March 16, 2024 by Alyssa Taylor

How-To Tip on Wine at a Restaurant

Q: How-To Tip On a Bottle of Wine At a Restaurant

A: Let me start by saying that everyone has their own opinion on this. I’ve never personally ordered a $2,000 bottle of wine, or for that matter a $1,000 bottle of wine, or for that matter even a $500 bottle of wine. None are within my personal budget, and as a society, we haven’t exactly come together to solidify an exact amount on tipping standards. However, my general view (and most others in the industry) is that anyone who can afford to order an expensive bottle of wine should be able to afford the tip that goes along with it—and that tip should be in the customary 15 to 20% range, leaning toward the 20% end for exceptionally good service.

In reality, the tip largely reflects those diners’ relationships with the restaurant. They’re maybe regulars who come in all the time, and so they’ve established the kind of familiarity with the staff — and the staff has established the kind of familiarity with them — that entails a lot of personal attention, a lot of coddling. The tips they give are tied into the perpetuation of their special status in the restaurant, and aren’t necessarily reflective of a philosophy of tipping a full 20% even on $1,500 bottles of wine. I spoke with a friend who is a high-end wine buyer, and consumer who stated, “…I think the general practice for most of my friends is to drop the tip closer to the 15% range on the total bill when the wine is a huge component (greater than 60%) of the cost.”

The word “drop” is being used because it’s usually his habit to tip 20% or more for excellent service in a restaurant.

For those who think tipping 15-20% on a check is formidable, I would highly suggest only ordering what is within your budget including the tip. Because after speaking with quite a few restaurateurs and sommeliers, the general consensus is you tip on the bottom line, including the wine. Which I suppose is another way of saying if you can’t afford to tip on the wine or the food, at any price, then you really can’t afford to tip commensurate with the restaurant’s level of expertise and the quality of its care. It seems like a harsh accusation, but that is the reality in American fine dining.

Wine in a restaurant can be expensive, it is up to you to make the decision whether or not you can afford to drink it. This includes the service.

Learn more about How-To Order Wine at a Restaurant here. And if you are just getting into wine and don’t know where to start, check out our Wine Basics Tasting Kit: An Introduction to Wine. 

Inquire about a custom Masterclass on topics like this for your team, so they can feel confident when entertaining prospects or clients.

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