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Mark Head

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Wine service gratuity questions....

by Mark Head » Mon Dec 06, 2010 10:29 am

Ok I'd like to think I'm a good tipper....usually 20% is the starting point. But I have a question about wine service at upscale restaurants.

Are the exptectations and is it the "right thing to do" to tip on the entire cost of the meal even if your purchase a very expensive bottle of wine? For example....say I buy a $50 bottle of wine and that adds $10 min. to the tip...now if I purchase a $500 bottle of wine do I add $100 to the tip?

I'm not interested in controversy and historically if I've purchased a very expensive bottle I've tipped my starting point 20% whereas if I bought a less expensive bottle I might tip 25% - 30%. Thoughts?
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Heather Y

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Re: Wine service gratuity questions....

by Heather Y » Mon Dec 06, 2010 12:19 pm

Mark, I would think to tip on the whole of the bill as you normally would is appropriate.
Now if anyone is willing to and are able to spend $500.00 on a bottle of wine... what's another $100.00?
(I say this hopefully without crossing a line). :wink:
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Re: Wine service gratuity questions....

by Joel H » Mon Dec 06, 2010 12:32 pm

I will never understand the mindset that it's okay to not tip on wine service, for a number of reasons. The most prominent in my mind are that, as a server, that "expensive" bottle of wine (I'm putting that in quotes because that can mean a number of different price points, as we all know) was probably recommended by the server (if he/she knows their wine -- if it's obvious that the server doesn't know the wine list well, that's another story). If when I'm serving I recommend an "expensive" bottle of wine, it's because that wine will be a fantastic addition to the party's dinner, not because I'm trying to inflate the bill. Also, wine service can sometimes take a lot of time, especially for larger parties, and to not compensate a server when they're giving your party much more attention is, well, pretty tacky!
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Robin Garr

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Re: Wine service gratuity questions....

by Robin Garr » Mon Dec 06, 2010 1:01 pm

I'm kind of inclined to agree with Heather. If you can afford a $500 bottle, and presumably have the class and taste to enjoy it, it would seem reasonable to have the class and taste to tip the server well ... doubly so if you consulted the sommelier to take advantage of his painstakingly earned skill and knowledgeable advice.

Here is an extended discussion on a professional wine-and-hospitality site. It's a long thread, I didn't read it all, but as you can see, there was plenty of discussion all over the map.

http://blogs.wineandhospitalitynetwork. ... xpensive-w
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Ray Griffith

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Re: Wine service gratuity questions....

by Ray Griffith » Mon Dec 06, 2010 1:07 pm

A quick Google search yielded these; http://dinersjournal.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/02/01/the-answer-man-tipping-on-wine/

http://insidescoopsf.sfgate.com/michaelbauer/2009/09/09/how-to-tip-on-wine/#ixzz0R6K2WFK4

I think the answer is somewhere in between a flat 15 to 20% vs a sliding scale. Exactly where? I don't know. However, there doesn't seem to be a consensus with the the industry and/or/vs diners.

For me, this excerpt seems to sum it up;
...........He was referring, he said, to this kind of scenario: a $1,600 check built from just $600 of food and a $1,000 bottle of wine. If the table in question tipped $250 instead of $320, he said, the server and restaurant would instantly understand why, and wouldn’t feel that the amount was out of line.......


BTW; I am not in the spending bracket for the tab in that example! :(
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Mark Head

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Re: Wine service gratuity questions....

by Mark Head » Mon Dec 06, 2010 1:30 pm

Robin much thanks for that great link. That is one of the best threads on wine service I've read in a while and goes to the very heart of my question.

As an aside, recently we were dining at one of the nicer local restaurants during Breeder's Cup. The bar was a bit taxed that night. After dinner I ordered a glass of vintage port that was priced at $40. The waiter brought out two glasses - one as I ordered and one for my wife. He then brought out a sealed plastic bag with a bottle of 20+ year old vintage port, not tawny port, the real deal. He thought we might want to finish the bottle at home.

After I collected my wits I informed him that the cost was per glass and not per bottle. The manager came over and thanked us for pointing out the error and then comped my wife's glass. Nice indeed. My inner evil self said I should have paid my bill and taken my port home...ohh well I have a conscience.
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Re: Wine service gratuity questions....

by Bill P » Mon Dec 06, 2010 1:49 pm

I tip the amount of the total bill. I won't get into corkage tipping policy since I believe corkage is frowned upon, if not illegal, in both Kentucky and Indiana.

Mark Head wrote:He then brought out a sealed plastic bag with a bottle of 20+ year old vintage port, not tawny port, the real deal. He thought we might want to finish the bottle at home.


Is this legal in Kentucky or Indiana? I know a few "enlightened" state permit diners to take home unfinished bottles to encourage responsible consumption, but was not aware that IN or KY are sufficiently "enlightened".
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Steve Shade

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Re: Wine service gratuity questions....

by Steve Shade » Mon Dec 06, 2010 2:16 pm

Taking a part bottle of wine is legal in Kentucky. Hasn't been too many years since they allowed it. However it must be put in a sealed bag at the restaurant. If the seal is broken than you can be cited for having an open bottle of alcohol in a vehicle.

I have no idea about Indiana.
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Re: Wine service gratuity questions....

by Bill P » Mon Dec 06, 2010 2:21 pm

Thanks Steve. Good to know that.
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Re: Wine service gratuity questions....

by Jason G » Mon Dec 06, 2010 3:10 pm

This may be mentioned in one of the links, but here is a major problem with not tipping on alcohol, aside from established standards of etiquette.

At many places the server is required (or strongly encouraged) to give the bartender a portion of their alcohol sales. It may be 10% of their alcohol sales.

Say you order $500 of food and a $1000 bottle of wine. You tip $120...20% on the food, and $20 bucks for opening and pouring your bottle of wine.

The bartender will want to know where his $100 cut is for that bottle of wine, and they will have to work out some arrangement, or worst case scenario if the restaurant takes that money out automatically, the server would be left with $20 bucks.

But, as other posters have mentioned if you can afford the wine, you can afford the tip. As mentioned in a related post, I have some friends at Jeff Rubys and sometimes these athletes or celebrities will come in and order 3 or 4 bottles of Cristal just to start the dinner. Thats when the servers start frothing at the mouth because they know they've made several hundred bucks already on one table before dinner is even ordered! :shock:
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Mark Head

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Re: Wine service gratuity questions....

by Mark Head » Mon Dec 06, 2010 3:30 pm

In the link provided by Robin clearly there is wide variation in approach to this - even within the industry, including restaurant owners and wine makers. I'm more comfortable with my current approach after reading the link and responses.

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