Should we BYOB? (Post-COVID)

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Re: Should we BYOB?

#51 Post by R. Frankel »

Tom R W wrote: April 3rd, 2021, 2:24 pm I can’t read the article through the paywall- but in the 5 second glance I got at the first paragraph the author seems to outright state that it’s rude to BYOB right now? Did I get that right?
No, she does not say it’s rude to BYOB. She instead gives reasons not to do it.
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Re: Should we BYOB?

#52 Post by R. Frankel »

Is it arrogant? Only if you think it’s arrogant to tell people how to behave. If so, then all of the Internet is arrogant, not to mention much of the discussion on this board.

Here’s a quote that captures the essence of the article:

“But with this new era of in-person dining comes a new set of etiquette rules, especially when it comes to wine. And I have one specific plea to make to all of you who are going out to restaurants right now.

Please, please do not BYOB.

... corkage [is] a generous thing for restaurants to allow, since many of them generate a significant portion of their income through alcohol, and letting customers bring their own wine means they may miss out on some lucrative sales.

Corkage fees help compensate for some of those lost sales, but they rarely make up the difference entirely. “
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Re: Should we BYOB?

#53 Post by Brian Glas »

I have been buying wines from the restaurant list more than I used to the past. We go to a neighborhood Italian place that I have no idea how they stay in business. They are busy but the prices are pretty low and commercial rents in Seattle are outrageous. I have been buying a bottle a white from their list and bringing a bottle of red from my cellar. Good that we can walk home after. :) For other places, I'll browse their list and if it isn't completely overpriced < 2x retail I'll buy off of their list.

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Re: Should we BYOB?

#54 Post by Philip N. Jones »

I vote for corkage. If the restaurant didn’t want you to BYOB, then they would not have a corkage policy. In Oregon, corkage is almost universal. I have no problem paying a corkage fee that approximates the lost profit from a bottle on the list. And the tip should be increased to compensate the waitstaff. What’s fair is fair.

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Re: Should we BYOB?

#55 Post by Victor Hong »

A difficulty is capacity limits for indoor dining.
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Re: Should we BYOB?

#56 Post by Tom G l a s g o w »

R. Frankel wrote: April 3rd, 2021, 3:00 pm Is it arrogant? Only if you think it’s arrogant to tell people how to behave. If so, then all of the Internet is arrogant, not to mention much of the discussion on this board.

Here’s a quote that captures the essence of the article:

“But with this new era of in-person dining comes a new set of etiquette rules, especially when it comes to wine. And I have one specific plea to make to all of you who are going out to restaurants right now.

Please, please do not BYOB.

... corkage [is] a generous thing for restaurants to allow, since many of them generate a significant portion of their income through alcohol, and letting customers bring their own wine means they may miss out on some lucrative sales.

Corkage fees help compensate for some of those lost sales, but they rarely make up the difference entirely. “
Fix the pricing model, why should we subsidize other diners?

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Re: Should we BYOB?

#57 Post by Cris Whetstone »

The fundamental flaw I always see in the anti-corkage statements is that there is some assumption that whatever table the corkage participators are using would be used by someone buying a bottle of wine. Look around when you are out and count how many tables have purchased in house bottles on them. I'm sure there are restaurants that have higher than the average wine consumers in them but in most cases parties that purchase bottles are in the minority.

No one should be guilted into not bringing a bottle if the restaurant offers corkage and the consumers are willing to play by the rules. I can't imagine any proprietors are unhappy you chose their restaurant to purchase a meal in that night when you are willing to gladly hand over an additional $20 merely to be able to walk in with your own bottle.
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Re: Should we BYOB?

#58 Post by Vic G »

Interesting article--thanks for sharing. I get the point, but would still probably opt for BYOB and corkage. My experience is that outside of really fine dining, the wine lists around the DC area run fair to middling at best, and at the fine dining places most of the bottles are far too young unless you're spending $200+ per bottle.

As such, I'd opt for cocktails while the BYOB airs, order apps and entrees, and I'd tip well. Oh--and I think it's obvious that the BYOB should be something of high quality that is not available on the restaurant's own list.
Last edited by Vic G on April 3rd, 2021, 4:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Should we BYOB?

#59 Post by Sarah Kirschbaum »

A few people have made the point that "if the restaurant didn't want to allow corkage, they wouldn't have a corkage policy," or something to that effect. Of course this is true - they don't have to allow it, they do allow it, so it must be okay to do it. Yep, it's totally okay to do it. With respect, though, I think that this position misses the point which makes this discussion different from most previous to BYO or not to BYO discussions.

I think it's fair to say that most restaurants' corkage fees are less than what they make on the majority of bottles on their list. (Let's put aside for the moment whether the state of restaurant mark-ups is fair). I think that, for reasons both monetary and operational, restaurants in general would *prefer* that you buy off their list. Perhaps the spirit of the argument is that it would be generous and kind right now to choose what the restaurant would like better, rather than what we ourselves (and I include myself) would like better. No one should drink wine they don't like, of course, but if there's something tasty and acceptable to be had, maybe right now is time to choose it over corkage.

That's how I'm thinking of it, anyway. I'm trying to put this delicately, because my goal is to elucidate the argument, not imply that one choice is superior to another. And, like I wrote up thread, each situation is different, and will be different for each individual.

Edited to add something I just thought of, which strikes me as logical - Many restaurants are eager to build up their lists again, to start adding new and exciting beverages, and to enliven the beverage program after such a horrific void for so long. Backers and owners and management are hesitant, though, to make big investments right now and many want to see how it's going first. Bottles bought off the list are data points towards supporting the effort to restart and energize the program, where BYO bottles are not, even if corkage is the same in dollar terms.
Last edited by Sarah Kirschbaum on April 4th, 2021, 3:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Should we BYOB?

#60 Post by Philip N. Jones »

All good points.
But if the restaurant would prefer we not BYOB, then the restaurant should increase the corkage fee to exactly the amount of profit that the restaurant makes on a bottle on the list. Or on the average bottle on the list. By doing that, the restaurant will have absolutely no preference. They will make the same profit either way. And they will get the business of wine geeks. Plus the business of non wine geeks. A win-win.

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Re: Should we BYOB?

#61 Post by David K o l i n »

They should just double their price for food.

I never feel that restaurant wine prices in most restaurants are rational, with some exceptions for truly outstanding lists (I don’t mean high end). I’ll drink water rather than ordering off their lists, generally I’m not about to change my habits post-pandemic

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Re: Should we BYOB?

#62 Post by Tom G l a s g o w »

Sarah Kirschbaum wrote: April 3rd, 2021, 4:35 pm A few people have made the point that "if the restaurant didn't want to allow corkage, they wouldn't have a corkage policy," or something to that effect. Of course this is true - they don't have to allow it, they do allow it, so it must be okay to do it. Yep, it's totally okay to do it. With respect, though, I think that this position misses the point which makes this discussion different from most previous to BYO or not to BYO discussions.

I think it's fair to say that most restaurants' corkage fees are less than what they make on the majority of bottles on their list. (Let's put aside for the moment whether the state of restaurant mark-ups is fair). I think that, for reasons both monetary and operational, restaurants in general would *prefer* that you buy off their list. Perhaps the spirit of the argument is that it would be generous and kind right now to choose what the restaurant would like better, rather than what we ourselves (and I include myself) would like better. No one should drink wine they don't like, of course, but if there's something tasty and acceptable to be had, maybe right now is time to choose it over corkage.

That's how I'm thinking of it, anyway. I'm trying to put this delicately, because my goal is to elucidate the argument, not imply that one choice is superior to another. And, like I wrote up thread, each situation is different, and will be different for each individual.

Edited to add something I just thought of, which strikes me as logical - Many restaurants are eager to build up their lists again, to start adding new and exciting beverages, and to enliven the beverage program after such a horrific void for so long. Backers and owners and management are hesitant, though, to make big investments right now and many want to see how it's going first. Bottles bought off the list are data points towards supporting the effort to restart and enervate the program, where BYO bottles are not, even if corkage is the same in dollar terms.
If I lived in NYC, California, Paris, London, etc. this is the approach I would adopt and follow if visiting (not that byob is likely an option in Paris or London).
We’re not dining out yet, but locally Apteka and Bar Marco have good wine lists (more hipster though and not open for dining). Poulet Bleu also has good choices. The rest you’re lucky for one or two tolerable bottles (slight hyperbole warning).
Which is my long winded way of saying this is so local. California has a tradition of corkage. Philadelphia has a tradition of unlicensed restaurants with no charge byob.

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Re: Should we BYOB?

#63 Post by Tom G l a s g o w »

Philip N. Jones wrote: April 3rd, 2021, 4:47 pm All good points.
But if the restaurant would prefer we not BYOB, then the restaurant should increase the corkage fee to exactly the amount of profit that the restaurant makes on a bottle on the list. Or on the average bottle on the list. By doing that, the restaurant will have absolutely no preference. They will make the same profit either way. And they will get the business of wine geeks. Plus the business of non wine geeks. A win-win.
Well average out the beverage tab per diner and you have some sort of starting point for corkage.

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Re: Should we BYOB?

#64 Post by Andrew K. »

Summarizing the thread last year, I felt guilted into spending $2k on wine at a restaurant for my anniversary and it was disappointing. Never again. We BYOB now always. If there happens to be something on the list that is reasonably priced and interesting we'll grab that also and maybe hold one of our bottles.

One of our fav lunch places years ago has become our new fav lunch place: ample outdoor seating and no corkage fee. We go every week now.
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Re: Should we BYOB?

#65 Post by RichardFlack »

A couple of disconnected comments.

First, I’ve always felt the restaurant pricing model is borked. Under charge on food and overcharge on wine / liquor. Too bad I’m not a rechabite lol.

You’re in the food business, have a great product, then charge for it.

Second, using tips to compensate ... do we know where the tips go? Especially the cash ones. Yes we want to help the waitstaff. But that’s pointless if the restaurant closes. So I think it’s important to put some cash in the waiters pocket but don’t forget the owner. (I’m not thinking of the big chains here so much as the chef owned places).

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Re: Should we BYOB?

#66 Post by R. Frankel »

@Sarah - thanks for those comments. Post-Covid recovery (and its implications) is the point of this additional discussion: it requires additional consideration.
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Re: Should we BYOB?

#67 Post by doug johnson »

Yes! And I was happy to learn several months ago that a good place nearby was only $12 a bottle!!

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Re: Should we BYOB?

#68 Post by R. Frankel »

I’m one to BYOB most of the time and I’m inclined to keep doing that. But I also want to support restaurants, especially ones I love, so will look for ways to do that. You could take the ‘it’s their business it’s their problem’ position but with a little more flexibility a lot more restaurants might survive the next year to serve you wonderful meals for a long time.
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Re: Should we BYOB?

#69 Post by JG Allen »

Implied in all of these arguments is that it’s not worth it for restaurants to serve people who don’t order alcohol. Be they families with kids, recovering alcoholics, or tea totlers for other reasons, the argument is ludicrous, elitist, and otherwise offensive. Restaurants these days are happy to be allowed to butts in their seats, and patrons who have the capital to spend on a night out, are happy to get back to normal. Everyone is suffering and trying to make it through this shit show. Corkage is no more or less reasonable now than it ever was.
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Re: Should we BYOB?

#70 Post by Tom R W »

R. Frankel wrote: April 3rd, 2021, 2:55 pm
Tom R W wrote: April 3rd, 2021, 2:24 pm I can’t read the article through the paywall- but in the 5 second glance I got at the first paragraph the author seems to outright state that it’s rude to BYOB right now? Did I get that right?
No, she does not say it’s rude to BYOB. She instead gives reasons not to do it.
It’s confusing to me whether it’s an “opinion piece” or a “call to action” while likely both.

Has anyone’s life not been turned upside down this last year? Has anyone not had to adapt in some way to life’s new realities?
Why are restaurants not like the rest of us? Adapt! We all want to support you, just tell us how! The old corkage policies no longer work for you? No problem, change them into something that aligns with your new realities.
I feel lucky and blessed that I could roll with the punches of this last year, adapt to and absorb all the uncertainties in ways that many couldn’t. I’m a rule follower. I want to know the rules of the road so I can adhere to them. I don’t care if they cancel corkage or double it. If I want to drink a bottle from my cellar at a restaurant, let me know the cost and I’ll pay it. It’s not my job to figure out how to make your restaurant profitable.

It doesn’t make sense to turn me into the bad guy for following their rules. If I’m doing the “wrong” thing by following their rules, their rules need to change.
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Re: Should we BYOB?

#71 Post by HoosJustinG »

I think one of the biggest misses is the idea that I'm going to order a bottle off the wine list just as expensive as the bottle that I'd bring to the restaurant ... I wouldn't. So the idea that the restaurant is "giving up" a $150 markup because I only pay a $35 corkage fee just isn't true.

Not only that, but often times going out to a nice dinner is just an excuse to drink a bottle of wine I otherwise can't justify opening. If I stay home and order pizza, the restaurant gets $0 from me.

This is all in addition to the obvious. Not all of us live in SF where multiple restaurants have world class wine lists. Maybe I don't want to spend $400 on a bottle of wine just to end up drinking a 2018 that I wouldn't normally touch til 2025 or later...
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Re: Should we BYOB?

#72 Post by Marshall Manning »

HoosJustinG wrote: April 3rd, 2021, 7:16 pm This is all in addition to the obvious. Not all of us live in SF where multiple restaurants have world class wine lists. Maybe I don't want to spend $400 on a bottle of wine just to end up drinking a 2018 that I wouldn't normally touch til 2025 or later...
I agree with you here, too. But even in Portland I can almost always find something interesting, delicious, and that goes with our food, for under $60. You don't have to spend $400 to get good wine. Tonight....2012 Ar.Pe.Pe Valtellina...$45 at a restaurant in town. And totally wonderful and delicious.
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Re: Should we BYOB?

#73 Post by Tom G l a s g o w »

Marshall Manning wrote: April 3rd, 2021, 7:35 pm
HoosJustinG wrote: April 3rd, 2021, 7:16 pm This is all in addition to the obvious. Not all of us live in SF where multiple restaurants have world class wine lists. Maybe I don't want to spend $400 on a bottle of wine just to end up drinking a 2018 that I wouldn't normally touch til 2025 or later...
I agree with you here, too. But even in Portland I can almost always find something interesting, delicious, and that goes with our food, for under $60. You don't have to spend $400 to get good wine. Tonight....2012 Ar.Pe.Pe Valellina...$45 at a restaurant in town. And totally wonderful and delicious.
If we had Ar.Pe.Pe for $45 I’d drink off the list every visit.

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Re: Should we BYOB?

#74 Post by Mich@el Ch@ng »

Marshall Manning wrote: April 3rd, 2021, 7:35 pm
HoosJustinG wrote: April 3rd, 2021, 7:16 pm This is all in addition to the obvious. Not all of us live in SF where multiple restaurants have world class wine lists. Maybe I don't want to spend $400 on a bottle of wine just to end up drinking a 2018 that I wouldn't normally touch til 2025 or later...
I agree with you here, too. But even in Portland I can almost always find something interesting, delicious, and that goes with our food, for under $60. You don't have to spend $400 to get good wine. Tonight....2012 Ar.Pe.Pe Valellina...$45 at a restaurant in town. And totally wonderful and delicious.
I have never seen arpepe on a wine list, ever. That’s only 1.3x retail also.

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Re: Should we BYOB?

#75 Post by Chr!s G|@rn3r »

If a restaurant allows byob, feel free to byob. If they don’t, then don’t byob. The topic has been way over complicated IMO.

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Re: Should we BYOB?

#76 Post by Michael S. Monie »

Mich@el Ch@ng wrote: April 3rd, 2021, 7:42 pm
Marshall Manning wrote: April 3rd, 2021, 7:35 pm
HoosJustinG wrote: April 3rd, 2021, 7:16 pm This is all in addition to the obvious. Not all of us live in SF where multiple restaurants have world class wine lists. Maybe I don't want to spend $400 on a bottle of wine just to end up drinking a 2018 that I wouldn't normally touch til 2025 or later...
I agree with you here, too. But even in Portland I can almost always find something interesting, delicious, and that goes with our food, for under $60. You don't have to spend $400 to get good wine. Tonight....2012 Ar.Pe.Pe Valellina...$45 at a restaurant in town. And totally wonderful and delicious.
I have never seen arpepe on a wine list, ever. That’s only 1.3x retail also.
I don't know where he is drinking his wine, but those markups are definitely atypical.
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Re: Should we BY

#77 Post by Michael S. Monie »

Sarah Kirschbaum wrote: April 3rd, 2021, 4:35 pm A few people have made the point that "if the restaurant didn't want to allow corkage, they wouldn't have a corkage policy," or something to that effect. Of course this is true - they don't have to allow it, they do allow it, so it must be okay to do it. Yep, it's totally okay to do it. With respect, though, I think that this position misses the point which makes this discussion different from most previous to BYO or not to BYO discussions.

I think it's fair to say that most restaurants' corkage fees are less than what they make on the majority of bottles on their list. (Let's put aside for the moment whether the state of restaurant mark-ups is fair). I think that, for reasons both monetary and operational, restaurants in general would *prefer* that you buy off their list. Perhaps the spirit of the argument is that it would be generous and kind right now to choose what the restaurant would like better, rather than what we ourselves (and I include myself) would like better. No one should drink wine they don't like, of course, but if there's something tasty and acceptable to be had, maybe right now is time to choose it over corkage.

That's how I'm thinking of it, anyway. I'm trying to put this delicately, because my goal is to elucidate the argument, not imply that one choice is superior to another. And, like I wrote up thread, each situation is different, and will be different for each individual.

Edited to add something I just thought of, which strikes me as logical - Many restaurants are eager to build up their lists again, to start adding new and exciting beverages, and to enliven the beverage program after such a horrific void for so long. Backers and owners and management are hesitant, though, to make big investments right now and many want to see how it's going first. Bottles bought off the list are data points towards supporting the effort to restart and enervate the program, where BYO bottles are not, even if corkage is the same in dollar terms.
This is a very thoughtful post, and at least in theory with which I'm in agreement. The problem, from my perspective is, because we have our noses in this everyday, there is something repulsive about paying 2, 3, or 4 times over retail for a bottle of wine. Yes the markup should reflect that it is being served, but a more reasonable markup would certainly be conducive to the stimulation of wine sales. Perhaps restaurants should consider being satisfied with less profit per bottle and benefit from the increased sales.
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Re: Should we BYOB?

#78 Post by Alan Rath »

I haven’t seen mentioned that many restaurants have sold off substantial portions of their cellars over the past year. So in some cases, the available selection may be much reduced.

But back to the topic: a few people have already mentioned my position. I’m not a baller, or on a big expense account. I don’t buy expensive wine off wine lists. So when I bring a nicer bottle of my own, the corkage is probably close to what the restaurant would have made off me if I ordered something modest from their list, or just drank BTG.

We dined out for the first time in over a year just last week. My wife had a glass off the list, I had a cocktail. Our alcohol total was less than their corkage. Which would they prefer?
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Re: Should we BYOB?

#79 Post by john stimson »

Ask them.

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Re: Should we BYOB?

#80 Post by Jonathan Jetter »

Once my close friends are all fully vaxxed, my plan at my local steakhouse is to:

- Go w/ a good-sized group.
- Bring a couple special bottles, pour some for the Somm, and order a couple more off their list too.
- Try to force an additional tip on them, even though they've long since done away with tipping.

They don't necessarily *need* me to be generous. They are a business, not a charity.

But they've always done a fantastic job, and the staff are all great, my friends and I can readily afford it, and it's in my self-interest to help make sure they can afford to stick around for the long haul.

My business was still profitable during COVID. It's easy for me to give back a little bit to my favorite establishments, and I'm happy to do so.

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Re: Should we BYOB?

#81 Post by R. Frankel »

I sympathize with the rule followers here - just tell me the rules and I’ll follow them. I don’t want to have to guess at secret rules, or deduce the subtext for rules. Yes, I so much prefer that!

But the now of 2021 is a time in which the rules have clearly changed. What are the new rules? Not entirely clear. Can every restaurant just make up all new rules? Not if they want to keep customers. I for one, when I finally go back to restaurants, want the experience as much as possible to be relaxed, comfortable, familiar and easy. I’m already going to be stressed merely by sitting in a room with strangers.

So mostly we will try to go by the old rules. But Covid times means everyone is on edge, businesses are disrupted, patterns are shaken. This feels like an ‘extra sympathy’ moment, not a ‘take care of yourself, your stuff is not my problem’ moment. I want to ask the restaurant to think about how to make me comfortable, to sympathize with my situation. I also want to do the same for them. If it means spending a little more, or being more flexible, I’m ok with that.

Here’s an idea - why don’t we call the restaurant manager and talk about it? Ask them what’s up with their list, their corkage policy, their staff. What is good for them? What’s good for me? Nearly all restaurants I go to are small businesses/family operations. These aren’t some faceless corporations with billionaire owners. These are our neighbors.
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Re: Should we BYOB?

#82 Post by Paul McCourt »

R. Frankel wrote: April 3rd, 2021, 9:41 pm I sympathize with the rule followers here - just tell me the rules and I’ll follow them. I don’t want to have to guess at secret rules, or deduce the subtext for rules. Yes, I so much prefer that!

But the now of 2021 is a time in which the rules have clearly changed. What are the new rules? Not entirely clear. Can every restaurant just make up all new rules? Not if they want to keep customers. I for one, when I finally go back to restaurants, want the experience as much as possible to be relaxed, comfortable, familiar and easy. I’m already going to be stressed merely by sitting in a room with strangers.

So mostly we will try to go by the old rules. But Covid times means everyone is on edge, businesses are disrupted, patterns are shaken. This feels like an ‘extra sympathy’ moment, not a ‘take care of yourself, your stuff is not my problem’ moment. I want to ask the restaurant to think about how to make me comfortable, to sympathize with my situation. I also want to do the same for them. If it means spending a little more, or being more flexible, I’m ok with that.

Here’s an idea - why don’t we call the restaurant manager and talk about it? Ask them what’s up with their list, their corkage policy, their staff. What is good for them? What’s good for me? Nearly all restaurants I go to are small businesses/family operations. These aren’t some faceless corporations with billionaire owners. These are our neighbors.
This pretty much sums it up for me. There is little that is “right” or “wrong” in rules now. I view it simply as what feels right to me.

I continue to patronize a couple of my longtime favorite neighborhood joints because I like them and I want to support them with my dollars. I’m not going get worked up over BYOB or not. Right now it feels -to me- that just showing up is a good thing.
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Re: Should we BYOB?

#83 Post by Marshall Manning »

Michael S. Monie wrote: April 3rd, 2021, 7:48 pm
Mich@el Ch@ng wrote: April 3rd, 2021, 7:42 pm
Marshall Manning wrote: April 3rd, 2021, 7:35 pm

I agree with you here, too. But even in Portland I can almost always find something interesting, delicious, and that goes with our food, for under $60. You don't have to spend $400 to get good wine. Tonight....2012 Ar.Pe.Pe Valellina...$45 at a restaurant in town. And totally wonderful and delicious.
I have never seen arpepe on a wine list, ever. That’s only 1.3x retail also.
I don't know where he is drinking his wine, but those markups are definitely atypical.
There are a number of restaurants in Portland with interesting, reasonably priced wine lists. Not as many as SF, LA, or other large cities, I imagine, but they exist. Of course there are also some that are very high, but those are usually the more corporate or chain places, which aren't our favorites anyway. Some places also have higher markups for well-known wines and lower markups for geeky wines or favorites of the somms or owners.
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Re: Should we BYOB?

#84 Post by Neal.Mollen »

Sarah Kirschbaum wrote: April 3rd, 2021, 4:35 pm A few people have made the point that "if the restaurant didn't want to allow corkage, they wouldn't have a corkage policy," or something to that effect. Of course this is true - they don't have to allow it, they do allow it, so it must be okay to do it. Yep, it's totally okay to do it. With respect, though, I think that this position misses the point which makes this discussion different from most previous to BYO or not to BYO discussions.

I think it's fair to say that most restaurants' corkage fees are less than what they make on the majority of bottles on their list. (Let's put aside for the moment whether the state of restaurant mark-ups is fair). I think that, for reasons both monetary and operational, restaurants in general would *prefer* that you buy off their list. Perhaps the spirit of the argument is that it would be generous and kind right now to choose what the restaurant would like better, rather than what we ourselves (and I include myself) would like better. No one should drink wine they don't like, of course, but if there's something tasty and acceptable to be had, maybe right now is time to choose it over corkage.

That's how I'm thinking of it, anyway. I'm trying to put this delicately, because my goal is to elucidate the argument, not imply that one choice is superior to another. And, like I wrote up thread, each situation is different, and will be different for each individual.

Edited to add something I just thought of, which strikes me as logical - Many restaurants are eager to build up their lists again, to start adding new and exciting beverages, and to enliven the beverage program after such a horrific void for so long. Backers and owners and management are hesitant, though, to make big investments right now and many want to see how it's going first. Bottles bought off the list are data points towards supporting the effort to restart and enervate the program, where BYO bottles are not, even if corkage is the same in dollar terms.
This is a great post Sarah. It clearly and cogently sets out the thesis and then carefully supports it with reason.

This is why I disagree.

The corkage question facing every restaurant is essentially a math problem. They understand purchase patterns -- who and how many buy what off their list, at least under normal times -- their costs and markups, the percentage of customers who will use a corkage policy and, if they have adjusted the corkage amount, the sensitivity of patrons to marginal increases in that amount. So the restaurant should be able to find the inflection point: the corkage price that maximizes revenue, moves their inventory, and nonetheless encourages corkage-using patrons to dine who otherwise might not, or might not buy alcohol at all if they did.

I haven't eaten inside a restaurant of any kind in over a year. When I return (likely to still be a while), I will assume that the owners have made that calculation and respond accordingly. It is absolutely their right to prohibit the practice altogether, and it is their right to price it wherever they think the sweet spot is. I assume that some restaurants that previously had corkage will suspend or end the practice. That's ok with me. I assume that some will increase the cost to reflect the current challenging environment, and that's ok with me.

Where it makes sense to me, though, I will take advantage of corkage, and I won't feel the least bit guilty about it (although, as we have for the last 15 months or so when getting take out, we will over-tip without hesitation).
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Re: Should we BYOB?

#85 Post by john stimson »

R. Frankel wrote: April 3rd, 2021, 9:41 pm I sympathize with the rule followers here - just tell me the rules and I’ll follow them. I don’t want to have to guess at secret rules, or deduce the subtext for rules. Yes, I so much prefer that!

But the now of 2021 is a time in which the rules have clearly changed. What are the new rules? Not entirely clear. Can every restaurant just make up all new rules? Not if they want to keep customers. I for one, when I finally go back to restaurants, want the experience as much as possible to be relaxed, comfortable, familiar and easy. I’m already going to be stressed merely by sitting in a room with strangers.

So mostly we will try to go by the old rules. But Covid times means everyone is on edge, businesses are disrupted, patterns are shaken. This feels like an ‘extra sympathy’ moment, not a ‘take care of yourself, your stuff is not my problem’ moment. I want to ask the restaurant to think about how to make me comfortable, to sympathize with my situation. I also want to do the same for them. If it means spending a little more, or being more flexible, I’m ok with that.

Here’s an idea - why don’t we call the restaurant manager and talk about it? Ask them what’s up with their list, their corkage policy, their staff. What is good for them? What’s good for me? Nearly all restaurants I go to are small businesses/family operations. These aren’t some faceless corporations with billionaire owners. These are our neighbors.
Yeah--This is it. I'm a little surprised how much "us vs them" there is in this thread. Most any place we eat out at, or even pick up take out at, is a neighborhood place where we feel like we're friends, even at a "big" place (like Canlis, or Spinasse). We've had multiple conversations about how business is going (bad), and what things we as patrons can do to help (show up). It's easy to spread this to a wine list, BYOB vs list questions. As I mentioned, we have been at 25% capacity maximum, recently increased to 50%, which still isn't going to make a go of it for an establishment. The wine answer has generally been, "we're happy for your business, however it shows up", but I still assume they do better if I order off the list, so that's what I do.

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Re: Should we BYOB?

#86 Post by Sarah Kirschbaum »

Neal.Mollen wrote: April 4th, 2021, 9:33 am
This is a great post Sarah. It clearly and cogently sets out the thesis and then carefully supports it with reason.

This is why I disagree.

The corkage question facing every restaurant is essentially a math problem. They understand purchase patterns -- who and how many buy what off their list, at least under normal times -- their costs and markups, the percentage of customers who will use a corkage policy and, if they have adjusted the corkage amount, the sensitivity of patrons to marginal increases in that amount. So the restaurant should be able to find the inflection point: the corkage price that maximizes revenue, moves their inventory, and nonetheless encourages corkage-using patrons to dine who otherwise might not, or might not buy alcohol at all if they did.

I haven't eaten inside a restaurant of any kind in over a year. When I return (likely to still be a while), I will assume that the owners have made that calculation and respond accordingly. It is absolutely their right to prohibit the practice altogether, and it is their right to price it wherever they think the sweet spot is. I assume that some restaurants that previously had corkage will suspend or end the practice. That's ok with me. I assume that some will increase the cost to reflect the current challenging environment, and that's ok with me.

Where it makes sense to me, though, I will take advantage of corkage, and I won't feel the least bit guilty about it (although, as we have for the last 15 months or so when getting take out, we will over-tip without hesitation).
Thanks, Neal. Good points all. I don't think we actually disagree at the core of it.

In response, first, I want to be clear that my post you quoted was an attempt to clarify that side of the argument, since it seemed to me some people were missing it. I was not saying that I take such a position myself. I see both sides of this issue, and am still considering whether I truly come down on one side or another at all. I do feel that the current situation and circumstances may (not does, but may) call for different choices on my part. What restaurants have gone through and my relationship with them is something I’m taking into consideration as I decide when and where to BYO versus ordering off the list.

As to your point that restaurants carefully do the math behind corkage, I’m sure you are right much of the time, and probably should be right all of the time. But I know from talking to several owners, chefs and managers, that they sometimes don’t even have a good handle on their wine inventory needs, let alone careful calculations behind the break-even point on corkage charge. Some have told me it’s pretty much an arbitrary number that seemed fair. Mind you, diners should not need to compensate for restaurants’ loosey-goosey approach, just sharing an alternative point of view that I’ve heard. As an importer (well, Jonathan is) trying to sell a high-end line into top restaurants, I know for sure that many are hesitating to see how sales of expensive stuff in particular are going perform before they commit. Selfishly, I hope they do well; but I don’t know to what extent that will influence my own buying, if at all.

Importantly, I don’t think anyone should feel guilty for the choice they make on this issue. To me, it’s valuable to think about and talk about the question, but there’s no right or wrong answer, as far as I’m concerned. Show up, be kind, be patient and understanding (many restaurants are just getting new staff in place and trained and things can be a little rocky), make it clear you value them, tip well. That’s what really matters.
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Re: Should we BYOB?

#87 Post by Neal.Mollen »

Sarah Kirschbaum wrote: April 4th, 2021, 1:52 pm
Neal.Mollen wrote: April 4th, 2021, 9:33 am
This is a great post Sarah. It clearly and cogently sets out the thesis and then carefully supports it with reason.

This is why I disagree.

The corkage question facing every restaurant is essentially a math problem. They understand purchase patterns -- who and how many buy what off their list, at least under normal times -- their costs and markups, the percentage of customers who will use a corkage policy and, if they have adjusted the corkage amount, the sensitivity of patrons to marginal increases in that amount. So the restaurant should be able to find the inflection point: the corkage price that maximizes revenue, moves their inventory, and nonetheless encourages corkage-using patrons to dine who otherwise might not, or might not buy alcohol at all if they did.

I haven't eaten inside a restaurant of any kind in over a year. When I return (likely to still be a while), I will assume that the owners have made that calculation and respond accordingly. It is absolutely their right to prohibit the practice altogether, and it is their right to price it wherever they think the sweet spot is. I assume that some restaurants that previously had corkage will suspend or end the practice. That's ok with me. I assume that some will increase the cost to reflect the current challenging environment, and that's ok with me.

Where it makes sense to me, though, I will take advantage of corkage, and I won't feel the least bit guilty about it (although, as we have for the last 15 months or so when getting take out, we will over-tip without hesitation).
Thanks, Neal. Good points all. I don't think we actually disagree at the core of it.

In response, first, I want to be clear that my post you quoted was an attempt to clarify that side of the argument, since it seemed to me some people were missing it. I was not saying that I take such a position myself. I see both sides of this issue, and am still considering whether I truly come down on one side or another at all. I do feel that the current situation and circumstances may (not does, but may) call for different choices on my part. What restaurants have gone through and my relationship with them is something I’m taking into consideration as I decide when and where to BYO versus ordering off the list.

As to your point that restaurants carefully do the math behind corkage, I’m sure you are right much of the time, and probably should be right all of the time. But I know from talking to several owners, chefs and managers, that they sometimes don’t even have a good handle on their wine inventory needs, let alone careful calculations behind the break-even point on corkage charge. Some have told me it’s pretty much an arbitrary number that seemed fair. Mind you, diners should not need to compensate for restaurants’ loosey-goosey approach, just sharing an alternative point of view that I’ve heard. As an importer (well, Jonathan is) trying to sell a high-end line into top restaurants, I know for sure that many are hesitating to see how sales of expensive stuff in particular are going perform before they commit. Selfishly, I hope they do well; but I don’t know to what extent that will influence my own buying, if at all.

Importantly, I don’t think anyone should feel guilty for the choice they make on this issue. To me, it’s valuable to think about and talk about the question, but there’s no right or wrong answer, as far as I’m concerned. Show up, be kind, be patient and understanding (many restaurants are just getting new staff in place and trained and things can be a little rocky), make it clear you value them, tip well. That’s what really matters.
I don't find a single thing in there that I can disagree with, and in the best Berserker tradition I tried! Here's hoping I have this problem to work out sooner than later.
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Re: Should we BYOB?

#88 Post by alan weinberg »

David K o l i n wrote: April 3rd, 2021, 4:53 pm They should just double their price for food.

I never feel that restaurant wine prices in most restaurants are rational, with some exceptions for truly outstanding lists (I don’t mean high end). I’ll drink water rather than ordering off their lists, generally I’m not about to change my habits post-pandemic
I’m in alignment here except I order iced tea. I’ve never really understood restaurant economics regarding triple retail wine pricing when I look around and see hardly a bottle on a table and read complaints about low food margins. And then some places see more business on their “30% off” wine nights and don’t make that nightly. But, again, I’m not privy to restaurant economics and probably should keep my thoughts to myself. I am happy that here in California corkage is usually allowed and often very reasonable.

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Re: Should we BYOB?

#89 Post by Yao C »

Why frame it as BYOB vs not when there are so many other ways to go above and beyond in supporting your favorite restaurants? I will continue to BYOB as I always have, while practicing some combination of the below:
  • Tip more
  • Visit more often
  • Bring more people
  • Order more non-wine things (cocktails, digestifs, add-ons, etc)
  • Order more wine from the list
Neal.Mollen wrote: April 4th, 2021, 9:33 am The corkage question facing every restaurant is essentially a math problem. They understand purchase patterns -- who and how many buy what off their list, at least under normal times -- their costs and markups, the percentage of customers who will use a corkage policy and, if they have adjusted the corkage amount, the sensitivity of patrons to marginal increases in that amount. So the restaurant should be able to find the inflection point: the corkage price that maximizes revenue, moves their inventory, and nonetheless encourages corkage-using patrons to dine who otherwise might not, or might not buy alcohol at all if they did.
Pricing, though simple in principle, is fraught in practice. If I was a restaurant owner looking to revive my restaurant post-COVID, my first priority would be to get volumes (covers per day) to a comfortable baseline with minimal changes to the formula (if it worked pre-COVID). Only after that would I start thinking about increasing check sizes. It will take a minute to come to any kind of informed conclusion re: pricing and corkage fees, and we shouldn't assume that restaurants will have already divined the right tweaks
Marshall Manning wrote: April 3rd, 2021, 7:35 pm
HoosJustinG wrote: April 3rd, 2021, 7:16 pm This is all in addition to the obvious. Not all of us live in SF where multiple restaurants have world class wine lists. Maybe I don't want to spend $400 on a bottle of wine just to end up drinking a 2018 that I wouldn't normally touch til 2025 or later...
I agree with you here, too. But even in Portland I can almost always find something interesting, delicious, and that goes with our food, for under $60. You don't have to spend $400 to get good wine. Tonight....2012 Ar.Pe.Pe Valtellina...$45 at a restaurant in town. And totally wonderful and delicious.
The wine lists in Portland are generally great value, but IMO Portland is exceptional like that. SF wine lists have good range, but their value varies...
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Re: Should we BYOB? (Post-COVID)

#90 Post by Brent C l a y t o n »

I find myself still doing more dining in with friends and drinking well. When I go out I'll have a glass or two of wine or cocktails. I think the BYO thing is very local. There are some good points of view from both sides here. But there aren't too many people I know of trying to get corkage waived or complaining about more serious corkage fees, which was a thing pre-COVID.

I am also in a unique position due to my job however and I'm sure if I was bringing in 6-8 people for dinner at certain spots I could negotiate corkage and they'd be happy to have us.
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Re: Should we BYOB?

#91 Post by ybarselah »

Sarah Kirschbaum wrote: April 3rd, 2021, 4:35 pm A few people have made the point that "if the restaurant didn't want to allow corkage, they wouldn't have a corkage policy," or something to that effect. Of course this is true - they don't have to allow it, they do allow it, so it must be okay to do it. Yep, it's totally okay to do it. With respect, though, I think that this position misses the point which makes this discussion different from most previous to BYO or not to BYO discussions.

I think it's fair to say that most restaurants' corkage fees are less than what they make on the majority of bottles on their list. (Let's put aside for the moment whether the state of restaurant mark-ups is fair). I think that, for reasons both monetary and operational, restaurants in general would *prefer* that you buy off their list. Perhaps the spirit of the argument is that it would be generous and kind right now to choose what the restaurant would like better, rather than what we ourselves (and I include myself) would like better. No one should drink wine they don't like, of course, but if there's something tasty and acceptable to be had, maybe right now is time to choose it over corkage.

That's how I'm thinking of it, anyway. I'm trying to put this delicately, because my goal is to elucidate the argument, not imply that one choice is superior to another. And, like I wrote up thread, each situation is different, and will be different for each individual.

Edited to add something I just thought of, which strikes me as logical - Many restaurants are eager to build up their lists again, to start adding new and exciting beverages, and to enliven the beverage program after such a horrific void for so long. Backers and owners and management are hesitant, though, to make big investments right now and many want to see how it's going first. Bottles bought off the list are data points towards supporting the effort to restart and energize the program, where BYO bottles are not, even if corkage is the same in dollar terms.
while everything above makes sense, is logical, reasonable etc., the data we've seen is that the entire impact of corkage to a restaurant is approaching zero. really. barely a rounding error. as with all other threads on this topic here, it's overthought by an order of magnitude. which again, is totally reasonable - it's a wine discussion board. but from a financial standpoint, it's nothing. there are literally 200 other issues for a restaurant to deal with. the actual impact is a service issue, but even that is not a big deal unless you're dealing with a ton of people and a ton of bottles, which isn't the theme of this thread.
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Re: Should we BYOB? (Post-COVID)

#92 Post by H. Schultz »

Do the Corkage!
We call ahead and always take 2 bottles with us when we dine out. That doesn't mean we request them to be opened but that's what we take.

Are we open to trying something on the list? Sure; but usually it's marked up 2x and is very young. We've also had some very good wines off of lists that were reasonable; 1.5x or so. One of our favorite places to eat had to close during covid. Wednesday was 1/2 off any bottle on the list. If we ate out on a Wednesday night, guess where we went? We didn't find anything that caused us to go buy something but it was nice to try something new off their list.

Thankfully we have 3 places near us with good food that only charges $10 for corkage. There is also one spot nearby that does NOT have corkage. We don't go there unless other couples want to meet up. Their wine list is short, generic wines, and marked up too high.

Each dining establishment is different and can be different in their geographical location.

One one Napa/Sonoma trip we found several places that there was no corkage on wine brought in if also a local bottle was purchased with dinner. THAT was a great way to try some new wines.

Another interesting example was in eastern WA. We called ahead and asked what corkage was. ZERO, IF it was a local wine. Their definition of 'local' was anything not from CA. Their wine list turned out to be very nice so we had our wines with us in the group and also tried several others. Win/Win for all.

One local spot, they too had to close, had a corkage of 'the owner gets a small glass' as the corkage fee. The owner had some great stories on wines people had brought in.
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Re: Should we BYOB? (Post-COVID)

#93 Post by Victor Hong »

Call ahead to ask.
Eat.
Drink.
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Tip well.
Stumble home.
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Re: Should we BYOB?

#94 Post by Sean S y d n e y »

alan weinberg wrote: April 4th, 2021, 2:46 pm I’ve never really understood restaurant economics regarding triple retail wine pricing when I look around and see hardly a bottle on a table and read complaints about low food margins.
As someone who runs a wine list at a restaurant, I promise this is not being said in a lecturing tone (you'll just have to imagine my kind and dulcet tones): you are paying for the time spent creating the list and all the knowledge and expertise (hopefully!) that entails, time spent helping you choose the right bottle for you after consulting with you and figuring out what you want and knowing the intimate details of 150-200 choices and which bottle or two will hopefully be the right one, serving it to you in guaranteed good condition from a cellar at a proper temperature with good glassware, paying for those glasses to be washed, paying for the nice environment in which you'll consume it and, yes, to subsidize the food you're eating which would probably be 20-30% higher if the wine/booze wasn't marked up.

I try to keep markups as fair as possible - extra difficult in our regulatory environment that adds loads of costs onto beverage alcohol - and don't use a standard multiplier to decide what something should be on the list. Some are more, some are less, but restaurants aren't a charity and all of our livelihoods depend on achieving a certain margin of profit from the clientele. That said, I'll do everything in my power to ensure you never feel cheated, because I know first-hand what a bad taste that leaves in your mouth.

On corkage: if it exists, don't feel bad using it. I always appreciate a thoughtful and sympathetic guest, though, now more than ever.
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Re: Should we BYOB?

#95 Post by Arv R »

Sean S y d n e y wrote: April 6th, 2021, 2:27 pm
alan weinberg wrote: April 4th, 2021, 2:46 pm I’ve never really understood restaurant economics regarding triple retail wine pricing when I look around and see hardly a bottle on a table and read complaints about low food margins.
As someone who runs a wine list at a restaurant, I promise this is not being said in a lecturing tone (you'll just have to imagine my kind and dulcet tones): you are paying for the time spent creating the list and all the knowledge and expertise (hopefully!) that entails, time spent helping you choose the right bottle for you after consulting with you and figuring out what you want and knowing the intimate details of 150-200 choices and which bottle or two will hopefully be the right one, serving it to you in guaranteed good condition from a cellar at a proper temperature with good glassware, paying for those glasses to be washed, paying for the nice environment in which you'll consume it and, yes, to subsidize the food you're eating which would probably be 20-30% higher if the wine/booze wasn't marked up.

I try to keep markups as fair as possible - extra difficult in our regulatory environment that adds loads of costs onto beverage alcohol - and don't use a standard multiplier to decide what something should be on the list. Some are more, some are less, but restaurants aren't a charity and all of our livelihoods depend on achieving a certain margin of profit from the clientele. That said, I'll do everything in my power to ensure you never feel cheated, because I know first-hand what a bad taste that leaves in your mouth.

On corkage: if it exists, don't feel bad using it. I always appreciate a thoughtful and sympathetic guest, though, now more than ever.
What percentage of tables order wine, either BTG or off the list?
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Re: Should we BYOB?

#96 Post by Sean S y d n e y »

Arv R wrote: April 6th, 2021, 2:32 pm What percentage of tables order wine, either BTG or off the list?
Depends on the restaurant - and the last few I've worked at have had a wine focus so they've self-selected for clientele that are interested in wine - but I'd say ~60-65%.
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Re: Should we BYOB?

#97 Post by Chris Seiber »

R. Frankel wrote: April 3rd, 2021, 3:00 pm
Here’s a quote that captures the essence of the article:

“But with this new era of in-person dining comes a new set of etiquette rules, especially when it comes to wine. And I have one specific plea to make to all of you who are going out to restaurants right now.

Please, please do not BYOB.

... corkage [is] a generous thing for restaurants to allow, since many of them generate a significant portion of their income through alcohol, and letting customers bring their own wine means they may miss out on some lucrative sales.

Corkage fees help compensate for some of those lost sales, but they rarely make up the difference entirely. “
I think this is one of the key points of divergence in our discussion (which has generally been very thoughtful and reasonable on all sides).

If you take the article's view that corkage is a generous act by the restaurant, some kind of extra thing they are giving away to certain patrons to their financial detriment, then I think it would make sense that in a moment like this, the patron might decline to receive this act of generosity. Like if you're a teenager and your uncle used to give you money every year for your birthday, but he lost his job and is struggling to make ends meet, you might say "uncle, thanks for your generosity, but this year I don't need the money, I'd rather you kept it."

If you think that a restaurant's corkage policy is in furtherance of their goal of being financially successful running their restaurant, after factoring in things like whether patrons would come in and what they would order if corkage were higher or not allowed, then I think you would probably conclude that dining there and observing their policy is a perfectly fine thing to do, and not one to feel guilty or jerky about.

Of course, even if you take the second view, you could certainly choose to buy bottles off the list because you want to be generous supporting the restaurant, just as you could choose to order more appetizers, more desserts, buy gift cards, go there more often, tip more, etc. If you wanted to do that, by all means, go ahead and that's great.

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Re: Should we BYOB? (Post-COVID)

#98 Post by J. Galang »

I believe that this is a complicated and layered situation presented by the OP. It really depends so much on where one resides, what one likes to eat and drink and the overall business model of these restaurants. I do not have a definitive answer but just a few points below to add to the discussion.

1. I rarely, if ever, go to a restaurant because of the wine list. I like good food and that is why I go to restaurants. If a restaurant depends so much on alcohol consumption, then maybe this type of business model is one that should naturally "change" into one that is not. It is very hard to fight market forces IMHO.
2. Related to #1, a lot of the restaurants I go to have very limited alcohol choices. A lot of Asian restaurants I frequent serve very little or no alcohol at all, they seem to survive without it.
3. When I go to fancier restaurants, which is only a about 3 times a year ($250+ per person), I usually bring my own wine. These special occasions are one of the reasons why I collect wine.
4. I find it a bit illogical (and unfair) the way the article puts additional responsibility of supporting restaurants more on people who drink alcohol. What if you don't like drinking at all? I know a LOT of people who don't drink, like almost my entire family. Does that mean people who don't drink alcohol at restaurants are leachers?
5. I would "personally" be OK if a restaurant priced its food higher so that it did not have to rely on it's alcohol sales. "If" the market decides that huge wine lists at restaurants are not economically viable anymore and they totally disappear, I will be sad, but it is very hard to go against the market.
6. There will always be places that will have amazing food and amazing wine lists but have obnoxious markups (cough cough - Saison), there are a lot of very rich people and good for them if they can make it work. For me, I will just simply patronize places that I find offer good food/value and those I can afford.
7. I will not drink mediocre wine to support a restaurant. This is a personal thing for me as I view alcohol as a "negative" in my life, but is something I enjoy consuming (like eating refined sugar). This means I better enjoy it, if not I would rather have iced tea.

During the pandemic, we have actually eaten way more at restaurants (via take out) than before the pandemic. This is because of 2 major reasons, (1) to support the restaurants we like and (2) because the pandemic made life a bit more monotonous so doing take out was one of the things we did to change things up. I estimate a 2 - 2.5X rise in restaurant purchases over the past year. Also, all via personal pick up, non of those doordash / 3rd party delivery crap.
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Re: Should we BYOB? (Post-COVID)

#99 Post by Steve Crawford »

im probably the only person here who dined out exactly the same amount in 2020 as 2019 18, and same for 2021 probably.
should is a silly word. because it just leads one to say as opposed to what-
i hardly ever dont bring a bottle. the business mode of a restaurant is beyond laughable on many levels.
hopefully covid changes that.
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Re: Should we BYOB? (Post-COVID)

#100 Post by AndyK »

H. Schultz wrote: April 6th, 2021, 2:13 pm Do the Corkage!
We call ahead and always take 2 bottles with us when we dine out. That doesn't mean we request them to be opened but that's what we take.

Are we open to trying something on the list? Sure; but usually it's marked up 2x and is very young. We've also had some very good wines off of lists that were reasonable; 1.5x or so. One of our favorite places to eat had to close during covid. Wednesday was 1/2 off any bottle on the list. If we ate out on a Wednesday night, guess where we went? We didn't find anything that caused us to go buy something but it was nice to try something new off their list.

Thankfully we have 3 places near us with good food that only charges $10 for corkage. There is also one spot nearby that does NOT have corkage. We don't go there unless other couples want to meet up. Their wine list is short, generic wines, and marked up too high.

Each dining establishment is different and can be different in their geographical location.

One one Napa/Sonoma trip we found several places that there was no corkage on wine brought in if also a local bottle was purchased with dinner. THAT was a great way to try some new wines.

Another interesting example was in eastern WA. We called ahead and asked what corkage was. ZERO, IF it was a local wine. Their definition of 'local' was anything not from CA. Their wine list turned out to be very nice so we had our wines with us in the group and also tried several others. Win/Win for all.

One local spot, they too had to close, had a corkage of 'the owner gets a small glass' as the corkage fee. The owner had some great stories on wines people had brought in.
Cool story, but you didn't bother reading up what this thread is about, so the comment misses the point. [snort.gif]
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