really thought about it - except for similar threads.

                                                                              Now, for all readers, that is not to say that YOU should follow suit. That is YOUR choice, and I will never fault you for it. It is personal, and only you can determine what is correct, for you.

                                                                              We dine almost everywhere, and NYC is sort of down the list - not because we wish it to be so, but just due to where we most often travel. Still, like you, we seldom differentiate on the tipping, whether in Paris, New Orleans, Rome, San Francisco, NYC, or Phoenix. Maybe I am just being lazy, but doing the complex math is just not what I want to do, after a great meal, with wonderful wines. Just too much work for me, so long as I have received great service, and wonderful wine service.

                                                                              Hunt

                                                                            2. re: Flexitarian

                                                                              so I know this is really late in replying but 15% is ok in Canada. Min wage laws are very different than in the states for food service. No matter what Canadians are taking home money. Many do not pay taxes on their tips (this is illegal but it is often voluntary to submit the amount of tips you receive and as a result many don't claim or claim less). Also Servers can make as much as Minimum wage + tips (there are laws around this that very from Prov to Prov.). That being said I tip 20% but I work in that industry and I know that it is one of the most underpaid industrys. The amount of work and skill it takes to be a good server is undervalued. Most servers skills, knowledge and experience make them worth more than "minimum wage with no guarantees on hours and uncertain job security (due to how often restaurants close) with no benefits and less or no brakes"

                                                                            3. re: epicurean24

                                                                              Well-stated, and thanks for taking the time to both post, and to articulate your points.

                                                                              In an above stated instance, with a bottle of rather expensive wine (one, of many), a person in the chain was the bartender/server, who started out my evening, before I was seated. So, besides the other folk, who were around my table, he deserved to be included, and feel that he was - at least I hope so, as he did his duties in very nice fashion.

                                                                              You mention the "chain" of employees, and that can be important to the overall experience. Not THAT long ago, a particular busser went "above and beyond," what should have been expected, and exceeded the service of our service captain. For his efforts, he received a separate, in cash tip, beyond the tip on the bill. If nothing else, he knew how much we appreciated his extra efforts, and he could have been used as an example for our service captain. I try to show appreciation to all, who have earned it. Maybe I am being foolish, but do not think so.

                                                                              Thank you,

                                                                              Hunt

                                                                            4. I should have known this was an old and contentious subject. None the less, there are some more interesting perspectives on this older Chow thread:

                                                                              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/331264

                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                              1. re: RhonelyInsanediego

                                                                                Yes. Variations of this thread have been around for a very long time.

                                                                                Sometimes, they focus on wine mark-up, and sometimes on tipping on wines.

                                                                                While some of the material included is a bit of a "re-tread," I do find some good comments, even with a touch of thread-creep.

                                                                                Hunt

                                                                                1. re: RhonelyInsanediego

                                                                                  I am not sure how I missed that particular thread, but, even though it was started in 2006, I did have a few comments.

                                                                                  Though they do not apply to the original CH's, most likely, they might be useful to those, who find that thread, should they do a search.

                                                                                  Hunt

                                                                                2. Im a waitress in central NJ and a 20% tip on the entire bill including bottled wine is customary. I am expected to tip out my bartender on my liquor sales which includes bottled wine 7%. Therefore a $100 bottle which I am tipped out 20% on I will only actually receieve $13 before taxes are taken out. Most restaurants make waitresses claim most if not all of our tips and only pay the standard $2.00 an hour which goes towards taxes always. The terrible thing is that is someone were to tip low or 7% in their bill or bottled wine I would receive no tip at all or would actually pay for you to dine and drink at my table that night. Owners dont always care to change these policies so we get paid and only care about themselves.

                                                                                  7 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: Waitress2013

                                                                                    That's really a shame. For the customer, tipping 20% on an expensive, say $250 bottle of wine seems excessive. Would you as a server prefer that a customer bring in a bottle for corkage, and say tip a flat $20-25 on that bottle?

                                                                                    1. re: josephnl

                                                                                      They'll say if you can afford a $250 bottle then you can afford to tip 20% on it. I think it's total bullshit but that's me.

                                                                                      1. re: josephnl

                                                                                        Yes I'd rather a corkage fee because then the restaurant owners and managers might change our policy and this could benefit the staff. The owner would never though because he wouldn't get the revenue on the sale of the wine.

                                                                                      2. re: Waitress2013

                                                                                        I came across your post while trying to research how much to tip on a bottle of wine in a restaurant. What I find interesting is that the wait staff does no additional work to bring a $20 vs. $200 bottle of wine to the table. As a result, I do not tip 20% on an expensive bottle of wine. I think that's ridiculous (although I understand that one could make the same argument about food, and I find this an interesting discussion as well). Typically, IF the wait staff is attentive and continues pouring the wine throughout the meal, I will tip 20% on the food BEFORE TAXES (why would anyone tip on the taxed total?) and then add $10 for the wine. Absent extenuating circumstances warranting more, I think that's plenty for walking a bottle to the table. I don't think the adverse policies of an employer place an obligation on the consumer to tip higher. Rather, if a restaurant owner's policies do not allow his wait staff to make an adequate living, the waiter should find a new employer.

                                                                                        1. re: frequentdiners

                                                                                          I totally agree, but be prepared for differing opinions.

                                                                                          1. re: frequentdiners

                                                                                            Honestly, as the co-owner of a very successful small family restaurant. I find it tacky and classless for s customer not to pay a tip of 18-20% tip on a $24.00 bottle of wine or any winr under $100. My wine glasses alone cost $4,50 each and 4 adults equals $16 cost on drinking glasses alone for a party of four-if by chance the glass breaks. And let me tell you everynight glasses, plates, drinking glasses break by customers, bussers, servers, dishwashers. The waiter will serve the customer a seabass for $45 or a spaghetti meatball for $15 and will receive adequate tip- not performing differently to serve a more expensive meal however receive 18-20% tip In our restaurant. The mark up is the same on food and wine- typically 3 times. Our most expensive wines $100 bottles are marked up by alot less. If a customer wants to drink wine out- there will be a markup- restuarants have to make money to stay in business. Overall estimate- 30% food cost, 30% salaries, 30% utililties and the rest goes to profit 10-15%. Owners make money on wine as they do on food to stay in business. Most restaurants can not survive on food alone. Servers should be paid the same on food as on wine. The only resaon not to pay a server is if they provided bad service.
                                                                                            Servers need to make money to work in this industry or else we will see less restaurants that provide full table service.
                                                                                            People who do not tip approproately do not fully understand how difficult t is to be a server and the cost of doing business. My servers make $18-25 dollars per claening, bussing, accomadating, working in a very hectic business. They truly deserve every dime. Please consider the cost of doing business to stay open. Restaurant owners especially small mom and pops make a middle to uppermiddle class salary at a very high cost of never seeing there family. Working 80-100 hours per week.

                                                                                            1. re: frequentdiners

                                                                                              I am guessing you didn't read the whole thread (who would at this length?), but as I pointed out at the beginning. We tip as a percentage (percentage based on service) on the prices of the meal (which is fixed).

                                                                                              I've never ever sat there and thought oh this restaurant overcharged me on the food, so I'm going to stiff the server's tip. (e.g. seek revenge on the server for a greedy restaurant owner)

                                                                                              I've also never thought, oh this dish was relatively easy to prepare so I'm going to tip less. (e.g. seek revenge on the server because the kitchen staff did no work)

                                                                                              So why would that be true for the alcohol/wine? To take money from the server because we feel the wine/alcohol prices are unfair. Seems strange.

                                                                                          2. I just tried to delete this, looks like I could only edit!