MarkS

Servers Who Endlessly Top Off Your Wine Glass

26 posts in this topic

Service was friendly, efficient, and except for the fact that I had to twice tell our server that I'd pour the wine, very good. \

Do you pour your wine an extra special way, please tell.

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"Service was friendly, efficient, and except for the fact that I had to twice tell our server that I'd pour the wine, very good."

Do you pour your wine an extra special way, please tell.

I totally get it. Some people (me included) like to drink wine at their own pace and not have the waiter at the table every few minutes.

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I totally get it. Some people (me included) like to drink wine at their own pace and not have the waiter at the table every few minutes.

Exactly right. Once the initial pour has been done, I will pour the wine for the table. Not everyone drinks at the same pace. My wife has no interest in having her glass "topped off" as it were (nor do I) and once I tell the server to let me pour from now on, I expect the bottle to be left alone. In this case, I had to tell him twice. It wasn't a big deal, just a personal quirk of mine. I recognize that servers are trained to pour whenever they see the glass getting low, but I prefer to do it myself and don't think I should have to remind a good server once I have let my wishes be known.

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@dinwiddle and @cuddlyone: this is one of those self smack to forehead things. had never thought about it but like it. the constant topping off can be annoying though restaurants with serious wine programs tend to be better about asking/sensing table preferences that way maybe. I'd be really curious to get some of the wine experts' views on this. At a restaurant with/without a sommelier and a more serious wine program, is it appropriate or encouraged to ask to handle one's own wine once it's at the table? And how about a white or sparkling wine when it's not on the table but, rather, in a bucket nearby? How do you handle that, dinwiddle? Interesting ideas.

Servers who pour wine glasses to the brim are often the ones who, once it gets drunk down *almost* to the point where it should have been poured to begin with (right where the curvature ends, and the glass starts to straighten), will rush over again, and pour it back to the brim.

After about 2-3 iterations of this, you're halfway finished your appetizers, they've successfully drained your bottle of wine, and then they'll proudly ask you, would you like some more? As if they've just given you wonderful service.

This is *much* worse than being entirely ignored and should rightfully piss of diners everywhere. It most recently happened to me by a server I've had problems with several times in the past at a new donrockwell.com favorite restaurant. This bartender is *terrible*, and quite frankly needs to be fired due to a complete lack of professionalism. She has an extended track record of inept things like this.

They are so often just trying to drain the wine so they can sell you some more, and get another $20 tip out of the transaction. Once they're politely asked, please, that's enough (when the glass is half-full), but insist in pouring it to the rim anyway, then return to the table to refill the glass even though you say, "Thanks, but we'll pour the wine from now on," that's *more* than enough. If they come back and try it again, they should no longer be working in the "hospitality" industry. It is nothing but pure greed on their part, and it is infuriating. There's a reason why wine glasses are shaped as they are.

Thank you, dinwiddie, for bringing up this important service issue. Restaurants, please mention this in your pre-service meetings one evening - hell, put it in your service manuals (how could it not be there?), and drill this concept into your servers' collective noodles.

I won't call out the restaurant publicly, but quite frankly, I'd be doing the public a service if I did because this type of overbearing service has no place in a restaurant, certainly not on a special occasion (this was a birthday dinner). We spent the last 15 minutes of the meal with nothing to drink because we'd spend $80 on a bottle of champagne which had been completely drained through no fault of our own; an otherwise adequate meal was not much more than a chore, fending off this overbearing person the entire evening.

Cheers,

Rocks

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Makes perfect sense. How about the chilled wine situation when the bucket isn't necessarily within reaching distance of the table? Just be direct and increase the tone of annoyance/request a manager as needed?

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Makes perfect sense. How about the chilled wine situation when the bucket isn't necessarily within reaching distance of the table? Just be direct and increase the tone of annoyance/request a manager as needed?

Yep, I guess I could have stopped it, but it snuck up on me and I didn't feel like spending my evening monitoring the server.

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I forgot to mention during the discussion of our Corduroy experience that before the bar became crowded, the bartender got snippy with us when we said we'd like to refill our own wine glasses. I forget her exact statement, but it was something like, "I know the best way to take care of guests." Which was funny, of course, as her ability to take care of her guests rapidly deteriorated as the evening progressed.

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The easiest way to stop this nonsense is to simply put your hand over the top of the wine glass. Unless some simple minded dolt wants to pour wine over your hand, they get the idea. You could also play hide the wine glass but that's not as much fun.

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The easiest way to stop this nonsense is to simply put your hand over the top of the wine glass. Unless some simple minded dolt wants to pour wine over your hand, they get the idea. You could also play hide the wine glass but that's not as much fun.

Unfortunately that typically requires coordinated effort among everyone at the table, or the result is everybody has an overfilled glass but you. Better to just tell the server, politely at first but then more firmly if necessary, to buzz off. Some muttering about tips usually helps get the point across.

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Serially coordinated but sounds like a great drinking (or non-drinking) game. (And in regard to the tipping thing, I usually mention something about the tip going down 50 cents (with a smile) every time there's unwanted "service".

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I still prefer a server who knows how to pour, when to pour and does it perfectly. No drips, no spills, decants if necessary. I.E. I was recently at the Culinary Institute in Hyde Park, brought a 1990 Bordeaux from my cellar and the waiter immediatly got help on corking and decanting as the bottle was older then she was. She did refilll our glasses as needed but there were no over pours. This is how service should be.

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Before my daughter started work at a new restaurant in Chapel Hill, she was given a hefty service manual to study and also had extensive training in wine service. I was impressed--when I worked as a waitperson years ago, nobody took the time to make sure that I knew what I was doing before I started work. The first time I worked in a place with "continental service" I had to watch other servers and ask for their help until I figured out how to do things myself. That was in the days of serving carts and covered dishes. Try boning out a whole trout, neatly transferring the filets to the guest's plate and saucing it before setting it correctly in front of the guest, and have it still be warm. It's terrifying when you don't know what you are doing.

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Before my daughter started work at a new restaurant in Chapel Hill, she was given a hefty service manual to study and also had extensive training in wine service. I was impressed--when I worked as a waitperson years ago, nobody took the time to make sure that I knew what I was doing before I started work. The first time I worked in a place with "continental service" I had to watch other servers and ask for their help until I figured out how to do things myself. That was in the days of serving carts and covered dishes. Try boning out a whole trout, neatly transferring the filets to the guest's plate and saucing it before setting it correctly in front of the guest, and have it still be warm. It's terrifying when you don't know what you are doing.

Need a "what she said bigtime" button along with the much-requested "like" :D

Had near-identical experience/fear with an early fin(er) dining waitservice job. But, before that, I'd been promoted from dishwasher to ice cream scooper at a local ice cream shop with about 24 flip-open freezer compartments, each housing a 6-gallon container of the ice cream. When a flourescent light (long bulb) went out, I got a step ladder to replace it and...you can guess where this is going. Most of the doors to the ice cream, at counter level, were open. I dropped the bulb. It shattered. We had to throw away more than 80 gallons of ice cream. Will never forget that.

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I go somewhere where the usual server for me tends to top my glass all the time. He did have experience at a high end steak house. I'm going to ask him about this.

The topping off thing is a subtle "trick". Some places may do it all the time via training. I'm certainly in that category of customers that don't want the server to do that on our behalf once the initial glasses have been poured. My impression is that most servers who have been trained or encouraged to do this are similarly taught to "lay off" if the customer shows they don't the server to top off glasses on a fast basis.

There are a lot of ways to upsell, but I think that is a crappy one that is too artificial and at times too blatent. at least that is my $0.02 :D

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At risk of exposing my southern-ness, I was taught that the diners do not fill their own glasses. That's the server's job. If the server is exploiting this position, that's another issue altogether, although the way people expect glasses of water and other beverages to be topped off regularly, it's my guess most don't have malicious intent. If the server comes back to the table before I am ready for more wine, I usually say that I want to wait for the entrée. That works well. Another option is to order a cocktail first, then ask that the wine be brought with the main course.

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When I was a server, I once got in a huge fight with my (at the time) very respected GM because I had the audacity to pour a very expensive bottle of champagne to an 8 top without completely draining the bottle, wasting the opportunity to force them into purchasing another. I even *gulp* left a few ounces in the bottle.

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That's funny. As a matter of pride, I ALWAYS do that with any bottle of wine on a large table. I actually once split a bottle of Château D'Yquem 18 ways. For servers, it's all in the training.

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I asked someone about this who often tops off my glass. It could be soda or wine, but he'll go right at it, topping off that glass. Frankly, I'd rather do it myself and prefer to be in a setting wherein the diners do it themselves, but it doesn't make me crazy. The person who does this was trained and worked for a good bit at a well known steak house, part of a well known chain.

His responses were interesting. Yes, there was some training in that regard, but topping off the glass to spur/encourage/promote more sales was not the MAIN or significant element in that training. He considered it his job. He considered a part of the service function. This particular individual is skilled at having his eyes aware "all the time" and is very service oriented. He's also very outgoing and connects with customers. People definitely like him. More power to him.

Okay, he's an owner. His last comment was telling. Don't the customers realize how much mark up there is on that bottle. Why are they so worried about price. He referenced a mark up that I'll put in a range of 1.5-5 times his cost. I know mark ups are there. They have to be. Who pays for the staff, the rent, the insurance, the advertising, and everything else.

But mostly he considered topping off his job; not primarily for pushing another bottle of wine, but more as an aspect of the complete service package.

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If there's training, it certainly doesn't seem to be in how to handle wine. Wine needs space to breathe and you don't get that when the only thing keeping the wine off that nice white, starched tablecloth is surface tension.

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But mostly he considered topping off his job; not primarily for pushing another bottle of wine, but more as an aspect of the complete service package.

If there's training, it certainly doesn't seem to be in how to handle wine. Wine needs space to breathe and you don't get that when the only thing keeping the wine off that nice white, starched tablecloth is surface tension.

Escoffier is correct, of course, but Dave makes a good point: unless a server knows better, it's entirely possible that in their minds, keeping a wine glass full right up to the brim is a bonafide attempt at being attentive towards the customer. It's *wrong*, mind you, but that doesn't mean the server isn't trying to please.

This should reemphasize how important proper training and supervision is, and also remind us how wonderful it is to dine in a country (and of course I'm thinking of France) where being a server is often considered an honorable and respectable profession. Not a job; a profession.

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I've read this thread from a different perspective: as a not-quite regular but recognizable and liked patron of a restaurant. If I sit at the bar and order a glass of wine the glass will be refilled regularly until I either put my hand over the glass or just pick it up and hold it so it cannot be refilled. No, I don't get charged for every pour but it's up to me to call it quits.

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The simplest and most "correct" answer is, don't fill the wineglass past the "belly" of the glass. I've never had a French (as in France) server ever fill my glass to the point where I had to slurp it to keep it from drenching both me and the tablecloth. There seems to be more respect for wines in France than in the U.S. Amazingly enough, most French servers can manage to ask if you'd like more wine before they pour. You'd think American servers could do the same.

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From Ask Tom on Wednesday, December 19:

Q.

The annoying practice of a waiter's refilling wine glasses without asking ...

Dear Tom, I ask about a venerable restaurant practice that has clearly outlived its usefulness, if it ever had one. The practice is that of the waiter automatically refilling wine into guest's glasses. This practice seems objectionable for a number of reasons. First, with a group, or even a couple, some guests often do not want more wine, while others may; the waiter does not know or ask. Second, the idea of pampering a guest by refilling seems about as quaint as 19th century waiter obsequiousness or having the waiter cut one's food. The predominant reason for this annoying practice seems to be simply that the restaurant wishes you to finish your bottle quickly, in the hope that you might order another. There is nothing more annoying that having an expensive restaurant so plainly and clearly trying to gouge you financially, especially through a practice that may be against your wishes. I always try to stop the waiter (it is difficult, especially if one is in conversation with a group) by saying, "I will pour myself, if you please," and often I get surprised or dirty looks. Do you agree that this practice is odious? Sincerely, Paul B. Takoma Park

A.

Tom Sietsema :

In the best scenarios, servers "read" their customers to figure out who wants to have their wine poured for them and who would rather help themselves. In fairness to the waiters, however, that isn't always clear. If you don't want anyone else serving the wine at your table, you can certainly make that clear up front. Some guests enjoy the service and consider it part of the restaurant experience.

I, too, object to waiters who dump the entire contents of a wine bottle into a party's glasses on the first round. A good waiter/sommelier should be able to pour wine from one bottle for six diners and have some juice remaining afterwards.

– December 19, 2012 11:00 AM

No doubt prompted by this conversation.

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