Pay Scale for New Sommeliers

Hi everyone, 

I'm looking for a little guidance with regard to sommelier pay scale and tip arrangements, specifically for smaller restaurants where the sommelier is also taking on front of the house management duties in addition to building the wine program and working on the floor. 

As I understand it, most sommeliers are compensated with a combination of salary/shift pay and tips (either a percentage of wine sales from the house or from server's as a percentage tip out).

There is a good discussion in the forums, but it's nine years old. Any current information about specific compensation arrangements would be great. 

Thanks in advance! 

  • Hi Darryl,

    I'm Toronto-based so quite familiar with the market. First of all, regardless of restaurant size, the vast, vast majority of somm positions in the city are hybrid, with somm/manager being very common, followed by somm/server and distantly by somm/bartender.

    There really isn't a "normal" in Toronto. You'll often see everything from entirely-salary-based to the server standard of minimum-plus-tips. But there are a few trends. In truly small restaurants where you have a FoH crew of 2-4 on a Saturday night and as a manager you're taking tables and essentially functioning as a server with a few additional duties, you can expect to make a slightly higher base wage than servers and receive the same tip quantity, whether it be pooled or not. Once you're in a restaurant large enough where as a somm/manager you're not taking tables, you can expect to receive a day rate/hourly wage/salary and a significantly smaller share of tips, typically 0-50% of the tips that a server receives.

    Commission-based bonuses are rare in Toronto. The majority of somms don't have a bonus-based pay structure (not counting tips) but if they do it's more likely to be a flat rate based on meeting some sort of target, be it beverage COGS, sales, or profit.

    A simpler way to put things is that you can expect your overall hourly compensation to be 80-110% of a server in a very small restaurant based on working more hours and receiving the same or slightly higher base pay. In a large restaurant where management and somm-specific duties take up a significant portion of your time and the majority of your pay is base and not from tips, you can expect your overall hourly compensation to be 40-80% of a server.

  • Hi Jonah, I really appreciate your thoughts on this. It mirrors much of what I've seen in the city, but it's nice to have it laid out so comprehensively. Thanks again! 

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