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What is your view on tipping (service charge) for wine?


While I am guilty of paying the ‘optional’ service charge as billed. I do sometimes feel cheated when then I get a more expensive bottle of wine with an already hefty mark up and do not feel the service any different from when I buy the house wine. I also do not like paying for service if I sit at the bar… though appreciate I might be wrong here… unless I get extra value from the bartender on the wine I am having and what they have on offer.


Absolutely hate paying for service when sat at the bar. Pubs don’t do this - why do hotels?


I personally have no issue paying for service at a bar … in certain circumstances. There can be a world of difference in the service offered at a quality hotel bar compared to your average pub - with recommendations, personal service, and the kind of offer that requires additional training and therefore delivery by the member of staff.

I also rarely buy wine of such a high price that it makes a real, substantial difference to the service charge on a meal bill, so not really considered it in this country.

My wife is Canadian so I struggle with it the other direction, when I have to make sure I remember to tip substantially in all cases since that is how staff actually get paid, but it is there where I most recall someone making an issue of service on expensive wine (it wasn’t me).

Service and Mark-ups are a very tricky subject indeed


I thoroughly disapprove of automatic service charge being added, PARTICULARLY on drinks which have already been marked up 3-4x cost price! I could name various restaurants where the service is dubious at best and they add 10-12.5% automatically; and I could name various others where the service is truly excellent (such as the Waterside Inn) and service is explicitly included. If I want to tip it should be MY choice and I should not be made to feel awkard having it removed from a bill which then has to be reprinted, etc.


Bob goes to a restaurant and decides to treat himself to a lovely bottle of Montrachet for his birthday. It costs him £100, which is far more than he’d normally spend but it’s his birthday and he decides to go for it. The waiter brings the wine, opens the bottle and pours him a taste and then pours for the table.

Tom goes to the same restaurant and buys a bottle of house wine for £15. The waiter brings the wine, opens the bottle and pours him a taste and then pours for the table.

The waiter has done the same job, the same amount of work, yet Bob ends up paying £15 service charge for the wine and Tom £2.25.

I suppose it’s the same for food except the differential in pricing for food is nowhere near as extreme as wine.

IMHO, once you are paying over £50 a bottle in a restaurant, the amount you are paying for service is completely disproportionate to the work they do.

The exception to that is the really good sommelier who can help you find the treasures that you’d never normally find. I did end up once with the sommelier going off the list for me. I had asked for a new world bordeaux style wine. He came back with a bottle that wasn’t on their list, he wouldn’t let me see until I’d tasted it. He’d brought me a bottle of Changyu Cabernet D’Est from Ningxia in China.


@MrNXM I’d never really considered it like that before - it does seem bizarre to (sometimes) be paying over a tenner for someone to open a bottle for you. That said, the frequency with which that would be an issue for me isn’t going to make me lose sleep about it!

Overall, I don’t normally have any issue paying a tip, whether at a bar or in a restaurant, as long as I’ve received pleasant service, which in 98% of cases I do. It’s a tough and pretty thankless industry so I’m always grateful for friendly waiters/waitresses.


It always seems to me the now standard 15% service charge added to your bill is the problem. When ordering “up the list” the cost is disproportionate. This discourages people who wish to buy a better wine. With usual restaurant mark ups the establishment is already making loads.


It begs the question…

Why not make all wine have a standard corkage?
All food a standard ‘plate-age’? (Cost of food + standard couvert charge)

You pay for the ingredients and contribution towards staffing and cosys. Done!


Well I take the view that the food is created in house by skilled chefs. So the value added costs are by the restaurant. Whereas wine is brought in in a conpleted state. I guess that in the past a top restaurant kept a cellar which they laid down and this still happens sometimes, but by and large the wines are in on a daily basis. Sommetimes remaining the property the wine merchant until sold. They even manage stock control for the restaurants in some places. So why are they changing 3 or 4 times the retail?


I think thete is certainly value added by a chef more than a sommelier to wine but adding a % markup makes the association between expensive ingredients and skill which is good news for lovers of stew but not for steak…whereas weirdly a fillet steak takes minimal intervention and labour!


If they charged less for the wine, they’d charge more for the food. Perhaps the balance is wrong?


Surely the issue here is the practice of tipping per se? It is essentially a subsidy to restaurant owners that tempts them to pay staff the least they can get away with. There’s not even a guarantee that tips reach staff. I would far rather pay a fair, if higher, price that covers competitive pay and conditions for staff across the industry and avoids all the angst over how much to tip.


@Nowt_in_my_glass Why anyone buys steak in a restaurant is quite beyond me! Our nearest Michelin * place buys its meat from the same place as we do. I can go to the butchers and pay £18/lb for it, or I can pay the restaurant about £90/lb to cook it for me. Bit of a no-brainer unless you really can’t cook at all as there’s really nothing difficult about cooking a good bit of fillet steak!


I quite agree @seworby (unless I’m on expenses) i was really showing the disparity and extortion of how food is priced compared to it’s actual cost and labour input


I get your point @seworby but wouldn’t that be true of any meal in most restaurants?

You say you don’t understand why anyone buys steak but chicken is usually only slightly cheaper on the menu and much cheaper in most butchers. It’s no more difficult to cook, in fact easier because as long as it isn’t overcooked or dried up there’s no grey area where one persons rare is another’s medium. Knock up a sauce which is often bought in, even in some very good restaurants and away you go. The same can be said for lamb, fish and especially vegetarian dishes.

On the subject of tipping, I think a lot depends where you are in the country and the level of restaurant.

For example, I live in Bolton and it’s rare for a restaurant to impose a tip on the bill and I’d imagine they’d get told to remove it on the odd occasion if it went to the staff, but if it didn’t they’d get called out regularly and it would be all over tripadvisor and the like.

But it’s Bolton. The level of service you get in higher end city restaurants just doesn’t have a market. As far as I know there isn’t a single sommelier working in Bolton or it’s surrounding towns and wine is often an afterthought on a menu where the restaurant just lets their supplier dictate the often laughable list. As long as the popular choices are on there and there’s a good mark up they don’t really care. It’s not uncommon for a menu to just list Rioja with no mention of producer or vintage, for example.

Big city’s have some restaurants that offer a service that I suppose they feel justifies the levy and once they charge the wannabe restaurants will follow.


Actually I think some of the food prices in restaurants are amazingly cheap considering the labour that goes into them (& the cost of labour and assocaited costs in this country). The time and effort that goes into a stunning plate of food is quite astonishing; I’m sure at lunchtimes expensive restaurants often make a loss on the food side of things. The profit is made up from the absolute rip-off on the wine list (in many places). Take 3 Michelin * Waterside Inn in Bray. Lunch @ £65 for 3 courses plus coffee at the end (and INCLUDING service) is just NOT expensive if you just look at the number of staff they employ and the cost of running the establishment. Then buy a bottle of £10 wine for £60 and you’ll realise how they make ends meet and turn a decent profit!


One of the axioms of life: restaurants make their profit on the drink, pubs make their profit on the food.


@Jonesy Round our parts wine is hideously overpriced in pubs, too, and often of poor quality. I try to drink beer in pubs becuase I don’t have the “facilites” at home (i.e. casks, pumps, etc.!) whereas invariably we have better and much cheaper wine at home.