Monday, September 14, 2009

BYOW Etiquette

During a recent visit to Loire restaurant on Harbord Street in Toronto, our somewhat large group opted to bring our own wine. The owner/sommelier, Sylvain, agreed to $25/bottle fee up to 1.5L (which was the size we brought). No problem. I get it. Restaurants are in it to make money. OF COURSE. But when the fee turns to $50/bottle at the end of the night, simply because the owner decided they needed to turn a bigger profit, I say it's entrepreneurial gluttony. And, a surefire way to elicit a serious piss-off factor.

Here are some 'rules' of BYOW:
  • check in advance if there is a corkage fee and if there are restrictions (like number or size of bottles)
  • don't bring your own wine just to avoid restaurant prices; you will pay more for a bottle at a restaurant, yes - but you are paying for service, stemware, maintenance of a great wine list, and part of general overhead
  • don't try to serve yourself and expect a discount on the corkage fee
  • don't bring a wine that's on the restaurant's list, it's rude
  • depending on the establishment, corkage fees could be the amount of profit on the restaurant's least expensive bottle (typically priced at three times wholesale, so if it cost the restaurant $10, you would pay $30 ... corkage would be around $20)
Now, did we follow all the 'rules'? Maybe not. But the fact of the matter is we were gouged. Perhaps the owner relised $25 per 750ml bottle was more adequate and changed his mind last minute. But simple business sense says keep your customers happy and you will keep them coming back. I don't know about you, but I find unannounced price increases are generally not well received.

So, be a good little restaurant goer and brush up on BYOW etiquette. And, if you're a restauranteur, don't be a dink. Honour your pricing. After all, bad press travels a lot faster than good.


  1. No question the last minute "price adjustment" was unnecessary, particulary given the size of your group that night. Having said that, I wouldn't want jokers showing up every night to my establishment armed with their magnum bottles, etc. I think the most unfortunate part of this scenario is that the owner had an opportunity to educate his patrons as to the challenges of the industry rather than sending them away with a bad taste in their mouths.

  2. Agreed, JWK. I refer back to an earlier post, "service matters"; an extension of which would include the entire restaurant staff and plain business decorum. Unfortunate, for sure.