Grrrrr.....calling about the corkage policy only to be told.....

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Grrrrr.....calling about the corkage policy only to be told.....

Post #1  Postby Bruce Leiser_owitz » August 12th 2017, 10:38am

So I joined some friends for dinner last night to celebrate one of their birthdays. I decided I would bring some Champagne, so I called about their corkage policy (no
wine list on the website or corkage policy listed). The person who answered the phone said the corkage was $15/bottle. Seemed reasonable to me.

We get to the restaurant and our server immediately sees my wine bag and says he "I needs to inform you" that their corkage charge is $25 a bottle. It wasn't that critical
to me, but I politely mention that I called the restaurant a few days earlier and was told $15. He then got very upset with me: "We just changed the corkage at the beginning
of the year from $20 to $25!!!! When did you call to ask?" I calmly responded, and again he was just incredulous. Note that we didn't get a wine list with our menus, and there
was nothing listed on the regular menu re: corkage charge.

He left the table in a bit of a huff, only to return later to magnanimously offer us a $20 charge. My friends weren't really interested in Champagne anyway, so we declined and just
ordered some cocktails instead. The rest of the service was marginal, from my perspective.

But I just hate this crap. If you're going to have a corkage policy--allow, not allow, $ per bottle, whatever--put it on your *&^%$# website. Don't do this crap where I call and am told one
thing, and then get told something else when I get there. Needless to say, the attitude from the waiter was completely uncalled for.

Rant over,
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Post #2  Postby ybarselah » August 12th 2017, 10:52am

LPT: whenever confirming something over the phone with any business, always get a name.
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Post #3  Postby Mark Golodetz » August 12th 2017, 10:53am

Normally in the corkage wars, I tend to side with restaurants. That is because I think of corkage as a privilege rather than a right, and restaurants can set whatever policy they want.

In this case, the restaurant was of course completely out of order. Everything Bruce said was correct, and the restaurant could so easily have corrected it by honoring the $15 corkage, and mentioning for future reference it is $25. Easy. Now, they have several really unhappy customers, a meal that could never have succeeded, and wait staff that is now adversarial. Over $10?!!!

It probably came out of your server's own pocket when tips were calculated.
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Post #4  Postby Glenn L e v i n e » August 12th 2017, 11:13am

We went live to a great lunch place a few weeks ago and it had an adjacent deli/shop. Restaurant list solid but imports were all recent vintage stuff. Told in a face-to-face conversation corkage was $15 so I went back to the car.

Once seated it was detailed that $15 applied only to wines bought retail from the adjacent deli, wine from my car would be $25.

It was a terrific lunch and we paid to open a 97 Joly CDS. My biggest complaint at the meal was stems quite pedestrian for $25 corkage but now after a few weeks I must say the customer service behavior related to the uptick was poorly done.
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Post #5  Postby Ian Sutton » August 12th 2017, 11:20am

I'd not seen corkage itemised on a wine list before someone posted such a list here recently. Seems utterly sensible, and helps avoid this nonsense.
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Post #6  Postby Nowell Karten » August 12th 2017, 12:27pm

Bruce Leiser_owitz wrote:He then got very upset with me: "We just changed the corkage at the beginning of the year from $20 to $25!!!! When did you call to ask?" I calmly responded, and again he was just incredulous...He left the table in a bit of a huff...

Two years ago, four of us dined at Jar and had an identically-sounding experience, though made even worse as all of the "attitude" came from a manager. None of us has returned, since, so Jar lost four good customers because of their short-sighted, authoritarian-righteousness that night.
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Post #7  Postby Philip N. Jones » August 12th 2017, 12:36pm

Here in Oregon, corkage is nearly universal. I see it listed on the wine list about a third of the time.
I would like to see it listed on the restaurant website and on Yelp and Trip Advisof.
I would also like to be 27 years old and buff.
The misunderstandings described above are unfortunate, but it is difficult to determine who is right and who is wrong without having been there. The tone in one's voice often makes a big difference. On both sides.
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Post #8  Postby Neal.Mollen » August 12th 2017, 12:40pm

Virtually all of the restaurants in the DC area allow corkage, but virtually none of them acknowledge such a policy on their websites. Leaves one to do this orally, which is just asking for miscommunications.

I'm mostly with Mark about the subject of corkage policies. Do whatever you want as a restaurant, but make sure the policy is well-known to your staff. BTW, we are just now talking about someplace to go for dinner, and we both very much would like to go to an Italian spot (Sfoligna) -- first rate food, but it is pricey and they have no corkage. We'll go someplace else (Centrolina) that welcomes it and also has great food.
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Post #9  Postby Nowell Karten » August 12th 2017, 1:00pm

Philip N. Jones wrote:The misunderstandings described above are unfortunate, but it is difficult to determine who is right and who is wrong without having been there. The tone in one's voice often makes a big difference. On both sides.

It's not a question of who is right or wrong but, as you say, Phil, one of communication. I have no problem with restaurants having whatever policies they wish regarding corkage prices and bottle-maximums, as it's simply my choice as to whether I then patronize the restaurant. In Bruce's case and in my case, we were each told one thing on the phone, before choosing to go to a restaurant, and a contradictory thing upon arriving at the restaurant. Additionally, it sounds like we were each confronted by an adversarial attitude accompanying an unnecessary need to justify their position. Sometimes, one party is belligerent even before the conversation begins.
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Post #10  Postby Brian G r a f s t r o m » August 12th 2017, 1:04pm

How anyone can even *imply,* let alone make it explicit, that Bruce, et al., have *any* shred of responsibility to shoulder here absolutely mystifies me.
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Post #11  Postby Arv R » August 12th 2017, 1:19pm

I think places don't want to put it on their wine lists because they think it'll cannibalize the wine sales.

Yet, it could also draw in more patrons, with a clear and coherent policy.

I just booked a family birthday dinner an local higher end place, since they're waiving corkage on certain night, and they've stated that up front on their website. (I still called to confirm all the details though)

Maybe corkage is a "privelege" being extended to guests, but I rarely will patronize places that are hostile to BYO. I always laugh when I observe at all the places that go out of business, which were NFW to BYO all the way up to bitter end.
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Post #12  Postby Bruce Leiser_owitz » August 12th 2017, 1:23pm

Mark Golodetz wrote:Normally in the corkage wars, I tend to side with restaurants. That is because I think of corkage as a privilege rather than a right, and restaurants can set whatever policy they want.

In this case, the restaurant was of course completely out of order. Everything Bruce said was correct, and the restaurant could so easily have corrected it by honoring the $15 corkage, and mentioning for future reference it is $25. Easy. Now, they have several really unhappy customers, a meal that could never have succeeded, and wait staff that is now adversarial. Over $10?!!!

It probably came out of your server's own pocket when tips were calculated.


I don't mind restaurants setting their own corkage policy; I just want it to be as clear as possible for both staff and customers. As the customer, I can always decide if it's important, and if so,
whether it works for me or doesn't.

But there's no reason to have to go through this song and dance just to find out what the friggin' corkage policy is. And, of course, to get the attitude we got from the waiter compounded the problem.

Oh well.

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Post #13  Postby Bruce Leiser_owitz » August 12th 2017, 1:29pm

ybarselah wrote:LPT: whenever confirming something over the phone with any business, always get a name.


Well, that can make a difference, except that if I confirm it with "Bob" and Bob isn't there the night we come in, then it's my word against the
non-present Bob's versus the waiter's.

I just think it's kind of silly that we even have to do this dance in the first place. Put the corkage charge on your menu and website, and then it's
incredibly clear and you shouldn't have any misunderstanding. Same thing with any limitations on the number of bottles you bring in. I've had other
dining experiences where there was a maximum # of bottles allowed, but it's not stated on the menu or on the website. So you're stuck with hoping
that the person answering the phones knows what they're talking about.

"Corkage: $X per bottle, with a maximum of Y bottles per table." How hard is that?

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Post #14  Postby Nolan E » August 12th 2017, 1:32pm

But what percentage of the public isn't even aware that you can bring wine from home? I'd imagine openly advertising a corkage fee would cut into your alcohol sales.
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Post #15  Postby Scott Everson » August 12th 2017, 1:42pm

Should you be able to bring in your own food if a restaurant isn't serving what you want to eat that night?
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Post #16  Postby Neal.Mollen » August 12th 2017, 1:50pm

Scott Everson wrote:Should you be able to bring in your own food if a restaurant isn't serving what you want to eat that night?

A very effective argument against a point no one is making
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Post #17  Postby Bob Davis » August 12th 2017, 2:27pm

Scott Everson wrote:Should you be able to bring in your own food if a restaurant isn't serving what you want to eat that night?


What utter nonsense.
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Post #18  Postby S. Stevenson » August 12th 2017, 2:29pm

Almost never have a problem with corkage. Only problem I can recall was when a waiter told me it was illegal wen I brought in a wine. I, of course, corrected him about the legality and told him you could say your place does not have to offer it, but don't tell me a blatant, ignorant lie.
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Post #19  Postby Ian Dorin » August 12th 2017, 2:41pm

The pricing issue wouldn't have bothered me, but the waiters attitude would have. I tip based on service, and when I pay corkage, I tend to tip much healthier as the server probably figures they lost something on the bill, which this guy probably jumped the gun and assumed, or figured you for just being cheap, neither of which is good service behavior.
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Post #20  Postby Carlton McCrindle » August 12th 2017, 3:06pm

Brian G r a f s t r o m wrote:How anyone can even *imply,* let alone make it explicit, that Bruce, et al., have *any* shred of responsibility to shoulder here absolutely mystifies me.


Whole-heartedly agree with Brian. Whether Bruce was patient or assertive with the waiter makes no difference to the appropriate decision in this instance; the establishment told him in advance of the meal what the charge would be. They have the right to change the fee but Bruce relied on the information he received and made his plans accordingly. The establishment should honor the fee they told him when Bruce called.
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Post #21  Postby bryan c » August 12th 2017, 3:16pm

Bruce - was this in LA? If so, I'm maintaining the LA Corkage spreadsheet. Feel free to update the sheet or let me know what restaurant it was and I'll update the sheet.
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Post #22  Postby John O' » August 12th 2017, 3:54pm

Nolan E wrote:But what percentage of the public isn't even aware that you can bring wine from home? I'd imagine openly advertising a corkage fee would cut into your alcohol sales.

It's a pretty small slice of the restaurant going public who take advantage of corkage. Defianately well represented here, though. champagne.gif
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Post #23  Postby Bruce Leiser_owitz » August 12th 2017, 4:03pm

John O' wrote:
Nolan E wrote:But what percentage of the public isn't even aware that you can bring wine from home? I'd imagine openly advertising a corkage fee would cut into your alcohol sales.

It's a pretty small slice of the restaurant going public who take advantage of corkage.


That is generally true, but in LA (and some other cities) the more openly corkage-friendly restaurants tend to have a greater percentage of BYOB clients.

For last night's dinner, the birthday boy really wasn't that interested in Champagne (he likes cocktails) so it was easy to leave the wine in the bag and forget BYOB last night. There were a host
of other issues with dinner, but I'm only mentioning the corkage kerfuffle because this isn't the first time I've had to call a restaurant to find out corkage policy (since it's not on the website) only
to get told something else when we get there.

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Post #24  Postby Nowell Karten » August 12th 2017, 4:11pm

Bruce Leiser_owitz wrote:...I'm only mentioning the corkage kerfuffle because this isn't the first time I've had to call a restaurant to find out corkage policy (since it's not on the website) only to get told something else when we get there.

Evidently, some restaurants' internal staff communication isn't any better than their communication with customers.
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Post #25  Postby Brian Curtis » August 12th 2017, 4:30pm

I had a restaurant quote me $15 for corkage over the phone then charge me $10. So I guess the mistake can go both ways. I didn't complain. Obviously the attitude is the real problem here. I really like it when restaurants post their corkage policy on their website. Even better if they post their wine list.
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Post #26  Postby Scott Brunson » August 12th 2017, 5:00pm

John O' wrote:
Nolan E wrote:But what percentage of the public isn't even aware that you can bring wine from home? I'd imagine openly advertising a corkage fee would cut into your alcohol sales.

It's a pretty small slice of the restaurant going public who take advantage of corkage. Defianately well represented here, though. champagne.gif

You added a few unnecessary letters in defiantly. [cheers.gif] [wink.gif] [berserker.gif]
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Post #27  Postby NoahR » August 12th 2017, 7:02pm

Neal.Mollen wrote:
Scott Everson wrote:Should you be able to bring in your own food if a restaurant isn't serving what you want to eat that night?

A very effective argument against a point no one is making


This was basically the best thing I read all day.

Haven't been to Centrolina. Hope the meal was excellent!
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Post #28  Postby D@v!d P@rt@!n » August 12th 2017, 7:29pm

This silliness is why I prefer to eat at home. [cheers.gif]
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Post #29  Postby alan weinberg » August 12th 2017, 10:21pm

Spago is now $50 for corkage per bottle. I drink iced tea there--if I have to go.
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Post #30  Postby Brandon J. » August 12th 2017, 11:07pm

Anyone care to venture a guess as to the percentage of customers who actually care about corkage fees?

My guess is for the average restaurant, 5%. For certain wine oriented places I'm sure it gets higher.

You guys are acting like half the patrons of these places bring their bottles in. It's not advertised because most customers don't care since they're not bringing bottles. At least that's why I don't put it on my menus :)
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Post #31  Postby Scott Everson » August 13th 2017, 1:20am

Neal.Mollen wrote:
Scott Everson wrote:Should you be able to bring in your own food if a restaurant isn't serving what you want to eat that night?

A very effective argument against a point no one is making


Thank you.
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Post #32  Postby Ian Sutton » August 13th 2017, 3:12am

Brian Curtis wrote:I had a restaurant quote me $15 for corkage over the phone then charge me $10. So I guess the mistake can go both ways. I didn't complain. Obviously the attitude is the real problem here. I really like it when restaurants post their corkage policy on their website. Even better if they post their wine list.


FWIW I'd still query this - if the person charging $10 made a mistake, I don't want to see them in trouble for it, and I would have turned up happy to pay the $15.
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Post #33  Postby andy velebil » August 13th 2017, 3:49am

Nowell Karten wrote:
Bruce Leiser_owitz wrote:...I'm only mentioning the corkage kerfuffle because this isn't the first time I've had to call a restaurant to find out corkage policy (since it's not on the website) only to get told something else when we get there.

Evidently, some restaurants' internal staff communication isn't any better than their communication with customers.

+1. Some places are just not good at informing their staff.

I've been told corkage was ok only to arrive and be told they don't allow it.

I've been told the wine was fine but the bottle of Port was not ok because their wine license didn't allow the customer to open and serve Port. That was an interesting discussion with the manager who I duly informed had no idea what he was talking about as Port is still classified as wine under a restaurants liquor license and is treated the same. He refused to back down and I now carry a copy of the states law regarding Port with me.

I've been told corkage was OK but no bottles on their list. Asked for list and they wouldn't send it. Brought an old 20+ year wine because I know this place only had current vintages. Because they had a current vintage of a cheaper wine from the the same producer was told I couldn't open it.....bring me ice tea and watch as my food bill is cut in half if you want to play that B.S. game.

If only companies would communicate better, LOL!
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Post #34  Postby Steve Slatcher » August 13th 2017, 4:41am

In a similar dispute with a restaurant - not about corkage, but based on miscommunication - I counted it as poor service and thus reduced the tip. As it was in the UK I actually didn't pay any tip at all, and finished up paying about the same amount as I would have anyway. And I didn't return.
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Post #35  Postby Brian G r a f s t r o m » August 13th 2017, 10:49am

Brandon J. wrote:Anyone care to venture a guess as to the percentage of customers who actually care about corkage fees?

My guess is for the average restaurant, 5%. For certain wine oriented places I'm sure it gets higher.

You guys are acting like half the patrons of these places bring their bottles in. It's not advertised because most customers don't care since they're not bringing bottles. At least that's why I don't put it on my menus :)

Are there certain items on any of your menus that are ordered by less than 5% of your customers?
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Post #36  Postby Glenn L e v i n e » August 13th 2017, 10:59am

It is such a simple sentence to add to the top or bottom of any published wine list:

Corkage is allowed and costs $xx per bottle, please accept our limit of X bottle/s for lunch/dinner. Thank you.

It's all about communication.
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Post #37  Postby Bruce Leiser_owitz » August 13th 2017, 11:57am

Brandon J. wrote:You guys are acting like half the patrons of these places bring their bottles in. It's not advertised because most customers don't care since they're not bringing bottles. At least that's why I don't put it on my menus :)


I'm not sure what you're reading in this thread that gives you the idea that anyone claims that 50% of restaurant customers BYOB.

Any restaurant can set whatever BYOB/corkage policy it wants, as long as it doesn't violate any of the state/local liquor rules. My point is just that whatever policy you want to set,
make it clear. It really isn't that difficult to have one line on the menu/wine list and on the website clearly stating what the corkage policy is.

By contrast, the restaurant that prompted this thread unnecessarily annoyed a dinner party over the miscommunication and how it was handled. There are so many restaurants in LA;
if you alienate your customer base over stupid stuff then there are plenty of other restaurants that are more than happy to welcome those diners......

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Post #38  Postby Thomas K. » August 13th 2017, 12:15pm

Neal.Mollen wrote:Virtually all of the restaurants in the DC area allow corkage, but virtually none of them acknowledge such a policy on their websites. Leaves one to do this orally, which is just asking for miscommunications.

I'm mostly with Mark about the subject of corkage policies. Do whatever you want as a restaurant, but make sure the policy is well-known to your staff. BTW, we are just now talking about someplace to go for dinner, and we both very much would like to go to an Italian spot (Sfoligna) -- first rate food, but it is pricey and they have no corkage. We'll go someplace else (Centrolina) that welcomes it and also has great food.


Too bad about Sfog. Food is good and not too expensive. Wine list is short, though. Thanks for the tip on Centrolina. Will check out.
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Post #39  Postby Mark Golodetz » August 13th 2017, 8:50pm

Neal.Mollen wrote:
Scott Everson wrote:Should you be able to bring in your own food if a restaurant isn't serving what you want to eat that night?

A very effective argument against a point no one is making



I used to forage for mushrooms, and have brought them in (with prior agreement with the restaurant of course).

And there are a couple of restaurants with wonderful one lists, where I would have loved to have brought in my own food.
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Post #40  Postby Brent C l a y t o n » August 13th 2017, 9:48pm

Neal.Mollen wrote:
Scott Everson wrote:Should you be able to bring in your own food if a restaurant isn't serving what you want to eat that night?

A very effective argument against a point no one is making



Sooner or later, every thread on corkage is going to get here. Shame on all of you who don't get it yet. strawman
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Grrrrr.....calling about the corkage policy only to be told.....

Post #41  Postby Rob Winn » August 14th 2017, 1:52am

Brandon J. wrote:Anyone care to venture a guess as to the percentage of customers who actually care about corkage fees?

My guess is for the average restaurant, 5%. For certain wine oriented places I'm sure it gets higher.

You guys are acting like half the patrons of these places bring their bottles in. It's not advertised because most customers don't care since they're not bringing bottles. At least that's why I don't put it on my menus :)


That's why Bruce Called to ask. This is the top 1% that do care if they don't see it on the menu or website.
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Post #42  Postby Rob Winn » August 14th 2017, 1:54am

Scott Everson wrote:Should you be able to bring in your own food if a restaurant isn't serving what you want to eat that night?


Maybe if you were on Mars or Venus.
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Post #43  Postby Don Brazelton » August 14th 2017, 6:38am

One also needs to ask or if listed on the menu, the corkage based on the size of the bottle - per 750, per mag, etc. I learned that lesson asking per bottle fee, but not that I was bringing a magnum.
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Post #44  Postby Dan Hammer » August 14th 2017, 6:53am

Mark Golodetz wrote:

I used to forage for mushrooms, and have brought them in (with prior agreement with the restaurant of course).

And there are a couple of restaurants with wonderful one lists, where I would have loved to have brought in my own food.


Even bringing your own bottle of wine gets some people upset. [wink.gif]
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Post #45  Postby Glenn L e v i n e » August 14th 2017, 6:53am

I always assume a magnum will cost twice in terms of per bottle corkage and end up very pleased if just charged the 750 ml price.
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Post #46  Postby Adam P » August 14th 2017, 8:43am

I agree with most on here regarding restaurants having their right to whatever policy they desire, but should have that policy clear for at the very least, the staff.

As for restaurants worried about losing money. I disagree. By having a corkage policy, they are making a near pure profit (not counting stem breakage) off of a wine they don't have to keep in inventory. Restaurants are foolish to not have at least some byob policy. I for one refuse to pay 3-4x markup for anything other than a bottle of house wine at a restaurant. So if I'm spending $40 on a bottle of wine, or spending $35 corkage on a significantly better wine, the restaurant is going to make more profit and have a happier patron. Not to mention, I always order a cocktail or two to accompany my wine. This is something I don't do when I order wine from their list.
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Post #47  Postby John Davis » August 14th 2017, 8:59am

The restaurant, if they allow corkage, should have the policy on their web site that makes things really easy. I often e-mail the restaurant and ask for the policy. I print their reply and take it with me or keep it on my phone. Then if there is a problem it gets solved pretty quickly. There is no BYOB in Indiana (except private clubs) so it isn't a regular issue for me.

Restaurants are a tough business. And one would think that they would try a bit harder and be a bit more organized if they are or are not going to allow corkage. I don't know what the problem is in stating a clear policy. I had horrible time with Acadia in Chicago over corkage. I was told three different prices and that they didn't allow it. I don't care if they don't allow it but jerking me around only guaranteed that I'll never, ever be back.
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Post #48  Postby S. Stevenson » August 14th 2017, 9:26am

My kind of place:
WE DO NOT HAVE A CORKAGE FEE
We feature a Wine List which has a variety of selections to please most palettes,
but for those who would like something other than what we offer,
please feel free to bring you own wines which we will happily serve for you.
Feel free to take any leftover bottled wine home with you, ours or yours.

http://www.sutters4dining.com/
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Post #49  Postby Bdklein » August 14th 2017, 9:39am

My favorite corkage "issue" was when I called a high end restaurant several years back (on Long Island) and what asked what was the policy regarding bringing in wine the person who answered laughed and said "there's no need to bring your on wine ; we have plenty here".
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Post #50  Postby Nolan E » August 14th 2017, 9:43am

Adam P wrote:I agree with most on here regarding restaurants having their right to whatever policy they desire, but should have that policy clear for at the very least, the staff.

As for restaurants worried about losing money. I disagree. By having a corkage policy, they are making a near pure profit (not counting stem breakage) off of a wine they don't have to keep in inventory. Restaurants are foolish to not have at least some byob policy. I for one refuse to pay 3-4x markup for anything other than a bottle of house wine at a restaurant. So if I'm spending $40 on a bottle of wine, or spending $35 corkage on a significantly better wine, the restaurant is going to make more profit and have a happier patron. Not to mention, I always order a cocktail or two to accompany my wine. This is something I don't do when I order wine from their list.
But for every corkage fee they charge, it's a bottle that remains in their inventory, so it's a moot point.
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