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Daily Archives: December 15, 2009

Post from SF critic Michael Bauer on tipping on wine brought from home

Just a couple of comments on this.

I read through the first couple of pages of comments (and might read more later).

I don’t think that many guests realize that there’s actually more of a markup on inexpensive wine as there is on pricier bottles and this seemed reflected in some of the comments.

From my experience, the normal markup on $40 and cheaper bottles is usually 3.5 – 4.5 times cost. Bottles over $100 are usually only marked up double or even less for even pricier bottles. And bottles in between are marked up in between as well (obviously, this is just a generalization).

As far as tipping on wine brought in by the guest, if there’s a corkage fee applied, an extra $10 per bottle seems fairly reasonable unless the bottle is something very rare and expensive. Then, the guest should bump it up a bit. Those are lost sales to the restaurant and the waiter and the restaurant is extending a courtesy to allow a guest to bring in his or her own wine, so they shouldn’t scrimp on the tip unless their plan was simply to save money at the expense of the restaurant, and that’s not the intent of offering corkage. Most people who bring in a special bottle of wine do so because it’s not on the list and it means something to them. Most of them would gladly order it if it were available. So why not tip appropriately? Remember that the corkage fee compensates the restaurant but has little effect of the tip. A $20 corkage fee results in $4 extra tip on a “$100 bottle”, where as the same percentage tip on a purchased bottle would be that $20. That’s why it’s appropriate to leave extra per bottle.

I also don’t think that a restaurant should allow wine to be brought in that’s on the wine list. Three of my previous restaurants had that policy but my current one doesn’t. It’s only happened to me once, but it was certainly galling to get tipped only on the food check and the corkage fee on a bottle that should have been purchased from us.

Finally, I used to wait on several esteemed wine collectors (both had 15,000 – plus bottles in their cellars). Whenever they brought in a special bottle, they tipped as if they had bought it from the restaurant. I’m just saying that they understood the concept of taking care of the service staff and they were certainly “well-to-do, wine and food savvy”. It’s seems like the group represented by the letter writer should have had their own event catered at home if they wanted to do a “each person bring in a bottle from their own stash round robin affair”. A high-end wine pot luck, if you will.