One of the restaurants my husband and I frequent is an upscale bistro where you can bring your own wine. (The restaurant doesn’t have a liquor license.) The food isn’t cheap, and we usually tip 20 percent, but should we be tipping more because the server has to open and serve our wine? We like to bring a few bottles from our cellar if we’re with a group, maybe three or even four per meal, so I’m wondering if we should be tipping extra.
Wine in my bag
Dear Wine Bag,
BYOBs are great, aren’t they? I’ve lived in places where they’re common—it has to do with local liquor licensing—and in places where they’re not. I love them because when you’re out to eat you can really save a pretty penny on a nice bottle of wine, or even bring a six-pack of beer for what you’d spend on one or two bottles from a restaurant menu. But oh, I guess you asked a question that I should probably answer if I want to keep writing this column.
This one has a short answer: Yes, you should tip extra if the server does a lot of work with your wine. If the server plonks it on the table and you open and serve it yourself, then don’t worry about the extra tip, but it sounds like your server uncorks and serves your wine and probably brings over a few rounds of glasses in the process. Since the staff isn’t making any money off the wine that you brought—I’m not sure whether there’s a corkage fee at the place you mentioned—I’d throw some extra gratuity in if they did a good job with it.
I remember a high-end BYOB place my friend worked at, and she had some regular tables that would basically conduct full-out wine tastings over dinner: multiple bottles, new glasses for each round, asking for a decanter, etc. Thankfully, she said they always left a fat tip, and a few times they even left her half of a good bottle of wine they didn’t finish. So yeah, recognize when a server’s going through a little extra work and compensate accordingly. Leaving some leftover wine is great, but remember, we can’t pay our rent with it.
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