How BYO could work for restaurants

The concept of bringing your own wine to a restaurant and paying a corkage fee may be familiar in the US and Europe, but it is not one often locally entertained.

South Africans perceive it as cheapskate and thus something to be discouraged, but the past few years have not been easy ones for anyone. The world economic crisis has decimated disposable income levels, and eating out has become a luxury abandoned in favour of preparing a special dish at home and drinking wines bought from the bottle store.

Restaurants have legitimate reasons for discouraging BYO. Credit: AP

Maybe the answer for everyone is boxing clever.

Restaurants have legitimate reasons for discouraging BYO. Beverage consumption accounts for about 30 percent of restaurant profits, money that is lost when customers arrive with their own choice.

Owners still pay the salary of the waiter opening and serving that wine, for which they have limited profit (even if they do charge a corkage fee), and have the costs associated with cleaning the glasses and providing an ice bucket.

However, for consumers it is the opportunity to savour a restaurant atmosphere with a good bottle of wine of their choice. Wine lists are often overpriced – a 100 percent mark-up is not unreasonable, but there are times when that mark-up is 300 percent or more, especially on entry-level wines – or uninteresting because little attention is given to providing a diversity or including boutique or hard-to-get wines.

Maybe a compromise that would bring back customers is offering a no-corkage-charge night, possibly during the week when restaurants are typically quiet anyway. Another would be waiving corkage on the first bottle or on anything not on the wine list – especially considering it is fairly bad manners to bring a bottle that is already on the wine list and offered at an acceptable mark-up.

That may also encourage restaurants to apply some thought to their lists, particularly if they find customers regularly arriving with certain wines. It is undoubtedly food – or drink – for thought. - The Mercury