Wine 101: Corkage

The 6 Rules of BYOB


Related Imagery
Corkage - An Infographic

Originally published July 14, 2010, I thought this was worth sharing again!

Last week’s write-up about wine prices took an unusual, yet welcome, turn in the comment section on Snooth. While I was primarily discussing the cost of wine at retail, many who chimed in brought up the cost of wine in a restaurant. Having done my share of time in restaurants, I thought this would be a great follow-up, so away we go.

Wine pricing in restaurants is often mysterious, and sometimes insulting – so what’s a wine geek to do? Try BYOB, of course! Some restaurants allow you to bring wine at no cost, but many others charge what is known as corkage.

Corkage is sometimes a difficult game to play even though it seems to be pretty simple. The customer is granted the privilege, and it really is a privilege, to bring his or her own wine to be enjoyed at a restaurant and in return the restaurateur is paid a fee, essentially for the use of glassware, dishwashing, and lost income. Sounds simple right?  Well, not always.First off, many people act like bringing their own wine to a restaurant is some inalienable right. This is the wrong foot to get off on. Restaurateurs are in the business of making money, and while that's usually done by keeping customers happy, some customers just demand too much. Instead of giving the restaurant staff a hard time, why not move on to an establishment that caters to your desires?

If you want to bring your own wine to a restaurant, follow these guidelines and make it easier for the restaurant of your choice to cater to you! Corkage is a courtesy that the restaurateur extends to allow you to enrich your dining experience with them. It should not be abused. If a restaurant has a wine list, it was created to enhance your experience with them. Don’t try and abuse corkage just to save a few dollars.

1. Always ask

Many restaurants do offer corkage to their customers, but sometimes there are limits. For example, if you want to bring a wine that is already on the restaurant’s list, this may be frowned upon, and rightly so -- since that list was created with you in mind. It may also be outright prohibited.

2. Find out the policy ahead of time

That includes knowing if there are any stipulations, like not bringing a wine on the list, having a limit on the number of bottles a group can bring in, and agreeing to the price charged. It’s the customer’s responsibility to find this information out before arriving at the restaurant, so make a call the day before if you are at all unsure.

3. Agree to the fee, or go elsewhere

The price charged should be one that you are comfortable with. I’ve seen corkage range from $2 per person to $100 a bottle. It’s a big range -- in both of those cases, the charge was commensurate with the level of service you could have expected from the respective establishments. I paid the $2, passed on the $100, and found another restaurant that charged what I was comfortable paying. And I didn’t get on the internet and rant like an entitled boor about it.

4. Don’t be afraid to negotiate in special circumstances

Note: This is true on certain rare occasions. I frequently try to negotiate a rate for my wine tastings, but not for a typical dinner. Many of the tastings I organize include many old bottles of wine, and, frequently, some bottles that are shot and end up not being consumed. I don’t want to pay for those bottles, so I always ask the restaurant if they would charge my group per person instead of per bottle. It’s usually the same fee, except now we don’t have to worry about those clunkers costing us even more money!

5. Offer your server a taste of some of the wines

Or better yet, send some back to the kitchen. This not only will get you in with the most important folks in the restaurant, should you wish to return, but may also help get some or all of the corkage charges waived. Don’t quote me on that, but I have seen it happen.

6. Tip generously

Even though you are paying corkage that money goes to the house, not your server. While you have been able to save money on the evening, your server may be coming out on the short end since they lost out on the sale of a bottle or three. Take some of the money saved and add it to the tip, it’s good karma.

What should you expect in exchange for paying corkage? Well, this obviously depends how much you are paying. I am pretty comfortable paying up to about $35 a bottle in corkage, which seems like a fair trade to me, but I do expect something for that $35. Check out our infographic to see what it takes to make me happy.

 

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Comments

  • Snooth User: tjamesh
    271581 7

    Do not bring wines already on the list, if they have a petrus library dont bring petrus, then you just look cheap and it is insulting. Bring a wine not represented on their list or a underrepresented region.

    Jul 14, 2010 at 2:41 PM


  • True, there is a fine line between one's enjoyment of wine with dinner and a restaurant's ability to turn a profit. I don't begrudge paying a corkage fee, as long as it's within reason. My wife and I never bring our own wine to a restaurant, though a few weeks back we did share a bottle of Shiraz and appetizers with friends at a local wine bar and were charged a $5 corkage fee. I didn't realize this until our friend pointed it out on her bank card statement. My wife and friends and I all happen to know the manager and staff of this particular establishment, so $5 seemed a small price to pay. We have been to several other wine bars in the area that charge a hefty corkage fee (anywhere from $10 to $15 or more, depending on the bottle).

    Jul 14, 2010 at 2:48 PM


  • Chicago is bursting with BYOB and modest corkage-fee restaurants. Our "other" home is in Indianapolis and if they have any BYOB restaurants I am certainly not aware of them. Is there a publication available that lists BYOB restaurants by city?

    Jul 14, 2010 at 2:53 PM


  • Snooth User: madmanny
    106551 128

    Luckily, I live in a town (Montclair, NJ) where there are many fine restaurants and very few liquor licenses. These licenseless restaurants encourage BYOB, charge no corkage, use fine stemware and will decant upon request. So I guess according to the "Infographic", I'm very spoiled. In fact, when going out with my wife for our anniversary, which fell on Memorial Day, I was really bent out of shape when the restaurant we went to (only one open that day) used "jelly jars" for wine glasses. This was very surprising to us because it was clearly not up to the standards of the competition. Anyone else run into this in a higher end restaurant?

    So I guess when confirming corkage fees, it may also make sense to ask about stemware(???) We wound up drinking a lesser bottle than we intended because of the glasses.

    Jul 14, 2010 at 2:56 PM


  • I usually bring a very nice bottle of wine to a restaurant knowing that there is no chance they have it on their list. I always offer the server or chef a taste and ask them what on their menu might best be paired with the wine. They usually get a big kick out of that and really get involved and want to help you! As #6 says I usually always tip extra generously unless they don't care at all about service.

    Jul 14, 2010 at 2:57 PM


  • Snooth User: dothedo74
    257172 4

    Ive been in the business for over 16 years,( Mom and Pop to 5 Star), and it's refreshing when a dining guest tips for THE SERVICE, I mean hell, I still have to polish stemware, decant, pour, refill AND provide normal service. .. Step it up people, if you're gonna bring your own bottles in., my bills don't lower just because your check does!!

    Jul 14, 2010 at 3:10 PM


  • I have a fine wine cellar (and like to collect rarities) so like to frequent establishment sans license or (who at very least have reasonable corkage policies). That said, I think it is nice if:

    - I buy one bottle for every one I bring from my own cellar (by way of example, if I am bringing a Grand Cru Burgundy, I might buy a nice Meursault to compliment the first course.
    - I offer tastes to my server and kitchen staff.
    - I TIP as if I had bought the bottle from the establishment.

    Stemware is important, I would rather pay a bit more of a corkage fee and get Reidel than pay less and be forced to drink out of junk glasses.


    Jul 14, 2010 at 3:11 PM


  • Snooth User: dothedo74
    257172 4

    Ive been in the business for over 16 years,( Mom and Pop to 5 Star), and it's refreshing when a dining guest tips for THE SERVICE, I mean hell, I still have to polish stemware, decant, pour, refill AND provide normal service. .. Step it up people, if you're gonna bring your own bottles in., my bills don't lower just because your check does!!

    Jul 14, 2010 at 3:14 PM


  • Snooth User: craig g
    531626 6

    Offering glasses of the wine you bring is a great way to build goodwill. It may or may not result in a break on the corkage fee, but getting to have a relationship with the staff is the best way to guarantee good experiences, whether it's customized special things from the kitchen, help squeezing you in on busy nights, etc.

    I've found very often that if I buy a bottle or two off the list, no matter how many I bring, I'll often get corkage entirely waived or knocked down to one or two fees even if it's a dinner for 10 with 15 bottles. Most wine lists include at least a couple of well priced aperitif-type wines perfect for that.

    If the corkage fee is reasonable, a 1/3 tip on the total bill is my usual standard. It sounds like a lot but remember that the server is doing at least as much work as if you'd ordered the same amount of wine off the list, and if you're bringing older vintages that are tricky to open, decant and serve, they're doing more work and absolutely earning the money.

    Jul 14, 2010 at 3:14 PM


  • Snooth User: macliii
    353811 26

    I loved this article and have only tried it a few times as I live in one of the worst wine friendly states around (Massachusetts). Not only are we not allowed to get Wine shipped to us, many towns have laws preventing the corkage. I've started working with a few town politicians and local restaurants to change their thoughts. Certainly offering a taste and tipping well on the entire meal and service makes sense.

    Jul 14, 2010 at 3:17 PM


  • Snooth User: wvautrain
    444129 8

    If at some point I do bring a bottle or three to a restaurant that already has a wine list, I'll follow these tips and happily pay the corkage fee. But for BYOB places that do not have a wine list, I don't like it when they also charge a corkage fee. I choose not to frequent such establishments.

    Jul 14, 2010 at 3:20 PM


  • Snooth User: craig g
    531626 6

    wvautrain, it's true that in the case of places with no wine list that they don't need to charge corkage to replace revenue, but surely it's reasonable to charge *something* for the outlay on good glassware and the risk of breakage.

    Jul 14, 2010 at 3:29 PM


  • Snooth User: cjw1928
    453213 5

    #9 said it all. I've been in restaurant business my whole life, I ran a restaurant for 25 years that had extensive wine list 30 pages long that I and Chef/Owner took a lot of time to create keeping all customers in mind. Chances are we had it!
    But in saying that we had many good customers that would on occasion ask to bring very special bottles from their cellars usually a treat. I would not charge corkage for regular customers bringing in something very special only that I and the Chef/Owner had the privilege to taste! Other times depending on selections it would be bring one buy one. I feel other than those circumstances I personally would not ask to bring a bottle to a restaurant that had a well thought out list. I feel that if a corkage is charged that between $10 to $15 is fair. We did not encourage BYOB. Upon request with above criteria.
    The tipping should be considered as if buying the wine in restaurant that is if the server and or Sommelier have serviced you properly. Same goes for when purchasing the wine from restaurant. I don't at all feel that the server should expect 20% if they just open your bottle and never come back.

    Jul 14, 2010 at 3:37 PM


  • Snooth User: wvautrain
    444129 8

    I'm of the opinion glassware and the risk of breakage should be built into the price of the meal. They don't charge if you ask them to bring an extra plate or an extra glass of water.

    I probably wouldn't mind paying if they asked me what kind of wine I brought and then provided nice stemware appropriate for the varietal. I've never had that happen, they usually just provide water glasses or cheap wine glasses shaped for white wine. I'm not paying extra for that, but I'm not complaining, either.

    Jul 14, 2010 at 3:45 PM


  • Snooth User: cjw1928
    453213 5

    wvautrain:
    A good savvy knowledgable food and wine establishment would know to ask those appropriate questions. It is a signal to you if they don't which probably means you should ask the questions in order not to have a bad experience with BYOB.

    Jul 14, 2010 at 3:54 PM


  • We own a restaurant and an adjoining beer and wine store in the mountains of NC. For years we charged a modest cork fee until we decided to offer "wine amnesty" to our diners. Guests are encouraged to peruse the selection of wines in the store. If they find one that they like they can pay store shelf price and enjoy that bottle in the restaurant for no cork fee whatsoever. It's true that the profit margin isn't as great, but the guests certainly have a good time with it!

    Jul 14, 2010 at 3:56 PM


  • Snooth User: Gaibug
    510917 20

    One of our favorite little restaurants in Longview TX has no beer/wine license. They allow BYOB without a corkage. I always take a bottle in and send a glass back to the owner/manager, Paul. While we don't go there terribly frequently, they always call us by name and seat us immediately. I'm sure it's because Paul appreciates the glass of wine. A few times he's come to the table to find out just what that was I sent back to him.

    Jul 14, 2010 at 4:02 PM


  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 202,154

    I don't know if that's something you want to promote BayouWinston, but I would love to know where you are. I'd make plans to stop by if I'm ever in the neighborhood! Great idea!

    Jul 14, 2010 at 4:02 PM


  • Snooth User: eitak
    361974 134

    Indiana does not allow licensed restaurants to BYOB. However, if the restaurant doesn't have a license you may BYOB & are allowed to recork.

    Jul 14, 2010 at 4:07 PM


  • Snooth User: dmaltese
    453357 28

    Excellent article. My wife and I have very infrequently gone the BYOB route as the restaurants we frequent for special occasions all have well thought out wine lists and in some cases fantastic values. The one exception was one of our favorites(since closed) that had a rather pedestrian selection of wines on their list. They charged a $10 corkage fee. The nice thing there though, was that two doors down from them in the same plaza is our favorite wine shop, which is also a wine/beer bar but does not serve food. The owners of the two establishments worked out an arrangement that if patrons purchased the wine at that wine shop/bar, the corkage fee was halved, and similarly if patrons of the wine bar wished to order food, the restaurant would deliver at no charge(including cloth napkins/silverware and real plates) It worked out perfectly as if we wanted a low-key evening we could hang out at the wine bar and still get great food, and if we wanted to make more of a night of it, we could get wine we really enjoyed that was not on the restaurant's list.

    Jul 14, 2010 at 4:29 PM


  • Snooth User: Rickc72
    462856 4

    I don't mind paying a corkage fee and seek out restaurants that are BYOB. I am not cheap but, $50 for a bottle of $25 dollar wine rubs me the wrong way. And the amount given in most restaurants is a disgrace. I don't want the mason jar but, I want more than two fingers. Make a profit, not your kids college fund.

    Jul 14, 2010 at 4:56 PM


  • Snooth User: MarisPB
    122489 5

    eitak: Wrong about Indiana. I have family in Indianapolis and whenever we go to dinner I will often bring along something special and pay corkage. I've done this in numerous restaurants. So, unless the law was changed in the past year, you most definitely should call and ask if the restaurant does corkage.

    Jul 14, 2010 at 5:00 PM


  • Snooth User: Jdfreedom
    316521 4

    To wvautrain: The price of glassware and breakage is built into the liquor cost, which includes wine. If you pay a corking fee, that is to cover the potential loss; as well as to maintain profitability. When you drink from a red wine Riedel or equivalent, the restaurant probably paid $3 or $4 for that glass alone. Also, there can be a split-plate charge if you ask for an extra plate; because you are splitting an entree with someone else. Again, this is in the spirit of profitability. Expect a corking fee, but also expect adequate service. There is no excuse for giving the wrong glass for your wine!

    Jul 14, 2010 at 5:06 PM


  • Snooth User: cjw1928
    453213 5

    bayouwinston, which restaurant do you have in mountains. We have summer cabin in Highlands.

    Jul 14, 2010 at 5:13 PM


  • Snooth User: iconsam
    481209 152

    BYOBs are pretty common in parts of NJ due to the extremely expensive liquor license. Do you think these "recommended fees" would be different if the restaurant didn't initially have any wines on the menu? I would say no, but just wanted to get an opinion.

    Jul 14, 2010 at 5:18 PM


  • Snooth User: enofyl
    32863 10

    I went to an upscale steakhouse in Vegas that normally doesn't allow for corkage at all (they're very proud of their wine list). We successfully negotiated for one special bottle with the following justifications:

    1) It was a friend's bachelor party, a large group that would be ordering many other bottles off their menu;

    2) It was an unusual bottle--a jeroboam of vintage Champagne--not only absent from their menu, but with no even close equivalent (several of the staff came out just to see it get opened);

    3) We paid a corkage on it anyway (can't remember exactly how much, but at least $50).

    Jul 14, 2010 at 5:22 PM


  • Snooth User: judyeri
    348274 5

    OK, along this line, what do you think about tipping on wine price? I don't see why the server would be entitled to a large tip for brining me a $80 bottle over a $40 bottle.

    Jul 14, 2010 at 5:44 PM


  • Snooth User: wvautrain
    444129 8

    Just to clarify, I've rarely had a bad experience with BYOB, mainly because I choose to bring bottles only to establishments that I know don't charge a fee. I expect a lower level of (wine) service from this type of establishment, and I am 100% fine with that. But I've also had a

    If I do ever choose to bring a bottle to a "finer" restaurant, especially one with a wine list, I'll expect a higher level of service and not have a problem paying it (assuming I know upfront what it is, which I will because I'll ask first). I'm not really a collector, and most of the time when I order wine it's at a nice restaurant that has a thoughtful list. I'm happy.

    Jul 14, 2010 at 5:55 PM


  • Snooth User: irasmith
    245139 35

    I live in Seattle (lucky I guess). Restaurants here run the gambit low or no corkage fees to outrageous; and the same is true across the wine list dimension, small specialized cellars to claims of 3000 bottle collections. My major beef is vintages. I drink and collect a lot of Oregon Pinot Noir; a good Oregon Pinot goes into my cellar and doesn't see the light of day for 5 or six years. Yet I go into fine restaurants with large lists and see a 2008 Vintage at 1.5 to 2 times retail price. I understand and agree that the establishment has the need and the right to make a profit and to be repaid for their investment, but please let these wines get out of diapers before offering them.

    Opinions?

    Jul 14, 2010 at 5:55 PM


  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 202,154

    Judyeri - Great question! When I buy wine in a restaurant, and to be honest that is not that often, I generally will tip a flat $10-$15 for the wine service, unless it's particularly well executed. In that case it might be double or even triple that, but the truth is I rarely am spending that kind of money on wine in restaurants. I would love to hear what everyone else has to say about it though!

    Jul 14, 2010 at 5:58 PM


  • Snooth User: tenntomms
    358876 3

    The article states that restaurant wine lists "are created with you (the customer) in mind". Maybe that is the case in some parts of the country, but for the most part, wine lists are created to maximize revenue, with little regard to the cuisine that's served or the customers wallet. Here in the Dallas area, because of antiquated liquor laws, we virtually have no options for BYOB at fine dining establishments. We are held hostage to 3x or 4x mark-up, with wine lists that are heavily concentrated in Big Boy California reds. Most of the Deep South and Southwest U.S. are similar to the Dallas scene, with one notable exception being Phoenix, AZ where the mark-ups are reasonable and the wine lists are thoughtfully created.

    Jul 14, 2010 at 6:22 PM


  • BYOB holds now for airlines. We were traveling several weeks ago and had a layover in JFK. There is a little French Restaurant in terminal 5. We order a bottle of wine, had two glasses and then had the bottle packaged to allow us to take it on the aircraft and have the rest of the wine on our trip to the west coast. Note we were already passed security before we ordered the wine. You should check with the restaurant as to which airlines will allow you to drink the wine during the flight or just to hold it for you until you leave the aircraft.

    Jul 14, 2010 at 6:25 PM


  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 202,154

    Hi Mondi,

    That is great news. I've never heard of such a thing but am now anxious to try it! what airline were you flying?

    Jul 14, 2010 at 6:40 PM


  • Snooth User: dmcker
    Hand of Snooth
    125836 7,031

    Mondi, hold that trigger finger back a bit, OK? ;-)

    Judyeri and Greg, good question, and response. I've also wrestled with this problem for years. What really gets me is those restaurants that automatically deduct a 15-20% service charge based on a total that may be 2/3 or 3/4 wine.

    Doesn't seem fair to me that the house gets 20% off a $400 dollar wine as opposed to a $60 wine when no part of the service changes. Assuming there are no problems with the meal or service, I'll usually make a 15-20% tip on the food, then add a lumpsum tip for each bottle, as you suggest Greg. I make a point of explaining it to the establishment, whether the waiter or Maitre d' or owner. I also have gotten into discussions/negotiations with them when they charge a set percentage, and will not agree to have it carry over through all the wine, though I do recognize the issues they face in carrying, and caring for, particularly expensive bottles. When that has been brought up (only a few times) I point out that's what the bottle price is for, not the service charge.....

    Jul 14, 2010 at 6:50 PM


  • Snooth User: bobbywine
    531848 3

    I guess if you bring a screw cap wine they charge a screwage fee?

    Jul 14, 2010 at 6:56 PM


  • I would never bring wine to a restaurant. It happened a few times when a restaurant has no liquor license when I asked if I could bring wine from a nearby store. I was never asked to pay corkage.

    Jul 14, 2010 at 7:02 PM


  • Snooth User: Mistelia
    531192 15

    Definitely ask! It is actually illegal in some states to bring wine into a public business. Find out your local laws.

    Jul 14, 2010 at 7:14 PM


  • Snooth User: edtheh
    393833 1

    Another good rule: buy something off their list, even if it's modest. Or a half bottle of Champagne; or a round of aperitifs or dessert wines. This helps with the restaurant's bottom line and shows good faith.

    Jul 14, 2010 at 7:26 PM


  • Snooth User: obertb
    486210 9

    @Gregory

    My six rules for BYOB would be a little different from yours.

    1. Always Ask. Well, sure. It only makes sense to avoid nasty surprises. But the restaurant's wine "list was created with you in mind"? No, I don't think it was. In fact, my idiosyncratic tastes in wine--or yours, or anybody's--probably had next to nothing to do with the compilation of the wine list. Most restaurants simply try to cover a lot of bases given the demographic of their customers. You may or may not find anything you like or are familiar with.

    2. Find out the policy ahead of time. Well, that's the same as #1, always ask.

    3. Agree to the fee or just forget about it and eat there anyway. If there's a great restaurant I want to eat in and I don't want to pay the corkage fee they want, I'd just bite the bullet and buy a wine from their list. I'm not going to stay away from a fabulous restaurant just because I don't like their corkage fee. The whole point of corkage fees in the first place is to discourage you from bringing your own bottles. I know that. Game, set, match.

    4. Don't be afraid to negotiate, period. We Americans are SO timid. The restaurant is basically way overcharging you for wine. In European countries I've visited, restaurants don't mark the wine up 200-400% like they do here. You're getting gouged. Man up and try to make a deal with them. You don't have to be obnoxious about it, just dicker a little. If they won't budge, see rule #3.

    5. Offer the maitre d' or the sommelier a taste of the wine. Waiters are often prohibited from drinking on the job and the kitchen staff has little to do with what happens out front, so it makes little sense to offer them tastes of your wine. It's the maitre d' who will most likely remember you, if anyone does. If you know the owner of the restaurant, you might offer him/her a taste.

    6. Tip generously. It's true that if you bring your own wine the cost won't show up on the bill and the waiter won't get tipped on the difference. So a little extra tip would be in order, assuming the wine service was good.

    As to what one should be willing to pay in corkage fees, I try to start from a purely financial perspective. (Believe me, that's how the restaurant looks at it.) Let's say you have a $200 bottle of wine you want to bring and the corkage fee is $35. That's 17.5% of the cost of the wine, which is well below the 100% (the minimum for most restaurants) markup the restaurant will want for a similarly priced bottle. But if they want $35 to cork a $35 bottle, you might as well drink something off their list. If you want to bring a bottle that has some special sentimental or other value to you, then you'd have to adjust the calculation accordingly. The financial calculation is not an exact science, but it's a good place to start.

    Jul 14, 2010 at 7:29 PM


  • Snooth User: Eric Guido
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    92549 158,043

    That's why i love Cape May, 90% of restaurants don't have liquor licenses and therefore charge $0 for you to bring your own bottle.

    However, I'd rather explain the benefits of flexible corkage fees to a potential restaurant, rather than just go to another restaurant that has good corkage. I've convinced a number of establishments, here in NYC, to change their policies. I don't know if we can consider corkage a privilege to the consumer anymore. Now it's more like an incentive to become a patron. Honestly, if you don't have a good corkage policy then you are turning away a good amount of business and if you think I'm wrong, you're not being honest with yourself. I know a lot of people that eat and drink big and it's not the cost of corkage that matters, it's the fact that they feel they are being ripped off by ordering off the restaurant's list. It becomes a matter of pride. They don't care about the money, they just feel like fools for paying the markup.

    Seriously, imagine you are a wine collector (maybe you are). You go to a restaurant that has a 1990 Clerico Barolo on their list for $500. You could bring that bottle from your own cellar or buy one for $170 at a dependable retailer and bring it to the restaurant... Why would you pay $500? Are you doing so well it doesn't matter? Do you like throwing money into a fire? ... If you do, why not donate that $330 to charitable cause and bring your own bottle to the restaurant. How can we argue that the $330 profit is worth it?


    Jul 14, 2010 at 8:10 PM


  • I so agree.

    Jul 14, 2010 at 8:50 PM


  • Snooth User: cigarman168
    Hand of Snooth
    227923 332

    It always depend your relationships with the restaurants ie Your spends in a restaurants. If you are loyalty or VIP customers, you will always have speciial arrangements for the corkage. I used to have free corkage or charge me symbolic one or two bottles corkage fee even I bring along more than 10 bottles of wines for dinner. It work even for restaurants in five stars hotels.

    Jul 14, 2010 at 8:55 PM


  • Snooth User: abbadog
    229292 3

    I wrestle with the wine/tip problem frequently. Many times i recognize a wine on the list that i paid $30 for retail marked up 150%. I am not sure how much the restaurant paid for this bottle of wine at the wholesale level but it's possible that in the end we are talking about a 200% markup. Am i then supposed to pay 18-20+%,
    for "service" on the final tally?

    Jul 14, 2010 at 9:08 PM


  • Wow! I really like this article as it has given me a lot of knowledge I didn't even know. I am new to the wine scene and just started last year. There is sooo much to learn and I am enjoying every moment of it. Everyone had good info and input on how to handle the BYOB. Thanks!

    Jul 14, 2010 at 9:13 PM


  • I live in Southern California. We get charged anywhere from $8-$25 a bottle for corkage - very few are $0. Although one time at The Marine Room in La Jolla there was an added stipulation to a promotion they were having. Any wine brought in carried no corkage fee if it was 5 years old or older. Seems some of their "cheapster patrons" (for lack of a better term) had brought in Two Buck Chuck (Charles Shaw sold at Trader Joe's markets) and the Sommelier told the Chef and the establishment then had to institute the 5 yr rule. Sad that people have to push a lovely gester of waiving your corkage fee. The normal fee at the Marine Room is $25 per bottle, 2 bottles max per table. Great place to dine - Sunset views as you are ON the water in the La Jolla Cove.

    Jul 14, 2010 at 9:19 PM


  • Snooth User: gerrad
    79282 57

    oh the troubles with 'living in america'! in australia, we have both byob and wine list restaurants, the former almost never charge corkage, the latter almost always. That said, its usually a per bottle price (good) or per person price (usually not so good as it tends to cost more and not everyone drinks everything, but still gets charged). Im a student so dont tend to go anywhere that good, but $5-10 (australian) is standard at the $20-35 a plate restaurants,maybe up to $20 for somewhere good, and even at no-corkage byob's you get glasses, ice buckets etc. and can take wine home from anywhere. as i live in margaret river, one of the finest cabernet and chardonnay regions in australia (and the world, although i doubt most of you know it exists), supply of quality wines and wine lists is never an issue. never thought of the 'send a glass out to the chef idea', it would definately be seen as novel by the staff. oh yeah, and we dont tip in oz either (well we do but, its by choice) probably because our staff get paid over $20 per hour. ah life in paradise, its a hard job i know, but i think i can struggle on. wait til you actually see this place and youll be emigrating at once. enjoi!

    Jul 14, 2010 at 9:42 PM


  • Love the Cartier Bresson photo of the kid with the wine, one of his most famous. Yes, corkage is an issue for everyone, especially here in SW Colorado (Durango, Cortez). The restaurants here try to do well, but with the wine clubs we belong to, along with the wines we purchase when back at the Vegas home (lots of wine retailers, and much better priced), it is hard not to bring something along. Also, the folks in this area will serve reds at "room temperature". This means the racks behind the bar! Sorry, but we ask for them to put the reds on ice for about 10-15 minutes, so they can get to an agreeable temp. My wife will even add a cube or two to her whites.
    Your site is very welcome. Keep up the work. And, the copy from other members is some of the best in the world. Nice to have a site that really caters.
    Jim

    Jul 14, 2010 at 9:44 PM


  • Snooth User: jlfoster
    277475 5

    Being a server in fine dining, I appreciate this article. I recently worked at a L.A. restaurant that did not charge corkage. This policy was often abused by patrons bringing in three bottles at a time up to twelve, for parties, in an evening; just because there was no corkage. Few of them added anything to the tip. Believe it or not that bottle takes a lot of your servers time. Wine service doesn't stop after the bottle is opened. A good server should be watching your glasses to refill them as they empty. It's time consuming. It's also the part of our job that has taken the most time to do well. I go to wine tastings, read, and talk about wine all the time to do my job well.

    The house is paying us far less than minimum wage. Wine sales accounts for a large percent of our income. So unless you want the kids from Mikey D's decanting your Barolo- don't abuse the corkage, tip your waiter.

    Jul 14, 2010 at 10:08 PM


  • I have learned in the past 15 to 20 years that ANY bottle (red that is) to be opened should be open for at least 45 minutes to 2 hours. We all know how impractical that is (with the possible exception of Two Buck Chuck), even at home, but why are we talking about $500 bottles (and I think $50 is a more moderate line) and the corkage fee in your typical restaurant? What a waste knowing it's about to breathe 10 to 15 minutes and then down the hatch. Please.

    What I have done to remedy that dilemma is to open our vino at least 1/2 hour before attending the appointed bistro. By the time we are seated and settled, our wine is ready.

    There should be a modest fee up front, per bottle/person, if one is so inclined to BYOB, to help cover the "loss".

    I think the owners will see an uptick in diners when they see just how friendly they can be.

    Jul 14, 2010 at 10:32 PM


  • Snooth User: PBLee
    447962 10

    One of my fondest, yet completely unexpected, memories occurred when my husband and I took a long cellared and long anticipated bottle of Bordeaux to our favorite local inn for a quiet celebration of "Guess how many kids we put through college?" otherwise known as "Thank God the last tuition check we will ever write cleared the bank."

    When making the reservation I let it be known what sort of bottle we would be bringing and that Chef was free to determine our menu and we insisted that he join us along with the maitre d' for a taste of our nectar of the gods.
    We had done this a number of times over the years and didn't think twice about this bottle... but we should have. It's safe to say that it had seen it's best days when our most recent graduate was in 4th grade.

    The humor, good will, and sympathy that followed the uncorking of the dearly departed wine was unforgettable, not to mention the bottle of non-vintage Krug and a sympathy note that arrived with dessert!

    The moral of the story is know and appreciate your restaurant staff, be a happy and loyal guest, and tip well.



    Jul 14, 2010 at 10:59 PM


  • In San Francisco. a very wine/food oriented destination, I have brought wines from the 50's. 60's 70's ad nauseam and paid corkage up to $50 with no rancor from myself or establishment. La Folie, Gary Danko, et al are always at the customers beck and call. Never bring a wine on their list, call ahead. When your dropping $200 (individual)++++plus reasonable corkage +++++reasonable tip.....Everybody is accommodated. Remember these establishments are created with several thoughts in mind. Their profit to continue, your extreme elegant dining experience, and your return because it was a win-win experience. In the '80's I was enjoying '55 Latour at La Trianon on Nob Hill for $25 corkage. I think in this era at $30-50 the restaurants of this niche are being very generous, a better word cordial. La Trianon Alexis, Doro's, Ernie's, Enrico you lovely man, an era of sophisticated dining supplanted by equally hard working and sophisticated restaurateurs of today. La Folie/West Bank Mr. Passot you are magnifique.

    Jul 15, 2010 at 1:42 AM


  • Airline is JetBlue.

    Jul 15, 2010 at 7:53 AM


  • Snooth User: Norton750
    532234 3

    Very good article and comments. I am amazed at how many people don't realize this is an option at many places. I would add:

    1) when you call ahead to a new restaurant to inquire, get the name of the contact person to avoid any problems if your server is not the same person, or, as in many cases, corkage is a rare event at that restaurant.

    2) Make the wine selection at least somewhat special or unique (not necessarily expensive). Stopping at Walgreens on the way to the restaurant for a bottle of Kendall Jackson merlot to beat the restaurant out of a few bucks is not good.

    3) If you have a big red, open, taste and decant at home a couple hours before your reservation. It shows knowledgeable servers that you know and care about wine.

    Jul 15, 2010 at 9:54 AM


  • Snooth User: Gavilan Vineyards
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    517320 40

    Last week heading to Miami I brought several bottles of our 2009 vintage for friends to try. After all my wife and I always talk a great deal about our wine and nobody has yet tasted the grape juice.
    So a date was set and a location picked. A nice Italian restaurant that friends knew the owner well. We were 10 people and it never dawned on me to actually ask if they would allow us to bring the wine. So a few hours before we called to confirm and mentioned that we were bringing two bottles of our wine and what the corkage fee is.
    To my surprise the answer was, "our insurance does not allow us to have outside wine brought in".
    First I was puzzled then it dawned on me. Since everybody sues everybody in the US for nothing there is a faint chance that if someone gets sick off the wine they brought, they would still sue the restaurant and with juries being a toss they may even win. So this restauranteur made a simple rule....no BYO. As much as it bothered me first I can completely understand. We ended up drinking a sip from red plastic cups in the parking lot straight out of the back of the car. Classy. Still everybody enjoyed the wine :)

    Jul 15, 2010 at 10:46 AM


  • Snooth User: 4fevrier
    441409 68

    I'm a bit confused about the chart since I live in a city (Montréal) where there are many BYOB restaurants, and none of them charge any corkage.
    Are you telling me that you actually ask any random restaurant if you can bring your own wine?

    Jul 15, 2010 at 12:53 PM


  • Snooth User: StevenBabb
    Hand of Snooth
    296258 483

    having been in the restaurant industry for some time, i think this is an excellent write up.....
    you touched on every issue, and worded it in a great way.... especially the part about not having a feeling of entitlement, and how corkage really IS a courtesy...
    the last time i brought bottles to a dinner (something i rarely do, but i thought it would be nice for the occasion) i called ahead, and even brought the two bottles in to the restaurant ahead of time, so the chardonnay could be chilled and so our server would have a heads-up....
    i brought two bottles that i knew weren't on the list, and they weren't something that many people have tried.

    grable vineyards, "house creek" chardonnay, knights valley, 2005

    domaine carneros, "famous gate" pinot noir, los carneros, 2005

    the grable is of limited production and availability (select restaurants and by allotment) and domaine carneros isn't known for their pinot, but they do a great job....

    and yes, there was a decent amount given to the server to try, and he even brought some back to the kitchen......

    and our corkage for both bottles was waived.......

    Jul 15, 2010 at 1:21 PM


  • Snooth User: bigtsur
    380658 94

    I'm curious to you restaurant owners noted here, what is your typical markup for a bottle (based on retail to your restaurant price)? What some consumers forget is that restaurant's get their wine at wholesale. I've typically seen wine marked up 100% from retail at restaurants (you get it at a liquor store for $20, the restaurant sells it for $40). I'm curious if this is reasonable.

    Jul 15, 2010 at 3:21 PM


  • Snooth User: StevenBabb
    Hand of Snooth
    296258 483

    @bigsur......remember that the liquor on the corner may or may not be a good base to start from.... they often don't move a lot of product, there for there mark up works a little different.... atleast in my neighborhood.....
    every restaurant is different in how they do their mark ups....
    i'm a little reluctant to really state what mark ups i've seen... i don't want people to get mad and refuse to buy a glass of wine or a bottle again...
    just know that for the most part, you as a consumer aren't being taken advantage of... restaurants can often get their hands on things that the average person can't, and there are other factors to take into consideration too....

    Jul 15, 2010 at 4:11 PM


  • bigtsur: only certain restaurants manage wholesale or wine bidding...many pay almost as much per bottle as retail. if you can find a place that does only 100% mark up, you are in the right spot - owner makes a nice profit margin per bottle and your meal is improved. Unfortunately most mark up in the 200-300% range; acceptable but they probably actually lose money long run by selling less volume and because of lack of return business: all meals are better w/wine, right? 400% is common at some uber fine dining, thats ok i guess if you are on expense account...

    Jul 15, 2010 at 7:22 PM


  • And here is the funny thing: restaurants make more marking up a cheap bottle, and will take less mark up but a nice profit margin on a more expensive bottle- so a $9 retail bottle will cost you $36, while a $20 retail bottle will cost you only $40 more at the same place...best bet: research the wine list ahead of time...

    Jul 15, 2010 at 7:46 PM


  • That was meant to be $4 more: $40 total:)

    Jul 15, 2010 at 7:48 PM


  • being in the restuarant business for a very long time in a relatively small (but up and coming) city in Michigan...I know that "wine mark-up" is uncomfortable from all sides. While my restaurant group considers the original cost of the bottle and applies the "formula" only when the wines are under a certain price point to make sure that we're not gouging the guest, our mark-up when we did apply it was a modest X2 plus $5. We knew when building our wine list that folks who would order the pricier wines would know what they were ordering and how much it should cost so there was remarkably low mark-up for those and definitely nowhere near double! We take great pains to make sure that wines on the list are affordable and good wines for the price. The value is key. It is especially important to me to make sure the wines I select and the prices I charge for them make a good impression. I think that is the best way to maintain a relationship with the customers who seek to drink wine in your establishment. With very little exception, every wine that was on my list, and at one point it was in the neighborhood of 175 wines, was hand selected by me...not pushed on me by my wine salesman or selected because of profit margins.

    As to the BYOB issue, our state licensing agency definitely does not "allow" alcohol to be brought in "from an outside source"...however, I hear endless tales of it happening all around us from the guests requesting the option. For myself and my clientele, I simply tried as best I could to aqcuire the wine they were looking for through my distributor and then charged a retail price rather than the menu price. This alleviated many issues and I provided a service not many restaurants in the area would offer. In the rare event that I couldn't find the wine for them, it 'somehow ended up in the building' without a fee...never carried in through the front door and never known to the staff to be BYOB. Sneaky? Maybe, but it alleviated all of the issues with regard to tips, service, etc. And built relationships!

    Jul 16, 2010 at 12:05 AM


  • http://www.urbanspoon.com/t/19/15/Detroit/BYOB-restaurants

    Jul 16, 2010 at 1:13 AM


  • Snooth User: bistroguy
    390412 7

    I been in the restaurant industry for 19 years, the last 11 as an owner. Over the years I've heard a few negative comments regarding the price of wine in a restaurant versus the retail price. Most lower priced ($15 or less) are marked up 3x, anything higher priced, 1.5x to 2.5x. Your best value can be found in the higher priced and in most cases the better selections on the list(at my bistro). The markup may seem out of line to many but the costs of running nice restaurant are up there. Our revenue comes in at 75% food and 25% wine with the profit margin on food running between 3%-5% we need the wine mark up if we expect to turn a profit. People that complain about a reasonable wine markup need to remember that if the restaurant doesn't turn a profit, it goes bye bye, and before that it has to cover: rent, utilities, salaries, the white linen table clothes, the leather chairs, etc. We charge $15 - $20 corkage as well as offering a corkage free Tuesday and for the most part it is well received and not abused. Anyone that's ever offered myself or the chef a glass has never been charged corkage, a little sip goes a long way in that respect. One BYOW rule to live by, never show up at a restaurant with a bottle of U-BREW plonk, especially when it's contained in a on old whiskey bottle with most of the label ripped off. We did let them drink it with that meal and then had a good laugh about it.

    Jul 16, 2010 at 10:00 AM


  • hi bistroguy: that sounds somewhat in line Through experience I still think you sell more wine and thus make more profit AND improve the dining experience by lowering the price point on fine(r) wines. A corkage fee free night is a good take on a half price bottle night...i like it and will use it!

    Jul 16, 2010 at 11:08 AM


  • Snooth User: Drewid95
    348852 4

    Bistroguy, why is the food profit margin only 3-5%, but the wine margin so much higher? Why not balance it out more, so that the non-drinkers are picking up more of the overall cost of running the restaurant, instead of putting the bulk on the drinkers?

    I'm always reluctant to order wine in a restaurant purely because of the mark-up. When I get a $30 salmon entree, I know that my piece of salmon probably ran $5-$10, the other ingredients $3-$5, and the rest goes into the expert labor involved with procuring, preparing, and serving my food. If that cost were $35 or $40, I would expect even more expertise. If it were $45 - $50, I would go elsewhere.

    When I look for an Oregon pinot to go with my salmon, and I see an $80 bottle that I know is $35 retail, I generally won't order it. If all the labor/profit that goes into making my incredible salmon dish only costs $20 - $30, why would I pay $45 for someone to purchase, open, and pour a bottle of wine for me? I'm not interested in subsidizing the table next to me that is only drinking seltzer.

    Jul 16, 2010 at 7:44 PM


  • exactly...a restaurant would be happy making $2.50 a person on a soda that costs 10 cents, but bulks at making "only" $20 on a single bottle of wine. Here is why: many managers are locked into old thought where they know what others are charging and they follow suit. 2) Corporate restaurants have non operations guys (mba's) telling operations what price point to charge based on wine cost. The problem? They do not have operational experience and do not take human nature and increasing knowledge of the guest into account. I have run and enjoyed restaurants all over the world- It is getting the repeat customer that makes a business(and friends), not gouging the one time table.

    Jul 16, 2010 at 8:35 PM


  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 202,154

    This certainly has been a vibrant discussion! Thanks everybody for your input. I wonder if anyone is listening. It would be great to hear from restaurants with aggressive wine pricing programs. We can build a list of "Snooth recommends" restaurants.

    Jul 18, 2010 at 11:29 AM


  • Snooth User: Sarleb
    119688 9

    I absolutely love where these discussions go and how much I learn reading them. I didn't really feel that I needed to read about corkage fees and yet learned so much!

    Jul 19, 2010 at 11:37 PM


  • Corkage is a fine idea. One thing that many articles fail to mention is that in some jurisdictions, BYOB is simply against the law. I live in British Columbia and have worked in the food service industry for almost 20 years. In this area of the world, an establishment can be heavily fined and/or lose their license if they permit this practice. I had to comment as this is something that many diners fail to grasp.

    Jul 22, 2010 at 1:57 PM


  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 202,154

    You're absolutely correct Courtney. Thanks for pointing this out. I used to work in Maui County, Hawaii. Another place where corkage was, and I believe still is, strictly forbidden.

    Aug 02, 2010 at 3:07 PM


  • I have to say that this is a very well written article and the comments have been very informative. two points I would like to point out the people that are stating call and ask dont argue I applaud you if more people would have a little common respect instead of it my right or as one called it entitlement we would have less problems. The other thing is mark up I worked at an establishment that had a very nice wine cellar, this was a high end restaurant (easy to drop a 150 dollars per person) one day the restaurant manager had computer problems the IT guy was on vacation and the manager knew that I worked on PCs in my spare time so he had me look at it after fixing the problem I glanced at the open file on his desk top before closing and rebooting the PC. The file was a wine inventory with the purchase price and the selling price. most were marked up 600 to 800 percent the one that blew my mind was a very commonly sold half bottle ( cost 9.00 sell price 135.00) the mark up 1500 percent. The food was excellent but the markups the owner was using I would never go there on my own. I am Georgia RedNeck that lives in Colorado I dont mind paying for good service but it really ticks me off when some one tries to rip me off. I guess what I am trying to say is that some restaurants really need a reality check.

    Aug 03, 2010 at 11:37 PM


  • Snooth User: aleung
    537394 10

    Is a very good article that I would like to share with my colleagues and my clients( I'm running a restaurant in Hong Kong),so that both of them knows the rights and responsibility. BYOB is getting more popular in Hong Kong and, under pressure, most restaurants like mine(restaurants in a commercial building,not on the street level) have to waive corkage. I believe my restaurant is very generous, we provide a set of wine glass-1 champagne+1 white+1 red+1 dessert(if required) and proper glass for the varietal,if available.Some other restaurants just provide one glass for no matter what you bring. but some clients are asking for too much. A party for 10 with 10 different wines ask for 10 wine glasses for each guest. I don't mind to waive the corkage since it becomes a common practice,and I do hope all my clients enjoy the dining experience in my restaurant. But also, I wish they will appreciate what my colleagues do for them.

    Aug 05, 2010 at 10:10 PM


  • Greg,
    I really enjoyed this article and commentary! We only BYOB at a local Italian restaurant which we frequent often and use as a vessel for trying some older Barolos and Barbarescos with exceptional Northern Italian food. The fee is normally $15/bottle and for that Riedel stems are provided and the staff is very attentive and careful with the decanting and serving. Since no maitre'd is present, a glass always goes to the chef (and the server, if allowed). We've never had a bad experience.

    I do wish you would start a thread on great restaurants with "fair" pricing on their wines. You can use one of my favorites - La Buvette in Omaha (Market Square - Howard St). It's really more of a deli/restaurant/wine shop with cafe seating inside and out. The wines are on the walls and in a chilled case inside and most are - get this - within $5 of retail pricing at the local wine shop! I was shocked and amazed. You need to order by the bottle, however, as wines by the glass are still a restaurant standard $6-12 for daily-sippers. Mussels in cream sauce with creme brulee for dessert and affordable wines for each - fantastic!

    Aug 21, 2010 at 8:54 PM


  • Snooth User: napagirl68
    Hand of Snooth
    87843 2,646

    I just read this article, and find the comments to be both interesting and pretty accurate.. There also seem to be some regional differences that extend beyond licensing rules.

    For me, personally, I do not appreciate being gouged on a bottle of wine that I can get easily at a local wine shop for a third of the price. If the restaurant is going to mark up their wines 200-400% (common here in California), they should 1. hope they have a very wealthy, regular clientele, 2. Expect the rest of us to ask to bring our own wine, and 3. if the corkage is unreasonable, then expect patrons to go elsewhere or not order wine with the meal.

    IMO, Eric Guido's comment on 7/14 at 8:10pm summed it up perfectly. Donate that difference you would are willing/able to pay on ridiculous mark-up to charity.

    I recall going to a local, independent casual restaurant with a friend a year or two back, when it seemed the economy was at its worst in our area. It was a Tues eve... there was ONE other couple in the restaurant. We had two bottles of wine we wanted to open so that we could compare the vintages. We had no intention to consume both entirely- just to enjoy a fun comparison, and recork the rest to take home. I had explained this to the hostess, and asked them to waive the $20 corkage fee on the second bottle, (we would pay the first corkage). She wouldn't budge. I told her we'd take our business elsewhere, and we did.. (the second restaurant happily complied with our request).

    Now, how utterly foolish was this??? We would have bought dinner/appetizer, paid $20 for four cheap empty glasses that we wouldn't have broken (I have never broken a wine glass in a restaurant), and they could've justified staying open (perhaps only slightly more so), on that veeerrryyyy sloooowww tues eve.

    Sep 07, 2010 at 12:24 AM


  • Snooth User: hhotdog
    Hand of Snooth
    78705 465

    ok...i agree there is "bad" and "good" with mark ups on wines at rests.! i don't spend alot of $'s on wine when i go out to eat that often. i have and it does at times piss me off like some who have mentioned. i own a rest. and i know the costs...booze is a way of making it in the business(not in mine lol). i have to agree with the guy who said repeatt customers is the way to making it in the business...not the typical "wine" way to profit. the food mark-up is enough to make it if it's good quality. if it's really good peaople will pay for quality food. reasonable mark-up on wine should be the enough. 2x should be the most? hate it when an average bottle of wine is 3x? i know we all gotta make a profit,but...

    anyways...i do agree with gdp on the tip issue with wine. i will make it my norm and feel less guilty now that i know your norm greg!! lol!

    there are a few places i have been to that i byo and it isn't the four or five star type places. no corkage charges. i do believe $5-$15 dollar corkage charge to be reasonable and would have no issues with a extra $'s added into the tip. i tip 20% or better if impressed.

    i know i would be thrilled with a taste of the wine from a byo patron and it would go a long way in the chance of waiving or minimizing a fee in my mind.

    great topic and input from evveryone as always guys!

    Oct 13, 2010 at 12:22 AM


  • Snooth User: napagirl68
    Hand of Snooth
    87843 2,646

    Hhotdog- I have ALWAYS offered to share my wine if my service is friendly... I offer to share with the waitperson who opens it for me, if that is an OK policy with their management. And I will tell the waitperson to let the chef know he is welcome to a glass if so desired.

    what I cannot stand is the 20-something yr olds that are hired as "hosts" in some of these restaurants, that take the rules like they were written into stone, to be forever damned to hell for bending one!! I truly doubt, that if the owner of the restaurant I discussed in my prior post was present, we would have had to pay the second corkage. Maybe not even the first, in order to draw folks in on a slow night. It really is all about sales.... how to sell yourself to the public, who your public is, etc.

    I was at at wine shop recently that was just taken over by new owners, who seemed nice enough. We were waiting for a table at the restaurant next door and told them so. We were offered the full tasting of flights for ~$10 or by the glass (small pour) for ~$3. Not knowing any of these foreign wines, I asked for a tiny taste of a chard before buying a glass. At that moment, the restaurant suddenly came to get us. I asked to settle for the taste and was told $10!!! I did not have the flight of 5 and said so, but he said I "started" the flight. Needless to say, I will NEVER give them my business, nor will I recommend this location to anyone.

    Customer service goes a long way, and typically, customers are not trying to pull one over. Treat us nicely, and we'll spend money and come back :-) Trust me, we will!

    Oct 13, 2010 at 1:02 AM


  • In Seattle, Most restaurants I've dines at allow BYO. The Restaurant usually quotes a corkage, but I have yet to be charged the corkage. I usually add the expected amount of the corkage to the tip, if it is not charged,

    Nov 30, 2010 at 3:56 PM


  • Snooth User: Adroblaw
    962077 30

    All good points. My message to the restaurant community would be stop charging 200-250% mark-up on something you don't make. I personally would buy bottles if your mark-up wasn't rediculous. You make the food, cook it and "present" it along with the atmosphere. As for the wine- you don't make it, cook it, or do anything to it other than pop the cork and pour. Prime abuser steak joints. Eg Orrin Swift Prisoner Dominick's (grocery store) price $32 Most steak places $95-120. (I agree, don't bring something the restaurant carries. Sorry I ain't a millionaire. If the Restaurant were selling this for $65 I might buy a bottle for the table but not at $100. I will find a $40-50 wine not in stock and happily pay the 25-35 corkage fee. The restaurant would charge $130-150 or mor simply to open the same/equivalent bottle. Or, I'll have my obligatory $15 glass and be happy.

    Jun 19, 2013 at 12:36 PM


  • Snooth User: aucfan
    1156506 31

    I will always elect to BMOB. I will also always look at their wine list to see what unusual offerings they may have. If I find their prices fair or without an exorbitant markup, a markup of not more 50% over retail, then I consider purchasing a bottle. Yes. I always offer the waiter AND their wine buyer a glass of whatever I bring in, no matter what the price of the bottle I bring. Usually they are happy to reciprocate by knocking off the corkage fee. My biggest gripe is restaurants charging the same markup on a list for a $20 retail bottle and a $100 retail bottle. What's their formula here?There's no different service given to either. Second biggest gripe is knowing that a restaurant pays the same, wholesale, per bottle that a retailer pays. So if wholesale is $33 a bottle, retail is usually $50. That means the usual restaurant price is going to be $100. I could see them making double on THEIR cost, but triple is out of line.

    Jun 19, 2013 at 1:21 PM


  • Snooth User: jqwest
    171884 8

    Here's a problem, maybe specific to the DC metro area. "Inside the Beltway" is actually 4 different rule sets related to alcohol; Maryland (Montgomery and Prince George's County) DC and Virginia. VA, DC and PG County allow for BYOB but it's up to the establishment to decide. Montgomery County, MD does not allow BYOB. Since restaurants have to purchase alcohol from the County, if it is not offered by the County, it is not allowed in the establishment. Basically a restaurant can face a fine of up to $1000/bottle for a BYOB. Also, in all 4 jurisdictions according to health code "all outside food and beverage are prohibited". That means your starbucks, bottle of water, cupcakes BYOB wine, etc., anything that is not made or sold on the restaurant premises is not allowed to be in the restaurant. A customer who brings in a latte from Starbucks is not only being disrespectful to the establishment, but is also putting the restaurant at risk for a health code violation (not probable but certainly possible).

    Also you forget to mention alcohol responsibility, "Dramshop" in most states. I've seen customers BYOB 7 or 8 bottles of wine to a restaurant and try to argue that BYOB is unlimited, and the $10 - $15 charge is not per bottle. Most places that I've managed allow no more than 2 bottles (3 if the party is 6 or more) and the corkage fee is per bottle. It used to be that cost was to cover labor, water, glass etc. Now a corkage is fee is more for liability. Even if you bring your own bottle(s) of wine, the restaurant and staff is responsible for "over serving". If you get wasted off of your BYOB the restaurant is still on the hook according to "Dramshop Laws". I've heard of some high end restaurants having people sign a waiver releasing the restaurant of liability for BYOB, but never actually seen it done.

    Jun 19, 2013 at 1:22 PM


  • Snooth User: S Ziegler
    261831 1

    One rule to add: if the establishment has a wine steward, allow them to open the bottle and have a taste. I have done this at one of my favorite steak places and returned to find the wine added to their wine list. I also find that by doing this, many time the corkage fee doesn't hit my bill (I make it up in the tip, as I appreciate great service.

    Jun 19, 2013 at 1:48 PM


  • Having made my living as a somm for many years I now have a different view. I haven't ordered a bottle except on a rare occasion due to the ridiculous mark up that is now common. Same goes for wine by the glass. I get the "in biz for profit," yet I'm not interested in buying you your new Ferrari. I lowered the cost of Taittenger Comes de Champagne & Dom to$85 when wholesale was $42.50. The rest. owner thought I was nuts as the retail was commonly $125-$150 locally. I told him "Watch this in action, we will sell ours with great regularity versus having it on the wine list." It was a win win for the customers, the restaurant AND the distributor! The distributor loved me for this one! The rest. was making $42.50 gross profit which was better than many bottles that generated less profit. Too many get hung up on % of profit versus actual $ of profit.Corkage fees should be a profit center as well, but when it's too high, it drives business (often repeat & referral business) away. The other factor that's an insult is many rest owners have their wait staff handle the wine to avoid paying a commission to the somm. At 400-600% mark up, they can well afford a somm that will generally do a better job selling wine than a wait person that's worried about picking up the order of food awaiting in the kitchen etc. It all comes down to greed. Sad as wine sales could be easily increase with better market awareness and less greed.

    Jun 19, 2013 at 2:38 PM


  • Snooth User: binnola
    892458 20

    Old article. Snooth should let its readers know that they are recycling articles. Not that it's not a good one, but just let everybody know.

    Got that off my chest. As a rule I always call ahead for the corkage policy. I never bring a wine that I think may be on the wine list. Always try to bring an exotic or harder to find wine. I think it's also right to buy a bottle in addition to the one I bring if we have enough people. One restaurant here (New Orleans) has a policy that if you buy a bottle they waive the corkage on the bottle you bring, which I think is a win-win for all.

    Jun 19, 2013 at 3:17 PM


  • Indiana unfortunately doesn't allow BYOB restaurants, alcohol sales on Sunday (except in bars/restaurants) and you can't have wine shipped to the home from out-of-state. We used to live in Texas where all of the above was possible. It is quite frustrating to live in a state with such backward laws!

    Jun 19, 2013 at 3:19 PM


  • Great article regardless of date. We own a restaurant that offers free BYOB Mon-Wed and $10 Thu - Sat. We have red or white glasses, decanters, wine buckets, etc. It doesn't matter to me if our customers bring in fine wine or Barefoot. It is for their enjoyment and the level of service is the same either way. But we have a solid wine list with some adventurous selections, so I would love to sell our wine and see people expand their palates. However, I have also enjoyed the great wines I have been able to sample from our generous customers and, yes, I usually waive their fee. The program has worked out well for all of us.

    Jun 19, 2013 at 5:43 PM


  • Snooth User: Bels01
    1148076 18

    In Quebec (the province), there is a permit for BYOB restaurants. But, under that permit, they cannot sell alcoholic beverages, nor the premit allow liquor or digestives. I am not aware of corkage fees in those restaurants which are of good quality, by the way.
    Serge
    Quebec city

    Jun 19, 2013 at 10:25 PM


  • They don't let you bring your own hot dogs to ballgames. They don't let you bring your own popcorn into movie theaters. I think it's amazing that so many restaurants permit customers to bring in their own wines in at all, and corkage is a reasonable price to pay for the privilege.

    What I don't necessarily think is reasonable is the huge markup restaurants charge for bottles of wine. I know that they're in the restaurant biz to make money, but $45 for a bottle of Mondavi Woodbridge? Puh-LEEZ! Not out of this guy's wallet!

    Jun 20, 2013 at 7:37 AM


  • Snooth User: Bubble Head
    1199812 39

    So if you think you should bring your own wine to a restaurant, why not bring you own food? If you want your wine, stay at home. A restaurant that has a decent wine list should not have to allow patrons to bring in their own wine. The cost is part of your meal. Deal with it.

    Jun 20, 2013 at 11:04 AM


  • Snooth User: mrwino
    1279683 64

    Hello Greg!
    You are correct about a few things regarding corkage. But, not bringing your own wine because the restaurant has it on the wine list is totally wrong in many cases. When I go to my favorite restaurant that has a bottle of wine of a wine I enjoy at $120.00 and I get it from my wine club priced at $45.00, I bring my own and pay the $15.00 corkage. Why would anybody spend the extra $75.00 to make a restaurant feel good about themselves. Restaurants, in many cases, mark-up their wines hoping the "Joe public" won't or doesn't know the real pricing of what they about to splurge on. Additionally, I refuse to pay even $45.00 for a wine when I know that wine is a cheaper $19.99 bottle of juice that will not pair with my meal. Corkage prices are too high, and if the restaurants would settle for a little less mark up the could make up profits with volume. So, if anybody is being abused it's the consumer.

    Jun 20, 2013 at 8:08 PM


  • Totally wrong to bring in a wine a restaurant has on their wine list. I would have to say that is the one cardinal rule. If you want to drink that particular wine... then cook your meal at home. If you are so worried that restaurants are trying to fleece you, than don't give them your business.

    Jun 21, 2013 at 4:28 AM


  • Snooth User: mrwino
    1279683 64

    There is no cardinal rule when it comes to bringing a wine YOU enjoy to a resturant that provides that option, and in-turn CHARGES YOU for that opportunity. The corkage charge is profit, and a good one at that. The glasses are washed with everybody elses and the server was already at your table to begin with. When some people see the price of a bottle of wine, and passes because of the price, that's lost profit. If the same person came back in with his own and paid the corkage..that's pure profit. I'm not worried about a restaurant "trying" to fleece me or anybody else as they are accomplishing that quite well when it comes to corkage and wine mark-ups. Noting that I should stay at home and cook my own meal is really a poor comment, as I do give them my business...on their terms. I can either choose from an over priced wine list or bring my own and pay the corkage THEY established. It's as simple as that. Everybody wins! If a restaurant doesn't want my business, maybe a new rule of NO outside wine should be in order. Then I wouldn't give them my business. I can only assume you may be in the restaurant business, and there's nothing wrong with trying to protect your profit margins, but not by claiming some unwritten "cardinal rule" has been broken to hurt profit margins. It's just not fair to accuse the public of breaking any rules, which are set up buy the restaurant...not the customer!

    Cheers!

    Jun 21, 2013 at 2:39 PM


  • Snooth User: mrwino
    1279683 64

    You're wrong Bubble Head. The wine is NOT part of the meal until you purchase it. It's in addition to the meal. That's why you have the right to question its quality and send it back if it's corked or such. It seems that you and pastamom2011 must both be in the restaurant biz. Like I said to Greg, if the restaurant has a corkage charge THEY are inviting you to bring your own wine. Otherwise, just let the customer know the restaurant has a no outside wine policy, rather than a corkage policy. Many restaurants may have a decent wine list, that's true. But, if that decent wine list has indecent prices, it's the consumers place to make the decision to buy off the list or BYOB and pay the RESTUARANTS own established corkage charge. There's no reason to "deal with it" with a stay at home answer to the situation. That's just a plain ridiculous comment. I've been a wine reviewer and wine educator for some years now and get answers like yours and Greg’s regarding BYOB time after time. What I've found out, more than not, is that these comments usually come from individuals in the restaurant business. I totally understand your concern for protecting profit margins, but it's the decision of the restaurant to set its wine service policy. The consumer for the most part doesn't know, or possibly understand the required ROI needed to make a profit. But it is NOT the consumers fault for that policy or pricing, and it's NOT the consumer’s obligation to assure the restaurants profitability. If an individual wants to bring a bottle of Two Buck Chuck and pay a $20 corkage, that’s their decision to make, however foolish it may be. But don’t blame the consumer for abiding by the restaurants own policy, or breaking some unwritten “cardinal rule”.

    Jun 21, 2013 at 10:23 PM


  • Snooth User: TEXASROADS
    1302570 14

    TABC (Texas) will not allow any type of alcohol to be brought into a place that holds a permit. regardless. & rightfully so- I own a winery/ restaurant. Why would I let people bring in their own wine. you have to jump through legal hoops & pay lots of money for alcohol permits. If a customer wants to drink their own wine, them they need to do the cooking at home.Like the lady said above, you don't carry your own hot dogs to the ball games or popcorn to the movies. Or your own french fries to McDonald's, your own beer to a sports bar?? . with that said, you can carry your own wine into a restaurant that does NOT hold an alcoholic permit with permission from the owner. it is his choice.Go to another restaurant
    or t just stay home if you have a problem with what the restaurant has to offer

    Jun 24, 2013 at 5:35 PM


  • Texas Roads - Thanks for reminding me about the permit part. We do pay a great deal of money for our licensing/permits and insurance, etc. I sometimes have forgotten that part of the equation and just want to be nice to people as they bring in two bottles of a wine we have on our list and say "Oh yes, you introduced me to this wine!" Sigh.

    Jun 25, 2013 at 10:09 AM


  • Snooth User: mrwino
    1279683 64

    Thanks Texas Roads for partially making my point for me, and I know state laws do make a difference. What a few here don't recognize is that the restaurant makes the rules, not the customer. Don’t blame the customer for abiding by the restaurants own rules, and the provided dining options (corkage) that the restaurant offers. What if a customer went into a restaurant that didn’t provide a NY strip. Should he sit there and complain because that’s what he wants, or should he just go to another restaurant that has a NY strip, which the server just might suggest. Try substituting the word “corkage charge” for “NY strip”! Like you said, just go to another restaurant if you don’t like what they have to offer. "Offer" being a key word. If you don't want customers to bring in their own wine then the restaurant needs to change THEIR wine service policy. They need to state their policy...no outside wine, no wines that are on the wine list or no corkage and such. The movie and baseball park scenarios are perfect examples of an establishment setting THEIR rules. As I said before, it's not the customers responsibility to assure a restaurant’s profitability, the cost of the insurance or any permits. The restaurant should have built those into its operating budget and business plan, along with other “equations” needed to assure a continued profitable operation. What some of the participants in this discussion also don’t understand is there are really two separate subject matters to consider here that are being looked at as one. First, there's the restaurant owner’s right to establish their own wine service policy. Second, there's the right of the consumer to visit that restaurant while abiding by the established policy. That’s it, nothing more, nothing less. If there's some unwritten "cardinal rule" that a restaurant owner thinks is being broken, put it in writing. Trying to say you should cook your own meals because the consumer wants to enjoy a specific wine at a restaurant, while abiding by the restaurants policy, are two different subjects and shouldn’t be lumped together. All I can say is that the restaurant makes the rules. If they don’t want to change them to meet their financial needs to keep in business...stop wine-ing about it.

    Mr. Wino

    Jun 25, 2013 at 3:30 PM


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