Knowing that alcohol is one of the biggest moneymakers for restaurants, I’m curious what the breakeven point is for the rare restaurants that don’t charge corkage fees. Is it ten people per week who were motivated to come because of the friendly corkage fee? Twenty? Or more?
I also wonder if restaurants that charge a $50 (or higher) corkage fee worry about losing business due to their high fee.
Knowing that corkage fees can be painful for both patrons and restaurants, I wanted to do some research on best practices for corkage fees. A warm thank you to the writers of these five articles, which were chock full of suggestions:
- The Corkage Fee: Two Sides of the Cork – Maurice DiMarino
- Corkage for Dumies – Lettie Teague
- The Etiquette of Navigating a Corkage Fee – VinePair
- All About Wine Corkage and Corkage Fees – Fork & Bottle
- Corkage fee helps put a cap on wine expenses – Irene Virbila
Best Practices for Corkage Fees – for Patrons
- Call the restaurant – to find out how many bottles you can bring and what their corkage fee is.
- Don’t think of the corkage fee as a way to save money. Think of the corkage fee as a convenience charge for getting to bring a very special bottle of wine, perhaps one that is so special, you’re concerned about whether you can cook a nice enough dish to go with it.
- Don’t bring a cheap wine. That’s an insult to restaurants that spend time putting together their wine lists. Plus, a cheap wine, coupled with the corkage fee, often costs more than makes sense.
- Check to make sure the wine isn’t on the restaurant’s wine list.
- Don’t bring the bottle in a paper sack. Bring in a nice carrier, or just have it in your hand.
- Let the waitperson know that you have a bottle, and then let them take over. If you’d like the wine decanted, ask for that. Treat the wine as if you ordered it from the restaurant.
- Offer a taste to the sommelier, your waiter or the manager, but don’t expect this to be an excuse to not be charged a corkage fee.
- Tip generously, as if you purchased the wine from the restaurant. The server opened it and served it to you.
Best Practices for Corkage Fees – for Restaurants
Maurice DiMarino offered these suggestions for restaurants:
- Work to improve your wine programs, providing a wine list that is exciting and intriguing and has fair markups.
- Be honored when guests bring a special bottle into their restaurant. After all, they could have gone somewhere else.
- Be generous. If the patrons are supporting your program by buying a bottle or two, consider waiving the fee for the special one they brought.