Tip 20% on pricey restaurant wine? Why or why not?

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Tip 20% on pricey restaurant wine? Why or why not?

Postby Robin Garr » Mon Dec 06, 2010 2:05 pm

An interesting discussion popped up on the Louisville Restaurants Forum that I thought worth re-starting over here: Is it reasonable to be expected to tip the same as food - at least 20% by modern urban standards in the US - when you are buying a bottle of wine for $300, $500 or more to go with the meal?

One argument goes that if you have the class and taste to purchase a $500 bottle, you should exhibit 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.

But it's an argument with two sides. Let's keep it civil, and please try to keep the discussion on the specific question of "proper" tipping behavior for expensive wine. We've had plenty of discussions about the tipping practice in general, but that would be a derailment on this topic, so please resist the impulse to thread-jack. ;)

For further reference, 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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Re: Tip 20% on pricey restaurant wine? Why or why not?

Postby Robin Garr » Mon Dec 06, 2010 2:20 pm

Another interesting link from The New York Times, generally supporting a 20% practice, but forgiving of reasoned exceptions:
http://dinersjournal.blogs.nytimes.com/ ... g-on-wine/
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Re: Tip 20% on pricey restaurant wine? Why or why not?

Postby Joy Lindholm » Mon Dec 06, 2010 2:38 pm

As someone in the restaurant industry, I would say that if a pricey bottle is part of an overall restaurant bill (ie, served as part of the meal), it would be expected to tip on the total of the bill (food & all beverage included). I could see an exception if one were at a wine bar and just ordering the wine that such an excessive tip may be unnecessary.
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Re: Tip 20% on pricey restaurant wine? Why or why not?

Postby Kelly Young » Mon Dec 06, 2010 2:42 pm

Tip on the tab regardless of what it is compromised of.
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Re: Tip 20% on pricey restaurant wine? Why or why not?

Postby Gary Barlettano » Mon Dec 06, 2010 2:48 pm

If you can afford that tab, be a good Republican and let some of the wealth trickle down.
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Re: Tip 20% on pricey restaurant wine? Why or why not?

Postby Mike_F » Mon Dec 06, 2010 2:50 pm

Robin Garr wrote:Is it reasonable to be expected to tip the same as food - at least 20% by modern urban standards in the US - when you are buying a bottle of wine for $300, $500 or more to go with the meal?


Given the fact that I simply cannot afford to order bottles in that price range, I would hesitate to venture an opinion. My limited experience of those wealthy enough to make a habit of such purchases suggests that for the most part they are not overly concerned with the opinions of the proletariat on how they should spend their money...
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Re: Tip 20% on pricey restaurant wine? Why or why not?

Postby Daniel Rogov » Mon Dec 06, 2010 3:35 pm

My own rules of thumb:

In European restaurants where in most cases service is included, to add a small but appropriate tip directly to the sommelier.

In the United States at better restaurants, 18-20% on total bill if the wine comes to half or less than half of the food bill; if the wine comes to more than half of the food bill 18-20% on the food bill, 10-15% on the wine bill, the 5% differential determined by the quality of the wine service (including the service of the sommelier and the quality of wine glasses)

In Israel, at better restaurants on the entire bill if the wine comes to half or less than the food bill 15-20% depending on the quality of the service; if the wine is more than half of the food bill 15-20% of the food bill and 10% of the wine bill.

At casual restaurants (bistros, brasseries, trattorias and the like) 15-20% of the total bill, depending in part on where I am and in part on the quality of the service.

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Re: Tip 20% on pricey restaurant wine? Why or why not?

Postby Neil Courtney » Mon Dec 06, 2010 5:32 pm

I would consider giving a tip IF the markup on said $500 bottle of wine was in the vicinity of 10%. But generally in a fine dining restaurant the markup is likely to start at over 50%, so no way should they get any extra. Large markups could almost be considered to be extortion. :(
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Re: Tip 20% on pricey restaurant wine? Why or why not?

Postby Redwinger » Mon Dec 06, 2010 5:36 pm

Neil-
In NZ is "service" included in the bill similar to most of Europe or is the tab built on the American model of a gratuity added by the customer?
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Re: Tip 20% on pricey restaurant wine? Why or why not?

Postby Gary Barlettano » Mon Dec 06, 2010 6:02 pm

Neil Courtney wrote:I would consider giving a tip IF the markup on said $500 bottle of wine was in the vicinity of 10%. But generally in a fine dining restaurant the markup is likely to start at over 50%, so no way should they get any extra. Large markups could almost be considered to be extortion. :(


Ah, but Neil, the margin on said bottle of wine goes to the capitalist exploiters of the downtrodden, proletarian service personnel whose well-being depends upon your gratuity.
And now what?
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Re: Tip 20% on pricey restaurant wine? Why or why not?

Postby David M. Bueker » Mon Dec 06, 2010 6:05 pm

Given how often the "capitalist exploiters of the downtrodden" go out of business, I would venture to say that the business model needs to be rethought not tipping policies.
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Re: Tip 20% on pricey restaurant wine? Why or why not?

Postby Neil Courtney » Mon Dec 06, 2010 6:15 pm

Redwinger wrote:Neil-
In NZ is "service" included in the bill similar to most of Europe or is the tab built on the American model of a gratuity added by the customer?
'Winger


In general there is no tipping for anything here in NZ. Unfortunately, it is creeping into some areas, probably because of tourists who tip anyway. We have what is called a Minimum Wage here, of only $NZ12.50/hour, but any trainee wait person will start on this pay scale, so we do not have waiters that need to get tips to survive. We do have the markup problem as well which is why we will generally not go to a restaurant that does not allow BYOW. Even a 'corkage' charge of $20 a bottle can look like good value when you see some of the wine list prices. Generally corkage runs at around $5 per person. Or should that be 'screwage' now?
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Re: Tip 20% on pricey restaurant wine? Why or why not?

Postby Gary Barlettano » Mon Dec 06, 2010 6:17 pm

David M. Bueker wrote:Given how often the "capitalist exploiters of the downtrodden" go out of business, I would venture to say that the business model needs to be rethought not tipping policies.


Agreed. No one said all the capitalist exploiters were smart. Look at how many frou frou Northern California wineries go corks up because of ego, overindulgence and just no clue about how to run a business in this economy.
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Re: Tip 20% on pricey restaurant wine? Why or why not?

Postby Neil Courtney » Mon Dec 06, 2010 6:19 pm

Gary Barlettano wrote:
Neil Courtney wrote:I would consider giving a tip IF the markup on said $500 bottle of wine was in the vicinity of 10%. But generally in a fine dining restaurant the markup is likely to start at over 50%, so no way should they get any extra. Large markups could almost be considered to be extortion. :(


Ah, but Neil, the margin on said bottle of wine goes to the capitalist exploiters of the downtrodden, proletarian service personnel whose well-being depends upon your gratuity.


Gary, as per my comment to Winger. Service people generally get reasonable wages from said capitalists.

But I am glad that I am not in the food service industry. It must be hard making ends meet some times.
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Re: Tip 20% on pricey restaurant wine? Why or why not?

Postby Gary Barlettano » Mon Dec 06, 2010 6:44 pm

Ah, again Neil, some capitalist exploiters are indeed smart and invest in legislation. Although it depends upon the specific state of the U.S.A., under federal law tipped service personnel do not have to receive minimum wage. The U.S. Department of Labor tells us that tipped employees are those who customarily and regularly receive more than $30.00 a month in tips (divided by the generally applicable 4.3 weeks in a month, this equates to $6.98 a week). The employer may consider tips as part of wages, but the employer must pay at least $2.13 an hour in direct wages. So, a 40 hour work week and a minimum tip receipt of $6.98 equals the potential for a whopping $92.18 in gross pay weekly. I believe in my chosen domicile of California even tipped employees enjoy a minimum wage which exceeds federal standards.
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Re: Tip 20% on pricey restaurant wine? Why or why not?

Postby Neil Courtney » Mon Dec 06, 2010 7:09 pm

$2.13 per hour are slave rates......! :evil:
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Re: Tip 20% on pricey restaurant wine? Why or why not?

Postby Dale Williams » Mon Dec 06, 2010 8:05 pm

Gary Barlettano wrote:Ah, again Neil, some capitalist exploiters are indeed smart and invest in legislation. Although it depends upon the specific state of the U.S.A., under federal law tipped service personnel do not have to receive minimum wage. The U.S. Department of Labor tells us that tipped employees are those who customarily and regularly receive more than $30.00 a month in tips (divided by the generally applicable 4.3 weeks in a month, this equates to $6.98 a week). The employer may consider tips as part of wages, but the employer must pay at least $2.13 an hour in direct wages. So, a 40 hour work week and a minimum tip receipt of $6.98 equals the potential for a whopping $92.18 in gross pay weekly. I believe in my chosen domicile of California even tipped employees enjoy a minimum wage which exceeds federal standards.

But Gary the law states that wage and tip must normally equal $7.25hour. Tipped employees must at least average 5.12 hr in tips to be paid the minimum.

Back to original question. I typically tip 20% in restaurants. I tip on entire bill, but generally do not order expensive bottles of wine- $40-60 is my comfort zone. On very rare occasions I might order a bottle that sells for $100-200, usually because it's a slamming deal at some place like Kittle House. I suppose on those occasions where a single bottle of wine was as much or more than food cost for both Betsy and I, might do the old NYC "double the tax" bit and tip 17% on total- while 20% has become the norm, enough people (older especially) do 15% I wouldn't feel I was screwing waiter. But in general I still feel that if I can afford the wine, I can afford the tip. I will say that if some rich guy spends $200 on food for two, and $500 on a bottle of wine, and tips $90 (20% on food, 10% on wine) the waiter shouldn't complain too hard.

One thing I feel strongly about it is that the flip side is this discussion is a little cheap to tip 20% if management extends some special corkage deal (and winestaff does wine service- if it's an offline type situation where we open/pour/decant our own, then 20% is fine). I don't think one neccessarily has to tip as if you had ordered same wines off a list, but time to go over 20% for sure.
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Re: Tip 20% on pricey restaurant wine? Why or why not?

Postby Mike Filigenzi » Mon Dec 06, 2010 8:10 pm

It seems to me that if tipping based on the tab is customarily part of what you pay for the experience of good service in a restaurant, then that should be extended to the wine service. Just as one hopes that the service is worth 20% of a $250 tasting menu at a three star restaurant, one hopes that the wine service is appropriate to do justice to that $300 bottle of wine.

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Re: Tip 20% on pricey restaurant wine? Why or why not?

Postby David M. Bueker » Mon Dec 06, 2010 8:36 pm

Mike Filigenzi wrote: one hopes that the wine service is appropriate to do justice to that $300 bottle of wine.


Unfortunately it rarely is.
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Re: Tip 20% on pricey restaurant wine? Why or why not?

Postby wnissen » Mon Dec 06, 2010 10:17 pm

The most I've paid for a bottle of wine in a restaurant is $100, and at that threshold and below I leave my customary tip (20% for "good" service, for what it's worth). However, in the $200 and up range for a bottle, it seems preposterous to tip more than one would for a $100 bottle. 20% is not an entitlement, but rather a useful guide to the rough fraction of the bill required for service. Having ordered a $50 appetizer, I didn't tip 20% on that because it required no more work than the other appetizers costing a quarter as much. Conversely, I tend to "overtip" at breakfast, where the dishes are cheap relative to the labor required (especially if my todler is eating oatmeal).

What I've said applies especially in California, where the minimum wage is $8 regardless of whether one is a tipped employee.

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Re: Tip 20% on pricey restaurant wine? Why or why not?

Postby Mike Filigenzi » Tue Dec 07, 2010 1:04 am

David M. Bueker wrote:
Mike Filigenzi wrote: one hopes that the wine service is appropriate to do justice to that $300 bottle of wine.


Unfortunately it rarely is.


And if not, then the tip should be correspondingly reduced.

Walt - I see what you're saying and you make a good point. I have to qualify my own opinion by saying that I don't believe I've ever ordered a bottle above $100 (at least when I've been paying for the meal) either. Nonetheless, if the restaurant provides excellent wine service to go with their expensive wine, I don't see a problem with tipping based on the price of that wine. Again, the service would have to be as extraordinary as the wine itself to justify any of this, but I think such restaurants exist.

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Re: Tip 20% on pricey restaurant wine? Why or why not?

Postby Brian Gilp » Tue Dec 07, 2010 9:12 am

Mike Filigenzi wrote: Nonetheless, if the restaurant provides excellent wine service to go with their expensive wine, I don't see a problem with tipping based on the price of that wine. Again, the service would have to be as extraordinary as the wine itself to justify any of this, but I think such restaurants exist.


Depends what you want to call wine service but at the list of restaurants to follow I have had the somm provide my wife and I with a tour of the cellar, tour of the kitchen (meet the chef), or a complimentary glass of wine to accompany a special dish. In most cases, the somm notices our interest and asks if we would like .....

French Laundry
The Inn at Little Washington
Citronelle
Alex
Picasso
Clifton Inn (I think that is the name. Outside of Charlottesvillee VA)
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Re: Tip 20% on pricey restaurant wine? Why or why not?

Postby Mark Kogos » Tue Dec 07, 2010 10:10 am

Neil Courtney wrote:
Redwinger wrote:Neil-
In NZ is "service" included in the bill similar to most of Europe or is the tab built on the American model of a gratuity added by the customer?
'Winger


In general there is no tipping for anything here in NZ. Unfortunately, it is creeping into some areas, probably because of tourists who tip anyway. We have what is called a Minimum Wage here, of only $NZ12.50/hour, but any trainee wait person will start on this pay scale, so we do not have waiters that need to get tips to survive. We do have the markup problem as well which is why we will generally not go to a restaurant that does not allow BYOW. Even a 'corkage' charge of $20 a bottle can look like good value when you see some of the wine list prices. Generally corkage runs at around $5 per person. Or should that be 'screwage' now?


Neil

I definitely don't agree with that view on tipping in New Zealand. Almost to a man everyone I know who eats out in NZ tips on average 10%. If you are not tipping at all and going back to the same restaurants, you might want to check what they put in your food because you will not be popular. No one can live on $12.50 an hour!!!

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Re: Tip 20% on pricey restaurant wine? Why or why not?

Postby Dave Erickson » Tue Dec 07, 2010 2:40 pm

Kelly Young wrote:Tip on the tab regardless of what it is compromised of.


That's right.

We're all big boys and girls, and we know going in how restaurant bottle pricing works. Complain about markup all you want, but don't make the servers the target of your protest.

PS: Wnissen, somehow I don't think it is up to the diner to decide the value of the inputs that went into what was ordered.
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