The Rules of BYO

I am a wine geek. Some would call me a wine snob (they would be wrong), or picky (they would be right). Nonetheless, I am a geek. I have internet wine friends. I travel across the country for the sole purpose of drinking wine with people I have never met, and I have a list of numbers in my cell phone labeled only by the owner’s online “handle”. I am not the least bit ashamed about any of it.

Because of said geekiness, I almost always find myself bringing wine to restaurants. The reason for this is that, (a) I have a better selection than they do, (b) my wine is stored in a temperature controlled environment and (c) I NEVER want an $8 bottle of grocery store wine that costs $40 in some restaurant.

Many restaurants allow corkage, but it is always a good idea to ask the restaurant ahead of time so that there are no surprises. For the customer:

  • The reason to BYO is to bring a special bottle. This does not have to mean expensive, but it does mean that it should not be on the restaurant’s list. If you are unsure, call them and ask.
  • When you are paying a corkage fee, you should expect decent glasses. If you see someone at another table has good glasses, and they have served you crappy, thick, 8 oz glasses, you absolutely can ask for the better ones. Politely of course.
  • Don’t argue the corkage fee. You agreed to pay it, now don’t complain about it.
  • If the restaurant, or the waiter, does not charge a corkage fee, you need to tip more. For example, if the corkage fee is $15 and it does not show up on your bill, add at least an extra $7 to the total tip (on top of your ordinary tip)
  • Restaurants do not need to allow corkage, as they make lots of profit off of selling alcohol. Don’t be a jerk and ruin it for the rest of us.

The restaurants also have some responsibility here:

  • If you choose to allow corkage, make it reasonable. Anywhere from $10-20 per bottle is reasonable. If you serve $20 entrees and have $50 corkage, that is just offensive.
  • Supply decent stemware. They don’t have to be top of the line Reidels, but they should be large glasses, with a thin rim. If you need ones that can go in a dishwasher, use Reidel Os – they are stemless, break less often and are inexpensive. Plus, they are good glasses.
  • Waive corkage once in a while for regular customers. They will make it up to your server in the tip (see above) and they will remember, and come back often. You will more than make up for it in the long run.
  • Don’t have a long list of stupid rules. They are annoying, confusing and will seriously discourage people from coming to your restaurant. (Example: only 1 bottle per table or Tuesdays only from 5-7 PM)

Keep it simple and everyone wins, everyone is happy, and I for one, will frequent your restaurant often (assuming you have good food, of course).