Saturday, May 12, 2007

A Question of Corkage

Such a thorny issue amongst both restaurantuers and of course amongst customers (in a slight irony it always seems to be the fairly wealthy that it causes the most problems with, wonder why?). I bring it up, because tonight I have a table of two who had originally asked to bring in their own wines, but then didnt like our corkage policy. So what is our policy?

In a nutshell, we dont allow customers to bring in their own wines. We are in the business of providing rooms, food and beverage, so why on earth would we allow folks to take two of the three and allow them to bring in their own booze. But like most things, we are slightly flexable in this rule. If there is a special bottle of wine that has some sentimental attachment, and importantly we dont list it, then I am prepared to negotiate a corkage fee. Generally we look at something like £50 per bottle, but that figure can be trimmed depending on what else you purchase from our list. In the past I have allowed customers to bring in some quite extra-ordinary wines, including a 1970 Pol Roger, some 1984 Claret that I had expected to be knackered (universally declared a terrible year, the wine was actually ok. I ended up halfing the corkage as a pleasant surprise.). I know of many restaurants that absolutely forbid BYO, and others are much more tolerant of the practice. Those restaurants tend to have less expansive lists and so feel it is understandable why someone would want to bring their wines.

We have quite an extensive cellar, currently numbering some 1,400+ bins, of which just over half are listed. By the end of this year I aim to have 75% of the cellar on the list in some form or another. We dont amass such a wide selection of wines for fun. Im not a trophy collector, building a list up with the best vineyards and vintages just to sit and look at them. We collect the wines in order to sell them, and so for someone to ask me if they can bring in their own Chassagne Montrachet when I currently have twelve Chassagnes on the list, I am going to say no. The people that usually ask to bring their own wines in, often justify their actions by saying that they collect wines themselves and so they are aware of the value of certain wines, and what they are really saying is that they dont want to pay our marked up prices. I can understand that, but what I dont understand is why they are happy to pay £55 for a three course meal that they could cook themselves at home from ingredients costing around £15. Its a kind of double standard.

So if you are thinking of coming for a meal, and you really want to bring a special bottle from your cellar what should you do? Firstly you should call me and speak to me about it. Thats just courtesy. I will be able to give you an idea how much corkage we would charge, and we can organise safe delivery of the wine in plenty of time to allow it to settle down after its journey. Be prepared to buy something off the list as well. If you have a special bottle of red that you want to enjoy with your main course, then you ought to choose the white from the wine-list. If we are getting a sale from the transaction then I am likely to be more flexable with the corkage charge. Whatever you do, dont bring some rubbish you purchased at the supermarket or down at Bargain Booze. Because then you are going to pay a full £50 corkage on some crappy wine you bought for £2.99. It makes you look cheap.

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