Should I pay corkage if I bring wine to a restaurant?

Posted by Jay Lee & Peter Koff MW on 6th Feb 2019

We bring wine to a restaurant for various reasons. We have a special bottle for a special occasion; we may not like the restaurant’s wine list or perhaps their markups are too high. Some restaurants, will allow you to bring your own bottle (BYOB) without a charge. Most restaurants will allow you to bring wine in but will charge you a corkage fee.

Beverage sales are an important part of restaurant sales and usually have good profit margins. The restaurant also invests in wine for the enjoyment of its patrons and that amount can be considerable. Except in special circumstances, it is fair to pay a corkage fee to give the restaurants some of the lost income and to compensate them for serving the wine and providing stemware. Corkage charges should be reasonable. A humble restaurant with a limited list, limited wine knowledge and inexpensive glassware should charge a lower corkage fee, if any. High end restaurants with extensive lists, wine knowledge and fine stemware, deserve to charge more. Restaurants should also understand why diners bring their own bottles as it may be an indication of an unexciting list or excessive markups!

Some restaurants take the view that they are all about the food and charge very modest corkage fees and sometimes none at all. In this situation a larger tip than usual would be appropriate. We do need to encourage this kind of attitude with respect to enhancing our dining experience.

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