More and more, people are bringing their own wine into restaurants. This article estimates that 30% of people do it to save money, and that 70% bring their own bottle so they can drink something “really cool” that’s not on the restaurant’s list. Restaurants that allow this charge “corkage” for the privilege, a fee of around $20 to cover the handling of the wine.
The increasing use of corkage raises another issue for wine drinkers: tipping. At good restaurants, tips on wine can be the difference between waiters and waitresses making a living or not.
So how does one handle tipping when one brings one’s own wine into a restaurant?
Serious Eats comes down, like lots of others, on the side of tipping the regular percentage (15 – 20%) on the corkage fee, or $4 – $5.
The commentors at Chow suggest 20% of the retail price of the wine.
A discussion at Chowhound goes back and forth between those who think you ought to tip four extra dollars per bottle and those who think you ought to tip based on what the bottle would have cost had you bought it from the restaurant.
A similar discussion at Yelp Oakland spins off into the anger and bitterness of tipping on wine at all:
Does it make sense to tip on a really expensive bottle of wine? The only difference I can think of is that beer and whiskey don’t get as expensive as wine can. Supperclub has a $1000 bottle of wine available; does the server really expect a $200 tip?
Finally, Michael Bauer seeks sanity in an obviously insane world by walking us through his thinking on the subject and concluding:
I’d probably tip an extra $10 or so for each bottle brought into the restaurant.
Which seems reasonable to me, unless it’s a really expensive restaurant and you’ve brought in a really expensive bottle of wine, in which case it’s time to go a little Elvis on everyone and start handing out Cadillacs. It’s also nice, if you’re in a restaurant that is serious about wine, to offer the server or sommelier a taste of the wine.
I continue to be amazed how cheap and thoughtless people are about tipping. A grown-up in one of the discussions — I’m starting to lose track, to tell you the truth, because these Internet people get wacky fast — says that the only people who bitch about tipping are people who’ve never worked in food service, and I think that’s true.
Seriously: If you’re big-time enough to bring your own bottle of “special” wine into a nice restaurant, you’re big-time enough to not quibble over a few dollars for the staff. If you’re outraged by the cost of the food or the mark-up on the wine, don’t take it out on the hired help. Eat at a cheaper restaurant.