Restaurant wine markups and service charges

What do you consider acceptable?

We had a 12.5% service charge added to a bill last week for a family meal (4 of us) which added a significant amount to the total. It was probably discretionary but I didn’t challenge it at the time. We normally give a cash tip of up to 10% depending on overall bill, but this seemed a lot especially as Mrs AC’s starter arrived long after everyone else’s.

It was a celebratory event and I ordered a bottle which was fairly expensive as some of the cheaper ones I knew I could get for considerably less in supermarkets.

I searched the 'expensive one’ tonight (yes, all relative I know) and now realise it was possibly the wrong choice as it seems we were charged 4-5x what it would actually cost to purchase. Hmmm.

Interestingly, the earlier bottle recommended by the waiter (we had a 50cl carafe) was somewhere between 1.5-3x markup depending on where you looked.

How much would you pay for this in a restaurant?

Maybe @Rod_Smith could offer some hints.

When you’re presented with a very comprehensive wine list it’s often difficult to decide what to go for if you’re unfamiliar with the selection.

I had my mobile phone and could have done some searches online, but that would have ruined the occasion.

Retails for €21 / £18

Trade price (est) €15 / £13

Restaurant price €45-€60 / £39 - £52

400% mark-up is - or should be - max in a restaurant, but it’s creeping up to compensate for cost price increases on everything else.


Tips are for high quality service not for late meals. I wouldn’t have paid it, you have been charged for something you didn’t get.

Mark-up is fine as long as it’s clearly stated or shown on the menu.


Yes, I found a sites with it a little cheaper than an initial search, so it was actually a 500%+ markup which is not good.

The recommended wine was:

…it was £54 for 50cl, several sites have it at near £50/bottle but I’ve seen it for half that. 1.5-3x is more acceptable, maybe I should have trusted the waiter more!

Wine in UK has always been a big money earner for restaurants. I have in mind typically 3-4x market price of the wine in more expensive establishments, maybe 2-3 in cheaper. I have been in places in France and Italy where the wine has been only marginally more than in the shops, and the house wine is usually very drinkable.


In hindsight I’d agree, or at least would have asked for the service charge to be removed from the bill and left a lower cash tip - the service from the waiters/waitresses was excellent in fairness, it was the kitchen which didn’t time things correctly, so three of us had almost finished starters before the 4th person’s starters arrived.

I think you meant service charge in the last sentence but I don’t recall seeing it on the menus which were multiple pages.

I’ve had a marginally cheaper Luigi Bosca Malbec from Waitrose so probably went for it as a potentially far better quality one but I think there are lessons to be learned!

For some context, tips in NYC restaurants are generally 20%.

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Restaurant prices are always pretty ridiculous. Ideally you’re paying a premium to enjoy the wine in a special setting, atmosphere, occasion, etc. When I was still drinking wine I would typically have a glass with dinner at the restaurant. If I wanted more than that, rare as I got older, I would have wine at home after dinner.

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Yes, I’ve been aware of differing tipping %ages in different countries for some time, and in the US I believe it is essential to do so to ensure the staff get an appropriate basic wage even if this all seems wrong on the face of it as the employer should be providing that.

The reason I prefer to tip in cash is to reward an individual or group knowing the money will end up with them not the business. It’s their obligation to declare the tips but not something I can enforce.

20% seems to be customary in most places I’ve lived in the US but it can vary. I tip 20% for par or sub par service and more for good/great service. I’ve become more generous since covid with so many restaurants struggling. I tip for carryout too and I also understand that poor service is not always in the control of the wait staff so I’m not keen to punish them.


I spent my early life in Hotels & Restaurants, mainly in Food & Beverage, so I was part of the mark up for a number of years - HOWEVER - I always tried to offer value on the wine list and wines over a certain cash cost had a cash margin applied rather and %%

I typical Hotel - Restaurant would like to make a margin of 25 - 35% percent of cost of sales, the general approach is the venue will work back from the sales price and not the cost price and they will be tasked by head office - owner to hit this margin - this is how they all work to be honest, from memory if you take the cost price and x by 3.45 you hit margin inc VAT in UK


you can do the maths - if a restaurants sells 120 bottles a week of House wine at £4 the profit difference depending on the accountants can be massive

I not saying it’s right or wrong but those are the facts, a very wise man once said to me you can’t bank a percentage, and thats what I tried to use

service is something else to be honest…

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I often tip for carryout, but not if the food is just slapped down in front of me. I always tip my pizza place.

Yes, 20% is the starting point in NYC, but I rarely go above 25%. I feel better increasing my tip to cabbies who let my dog ride.

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Jeez. NYC tips average 25 - 30% !
Out here in the fens of East Anglia, England. Your very lucky if each person drops £1 each.
If service charge wasn’t included, everyone would probably choose to not tip at all.
Tight Bastards.


As @jegreenwood said, it’s the same in Canada as well. Although 15-20% is acceptable, myself and many I know leave 20%.
If a delivered pizza is $25, I always give them a $5 tip as well. Our waiters and delivery people rely on tipping.

I completely understand tipping in the States as their wages are based on getting it, I don’t think it’s the best system but hey it works and they’re happy so who am I to criticise. However here wait staff are well paid (the prices reflect that) I don’t always feel inclined. If the service was better than normal we normally leave something for the waiters.

I think here wine prices in restaurants have always been based on at least 100% mark up. In restaurants where you can byo (bring your own) you’ll more than likely be charged a corking fee that I guess covers washing the glasses etc.

Guess everyone had to make a buck but sometimes I think they’re just taking the p*ss.


I was in Le Mans with some work colleagues a few years ago and we decided to pool our spare coins to give the waitress a tip. Our French colleague went mad sacre bleu et zut alors - words to that effect. We never tip in France.

@frenchrooster is that right you don’t tip in France?

10% are you kidding! You do realize that wait staffs main source of income is tips. Unless the service is terrible I never tip less than 15% . Attentive and friendly service always gets 20%

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In America