About The Author:

"Roger, The Wine Guy" is Roger Yazell, CWS. He is a member of the International Wine Guild and has had a long time admiration of wine. After careers in broadcasting, advertising and marketing account management, he explored his love of wine in hospitality, wholesale and retail sales. The intent of Roger's Grapevine is to share stories, history and information that will add to the reader's love, enjoyment and appreciation of wine and sake'.

Questions, requests for topics and comments are always welcome via email: rogerthewineguy@gmail.com.

(Note: The Wine Guy is currently undergoing chemotherapy and this blog will be on hiatus for the duration and into a recovery period. The Wine Guy is planning to celebrate his recovery with a trip to the two wine producing regions in Argentina and that should provide for some interesting new blogs. Meanwhile please enjoy the archives and feel free to email in the interim.)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Restaurant Wine Pricing Part II - BYOB

In the last blog, The Wine Guy discussed restaurant wine pricing. Before I move on to other subjects, I would remiss if I did not devote some space to BYOB (Bring Your Own Bottle) restaurant dining. While most consider BYOB as a way to counter restaurant wine pricing, it’s more suitably applicable to the confident diner who wants to enjoy his favorite wine selection and welcomes the assurance of pairing his choice of wine with the meal.
Although it’s always been around, BYOB dining is generally believed to have taken popular hold in the 60’s and 70’s. There is a lot of debate over whether the practice originated in the US or overseas but it can be found in most locales today. Chicago has a guide that lists over 250 such facilities with little or no corkage fees. BYOB is popular in many eastern seaboard cities (New Jersey has a special BYOB license) and its popularity extends to Australia and New Zealand where some claim the boom in BYOB restaurant dining began in the 60’s.

BYOB can a thoroughly enjoyable wine dining experience for both you and your favorite BYOB restaurant but it IS important that you develop some understanding of the common sense “rules of the road” in BYOB dining.

Let’s discuss first, BYOB as it applies to restaurants that have a wine list and sell wine as part of their dining service. Some of these do and some do NOT permit BYOB beverage service. Most will charge a “corkage fee” in connection with the opportunity to be served your own wine. Here are some suggestions and recommendations when considering this type of restaurant.

1. Always call ahead and ask the restaurant to explain their BYOB policy: Remember, allowing BYOB is a service. The purpose of your call is not to debate the restaurant’s policy… you’re gathering information to simply determine, as a consumer. if this is a reasonable service you want to avail yourself of.
2. Determine the corkage fee, if any. Corkage fees will vary greatly. Recognize that a high corkage fee is sometimes the restaurant’s way of discouraging BYOB without having to entirely prohibit it. A corkage fee is generally considered reasonable if it does not exceed the lowest priced standard wine on the restaurant’s list.
3. Be sure to determine if there are limitations. Some restaurants with lists will only allow BYOB if it is a wine they do not provide. Here, you may inquire about policy exceptions if it makes sense. As an example, a special anniversary may require, for sentimental reasons, a particular vintage of a wine that’s carried by the restaurant but not in the vintage required. Explain the reasons for your request and ask politely. Most good restaurateurs will try to accommodate you.
4. If your waiter provides wine service for your BYOB wine, be sure to always include the cost of that wine when calculating his tip.

Some restaurants do not sell wine but allow BYOB service. Many of the same protocols as discussed above apply but there are also some special considerations.

1. These restaurants may or may not charge a corkage fee. As with the facilities discussed
above, it is suggested you acquaint yourself with the restaurant’s policies prior to arriving
with bottle in hand.
2. It is generally customary in these types of BYOB facilities to offer your waiter and host a
complimentary “taste” of your BYOB wine, if permitted by law and by the restaurant. This is particularly true in restaurants that are strictly BYOB and do not charge any corkage fee. As with facilities above, always include the wine cost in calculating your service tip.

An important and special precaution when doing BYOB restaurant dining: It is incumbent upon you, as the diner, to be sure that your BYOB consumption on premise is in compliance with your state and local liquor ordinances. As an example, it was mentioned above that New Jersey has special BYOB liquor licensing. The New Jersey law allows consumers to bring in and be served liquor bought off premise in these facilities. Some enterprising owners have printed “wine lists” showing prices from a nearby package store that is then phoned and delivered to your table. Not only does the owner violate state law by engaging in this practice but so do YOU.

The one serious disadvantage of BYOB dining is that responsibility and liability for on-premise alcohol consumption shifts almost entirely to YOU. When you chose to BYOB, the Wine Guy urges you to be conversant, not only in your wine selection, but in the applicable laws and regulations covering on-premise alcohol consumption and in the transportation of alcoholic beverages. Do your homework and be safe.

BYOB dining for the wine enthusiast is fun and delightful. It allows for the enjoyment of your very favorite wines, the ones you enjoy at home. Properly done, It also opens the door to greater camaraderie and fellowship in dining. Additionally, you may discover that many BYOB restaurants focus on the food and atmosphere and can be great dining experiences in their own right.

If you live in or visit Arizona, The Wine Guy happily recommends one of his favorite BYOB facilities: Giusseppe’s Italian Restaurant in Scottsdale. Strictly BYOB, this restaurant has no corkage fee and requires you open your own. It’s a modest, family style bistro with limited seating but offers good service and, more importantly, some great pasta dishes. They do a better job with cheesecake than their tiramisu but other than that, nearly everything on the menu is delicioso. Come early, the kitchen closes at 8:30pm but the food is good, the service is good and the owner appreciates and enjoys wine. It’s a delightful place to dine with your favorite Chianti, Montepulciano or Ripassa.

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