First, the background and disclaimer – I understand corkage policies and am generally not opposed to them. I don’t subscribe to the “would you bring your own meat to a restaurant” position, but I understand the fees cover breakage, cleaning costs, manpower, etc. I generally patronize restaurants at which I am considered a “friend of the house” and thus am not charged corkage; however, this is not exclusively the case and have paid corkage when I want to pack my own wines (which, essentially, is always).
So, with that intro and background, I want your opinions on the following: I was with a dinner group (party of 8) and brought a single 3.0L bottle of wine knowing the restaurant had a “per table” as opposed to “per person” BYOB policy. The limit was two but, being a party of 8, they waived that limit (much appreciated) and allowed us to open the 3.0L bottle (which, as you may suspect, was deemed to be four bottles). I was told by the Somm that we would be charged 4xcorkage ($50/per) as opposed to something less. I was less than thrilled, and not because of the $$$. I reminded the Somm that we were going to use a single glass each, and not multiple glasses, so there would be a total of 8 glasses used. The Somm did, in fact, use 2 decanters instead of one, so please factor that into your opinion. If it matters, we also bought a reasonably pricey (read: mid-3 figures) bottle off the list.
With all that said, is it reasonable to charge 4xcorkage in this event?? Please keep in mind this is not a corkage versus no corkage argument – I speak with my wallet and support my friends in the industry that take care of me in that regard … .but, that’s a different thread.
I think charging for upsizes is more about making money than any real logic behind it. Sure it’s a harder to pour a big bottle but the cork is pretty similar, you’re using roughly the same amount of glassware.
Is it reasonable? No. Is it their policy to charge per bottle size? Guess so
Glenn, I don’t disagree with the concept. . .we were somewhat captive audience. I want your (and others’) opinion on whether you think the policy is fair. As Charlie correctly said, “extra” glassware consisted of at most a second decanter. We did not change glasses and (though I left this out because I don’t think it matters) we mostly poured our own pours.
I’d put it in the “son in law” category, i.e. “not really what I had hoped for, but it’ll do well enough.”
I do agree that the theory and justification of corkage has to do with cleaning glasses, breakage, server time, etc., but the reality of corkage is all or mostly about foregone sales and profit. With that in mind, arguing about how many glasses you used and so forth sort of misses the substance of it.
Please post more often, Howard. I like how you approach matters like this, and we could use more voices like yours in the discussions.
I guess I think the policy is numerically fair but commercially obtuse. I’d consider dropping a note to ownership letting them know you found the policy hard-to-swallow. Give them another chance to please you. If ignored you know you have options elsewhere in the future.
I would have mentioned the usual corkage policy and said that I didn’t have set policy answer in this special case and I would have asked you to pay as you felt fair based on your appraisal of the situation and service. I would have told the somm not to worry about it and what a nice night it is and thank you for being here with us tonight and how nice it is to meet people who really appreciate wine!
My worst case as the owner is that you pay the usual one bottle corkage. Best case, you say to yourself, “That was nice of him, I can see aspects from both points of view here, so I will add XXXX.”
Life is too short for me, as the owner, to sweat a one-off like this.
Plus, if you paid only the single bottle corkage, I could talk smack about you with the staff after you left and watch for your sorry ass name on the reservation list in the future!
The “foregone profits” argument is often cited. I suppose that means that diners who do not order expensive beverages should be charged a “minimum alternative service fee”.
Restaurants that have friendly corkage fees, and/or reasonable markups, get my business. Those that don’t, don’t.
I guess from the restaurant’s standpoint, what is the difference between you having brought in a 3L bottle versus four identical bottles of that wine? You would still only use one glass each, but you probably wouldn’t have expected not to pay corkage for four bottles then, right?
They had a per table limit, and they let you skirt it with a big bottle, I don’t see how you have too much complaint that they didn’t let you off on corkage as well as on the per table limit. Certainly, many restaurants would have cut you an even better break under the totality of circumstances, but I don’t think you can really expect or demand it (which you have not, of course, you’ve just wanted to discuss it).
Of course, if you find other restaurants that treat you better and you want to dine at those places in the future, that’s 100% your right too. There is less and less free market competition in our world, but restaurants are still a bastion of it.
Howard, I generally agree with Glenn’s comment. Fair, but somewhat shortsighted. Most places, even if you’re not a friend of the house, would not charge you 4x once you’ve purchased something nice from the list.
I tend to think like you on this issue, and it’s why I generally go to places that I’m friendly with. Or drink Bourbon once in a while.
I’ve also found over the years, mainly through business relationships, that it’s better to simply have the candid discussion in advance if possible. Assume this must have been planned late, so no time for that?
I don’t agree with the ‘forgone profits’ argument either. What if you had simply chosen to not open the bottle? Now they have forgone the corkage and bottle prices(that they assumed you would have bought) out of simple greed.
People assume that diners are as willing to bring a bottle as they are to purchase one at a restaurant- I don’t think this is true at all.
Howard- Sorry for being dense. Did they charge you $50 total or $50X4= $200 for the corkage? If the latter was it only for your 3.0?
If it was an additional $200 on the bill, then while the restaurant could certainly justify it as “fair”, I don’t know that I think it would be right. You ordered over $100 with your additional bottle off the list and I’m guessing left a good tip on the bill. If they sell you a premium bottle from the list, I truly don’t understand why they throw a big corkage charge your way.
Whether we agree with the philosophy on this board or not, restaurants with a dedicated wine program frown on corkage. Making it harder is if you don’t have a captain or wine director at the table, you get someone who doesn’t have the authority to waive or reduce your corkage.
if the corkage policy is $50 per standard bottle volume, then you should expect to pay that rate. if they did anything special or better, that would be a nice surprise.
it’s not clear from your post whether you confirmed this in advance or not, but it seems you were aware of the corkage fee(s).
i also want to generally push back on the idea that a restaurant’s corkage fee has any rational basis to effort, cost, decanters, glasses, lost profits, etc. - it doesn’t. i mean, it might at one particular restaurant, but not generally. so there’s no reason to do that analysis. same thing with buying something off the list (unless it’s a stated policy of waiving corkage, etc. which some restaurants do).