Another Post Seeking Corkage Opinions

I think it’s reasonable to charge double the normal rate for magnums and so on.

Reasonable is always in the eye of the beholder. But if a restaurant charges me full-boat corkage and our party has bought $$$ wine off the list, I’m less likely to conclude their corkage policy was reasonable. If the only wine you drank was from the 3 liter, then I would be more likely to think the 4x corkage was OK.

Bruce

Perhaps you’re known as someone who always takes advantage of corkage.

Well Howard, since you asked for opinions, here’s another. I agree with some of the others that it was a dumb move on the part of the restaurant.

You could argue that the corkage was “per bottle” and unless they made it clear somewhere that they meant a 750 ml bottle, you only had one bottle.

Under their thinking, if you brought a 500ml, they would charge only 66.66% of the “normal” corkage fee.

But it’s their restaurant and arguing is clearly pointless.

I’m grateful that people let me bring wine. I offer tastes to the crew and try not to be a slob about it. There is one place I go that never charge me but I still go w/out wine and buy something off their list. They’ve asked me why a few times. It’s because they’re great folks and I want to support them and not have them roll their eyes when I bring in some wine. And they have a good and thoughtful wine list. I don’t bring wine because I’m afraid I won’t find anything good - I usually bring it because it’s aged and I’m unlikely to find that particular wine somewhere.

In your restaurant, I wouldn’t go back. It’s a high corkage fee anyway and clearly they’re not looking to keep you coming in. Maybe they won’t miss your patronage, nor that of the people you dissuade from going there. But there are places that are more welcoming.

Having bought a mid-3-figure bottle off the list, it’s hard for me to fathom that they charged you low-3-figures to open your bottle. Sure, it might have made sense to discuss this when making the reservation, but I think it would have also been appropriate to do a little negotiating when purchasing an expensive bottle off the list.

You don’t know how lucky you are to have corkage as an option…

i still can’t figure out why restaurants even offer it in the first place. it’s pretty strange when you think about it.

Maybe because they like to see people enjoying wine with dinner, and most of us will simply not pay the ridiculous prices found on most wine lists?

Thank you all for the insightful comments. Chris, I am almost persuaded by the “you could have brought four identical bottles” argument. I won’t try to argue that the difference is pulling 3 more corks because I don’t think that’s a persuasive difference. Still, although the math works (4x.750), I do see there to be a distinction because we, in fact, had a single bottle with single glasses. On occasion, I have brought several of the same bottles and many Somms (please chime in here) will provide a different glass when pouring from a different bottle. I, for one, appreciate that. . however, if we take as a given that only one glass would be used no matter which bottle of the four was poured, then you are correct. Frankly, I come down on the side of “we charge because we can” side of the equation because I truly don’t believe appreciably more effort was expended with the 3.0L than a single 750 (labor and clean-up, etc.)

Since some have asked, I was lead to believe by a friend of the restaurant that he could “take care of corkage” and it was not until that day I found out that was not the case (But, Brad, first of all Hello! and second of all, I agree with you that a candid discussion is best). Forewarned is fore armed, but the wine was going to be consumed no matter what. Also, for those who asked, and in the interest of discretion, let’s say the bottle purchased off the list was approximately $500.00. True, the Somm did not know which bottle we would buy (I did confirm up front that we would “support his list” and buy something) but I am persuaded that once we purchased the bottle, SOME help on the corkage would have made a much happier customer. Anthony L. asked for clarification if it was “one” corkage ($50) or 4xcorkage ($200.00). . it was the latter. . .$200.00 corkage.

Yes, we still tipped the staff well . . .yes, we shared plenty of the 3.0L with the Somm and sent a glass back to chef.

Anyway, thanks for all the input and opinions . . .cheers, mes amis.

HIC

Tom, anything is possible, but I don’t presume to be known at all, so I don’t think this suggestion is likely.

Best,

Howard

Further thinking about Chris Seiber’s query about four of the same bottles got me thinking. . .since the restaurant appeared not to base corkage on bottle number and, instead, calculated corkage based on volume (3.0L), one could reasonably ask whether (assuming the same “waiver” of BYOB lmit), I would have been charged the same $200.00 corkage if I had brought in 8 half bottles (.375) which would also be 3.0L but require 8 different glasses each in addition to extra decanters where necessary. I, for one, tend to think the restaurant would not employ the pure “volume” formula for corkage. So, I guess I fall into the camp of they charge it “because they can”. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the “waiver” of 2 bottle BYOB limit, but given the circumstances (8 diners, one bottle), that get only incremental credit from me.

Howard

The restaurant treated you fairly. You should pay for using their restaurant for drinking your wine. Here in the food Mecca of Portland, great restaurants fold every week. For a restaurant to pay their bills and stay open is difficult. Maybe $50 a bottle is a bit expensive, but they fairly applied their corkage fee to you. Don’t expect any favors. After all, they are running a business. They don’t come to your workplace and ask for a discount. You shouldn’t, either.
Phil Jones

After all, they are running a business. They don’t come to your workplace and ask for a discount. You shouldn’t, either.

Not at all. If they’re not going to be losing money, why not offer a discount? Particularly if you’ll refer others and become a regular patron? And that’s for all businesses, not only restaurants.

Not to mention - would you rather make $100 a sale on 100 sales a year or discount it to $1 a sale if you make a million sales a year? Business isn’t about your margins - it’s about whether you survive and continue successfully.

Although there are some economic bounds for how I think a rational enterprise should price this service, I don’t think they really get thought through much. Corkage fees are just a function of the market environment - if a place is packed all the time, and sells a lot off their list, they can be decline to offer the service, or price it in such a way to give that message.

Conversely, if business is slow or they struggle with their own beverage sales, maybe they should consider some flexibility with corkage. As a prior commenter observed - not everyone who BYO’s is willing to buy off the list so they may not be cannibalizing their sales anyways.

Given how many restaurants fold, I have never understood why more don’t just charge something like 2 x price of lowest by the glass pour less a buck or something to reflect they don’t have to actually deal with corked wines, employee theft, spoilage etc. Adjust up/down if there is great stemware/service, or put limits (btls/table) if people are ordering a plate of fries and hanging out for 4 hours on a Friday with 4 bottles of wine.

It seems like (to me) that the professional restaurant group operators tend to be more rational about pricing corkage, although they are usually more likely to have food that was not made lovingly by the chef, and is just the product of kitchen staff working off laminated picture cards.

Not to be a suck up, but I really enjoy your thoughts on this, Howard. I really do hope you’ll join in the discussion more often.

I wonder how many times a restaurant has ever seen someone bring in multiple 375s. It’s interesting from a theoretical standpoint, and I’m not sure what a restaurant would do (they would probably not have any policy or history of practices so it would just be an improv), but it can’t hardly ever happen.

Well, you could also just be thankful that you’re allowed to bring in a bottle of wine. In New Mexico it’s illegal, so if you want to drink wine while at a restaurant you’re beholden to their offerings. Same for TX, if a full liquor license exists.

J

It is amazing how many people know how this restaurant ought to be running its busines, know better than the owners of the restaurant, and are willing to tell them how to run it and how to set their corkage policy.
To paraphrase my prior comment, the owners of this restaurant don’t come to your workplace and tell you that your pricing is all wrong. You shouldn’t, either. If you don’t like it, go someplace else.
Sorry to be so crabby, but there seems to be lots of threads started by people who want a discount on the corkage, for all kinds of different reasons.
I would like free meals. I would like to be Cary Grant. I would like to be 22 again. Not going to happen. But you won’t hear me complaining about it.
Yours in crabbiness, or in anti-crabbiness,
Phil Jones

You bet we’re thankful. That the wholesale wine and liquor industry hasn’t bought out our legislature to take away the freedom of restaurateurs to manage their businesses in whatever way they think works for them.

The 21st Amendment is a fascinating insight into the potential for government to abuse its power.

Although I look at it the same as four identical bottles, I have no doubt that 8 375s would be $400, identical or not!

It’s never a fairness issue in my mind. Is it fair that many restaurants don’t allow BYO? Sure, this is America, the owner should be able to do what they want. So if no BYO is fair, then how is giving the patron more options unfair?

Fair can still stink however.

Wonder if they would still charge the $200 if the bottle was corked?

I have lay people tell me how to practice medicine nearly every week so I bear no compunction when chiming in on how a restaurant should function best.