Thursday, October 10, 2013

How much should you tip on corkage?

When a corkage fee -- what you pay to bring your own bottle of wine to a restaurant -- is small, tipping on it isn't an issue. Presumably the restaurant pockets the fee, so if the fee is $10, paying a server $1.50 or $2 to open a bottle isn't a big deal.

But in many big-city restaurants, corkage fees have ratcheted up to the point where it makes this an issue worth considering. You brought your own wine, and you're paying the restaurant to open it -- perhaps $35 a bottle -- in theory to make up for the restaurant's lost revenue. How much should you pay the person wielding the corkscrew? Is a few turns of a screw worth $7?

Sometimes the tip depends on how much service the restaurant gives you; if a server constantly refills your glasses, you should tip as on any other item. In my experience, though, most people who bring their own wine prefer to pour it themselves.

What do you think? Let's take a poll and find out.

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W. Blake Gray said...

Time of readership matters: "Nothing" held the lead in this poll for the first 5 hours that it was posted.

Nat Davis said...

One should always be considerate of both the restaurant and the server. A business is, after all, voluntarily sacrificing revenue as a courtesy to the customer. Would you go into a garage for new tires and bring along the front driver's side tire yourself then ask the garage to charge you less and take a cut of the mechanic's pay? Tip the full amount!

Rob McMillan said...

I never want to hurt a professional server's tip. If I bring in a $35 bottle of wine, it would have been $70 on the menu and I would have tipped on $70. If the restaurant charges $35 corkage, I'd want to pay $14 (20% of $70) on the wine to the server .... unless they sucked. I'm still ahead over what I would have paid on the menu. If the corkage really is that high, I am likely to go to another restaurant. If the corkage is comped in the restaurant I went to instead - I am more likely to give the server $10 on top of my tip on the food. I'm still way ahead there.

DAPZ said...

So 1 out of every 3 say leave nothing. That's why my servers ,whenever possible, always add the service charge.

DAPZ said...

It's also important to note that servers tip out the rest of the front of the house( bar, runners, bussers, host) based on their sales. So if one leaves nothing on the $35 corkage, the server is still paying out tips on it.

B. Sarmiento said...

I'm well aware of the justification behind corkage fees, though I don't agree with them (any more than I do with the tyranical three-tier distribution system). A $10-15 fee to drink my wine of choice and not have to pay a 150-250% markup is reasonable and so, a standard tip on top of that is negligible. However, to be charged $35-$50 to remove my cork and wash two glasses is preposterous and I'm not about to reinforce that raping! Sounds to me like restaurants need to start paying their employees better. Not my problem! In support of my "tyranical" reference, how much of that corkage fee goes to the dishwashers or line cooks?

DAPZ said...

B Sarmiento:
You are not being charged a corkage fee for cork removing and glass washing. you are paying to compensated for loss revenue. Restaurants operate seeking profit and believe me, the vast majority of restaurants' profit margins are very slim.

None of the corkage fee goes to line cooks. Nor to servers or bartenders for that matter. It all goes to the restaurants revenue as wine revenue. Now, if you are tipping on the corkage fee, then whatever you tip (10, 15, 20%) is split among the front of the house team. Because you're paying for service so back of the house usually does not get anything.

Now, I agree with your point that restaurant workers should be paid better. Let's raise the prices from 15 to 20 %, so restaurants remain economically viable, no tips. That extra revenue would be transferred to employees as salaries. No stress and everyone is happy.

B. Sarmiento said...

I'm not a restaurant expert, which you appear to be. What I am is a consumer; a very informed one. Everything I've ever read about corkage has mentioned glassware - costs to acquire, clean and replace when broken. Yours is the first I've heard about lost revenue. Along those lines, if I didn't bring my wine, I'd be drinking water since I don't drink soda and don't like alcohol or beer with high-end food. Therefore, there would be no "gained revenue", so to speak. If you want to gain revenue, price your wines reasonably and I'll gladly (and liberally) order off your list! Win-Win.
And as for raising prices 15-20%...great idea! Then, only 5% of the general public could afford to eat out; instead of 7-10%. How viable will restaurants be then?

Unknown said...

I'm a bit confused - the corkage fee is added to the bill, and I'm basing my tip off the bill. So "nothing" is not accurate, yet I'm not tipping for corkage per se. I'm adding it to the total. So is my proper answer "same as rest of bill?"