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BYOB: Bringing Wine to Restaurants Grows in Popularity

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It's only to be expected that tough economic times will alter people's behavior and this, in turn, forces businesses to change theirs. When people have less money and/or are concerned about their jobs, they will eat out at restaurants less and, when they do eat at restaurants, they are less likely to order wine. What can restaurants do about this? One interesting idea is to make it easier for people to bring their own bottles of wine — BYOB to encourage people to come in and order food.

The signs that bringing your own is on the rise are largely anecdotal. Christina Preiss, a 27-year-old Chicago resident, said wait times at her favorite haunts that let customers bring their own are on the rise. More restaurants are also advertising special BYOB nights and more aggressively promoting the fee cuts.

Bringing your own beverages isn't allowed everywhere - the rules vary depending on where you live. But for eateries that can offer the option, it can be a way to boost traffic in tough economic times - especially for the fine-dining restaurants that have been hardest hit in recent months as even higher-income consumers cut back on pricey meals out.

Chris Cannon, owner of Manhattan restaurant Alto, decided at the end of last year to suspend a $60 corkage fee through September - a move he said has brought in more customers. ...

In Portland, Italian restaurant Serratto in March stopped charging its $15 corkage fee on non-peak days if customers bring in a receipt from either of two local wine shops. Wines at Serratto range from $22 to more than $100 per bottle, while a sauvignon blanc can be had for $7.50 at Cork, a nearby shop. Manhattan's Tribeca Grill, where bottles of wine start at $30 but can top $1,000, has eliminated its $20 corkage fee on Mondays.

Nick Valenti, chief executive of Patina Restaurant Group, waived the $5 corkage fees at all of his 15 California restaurants through 2009 except the flagship Patina in downtown LA.

Source: The Olympian

I have recommended before that if you want to have wine with dinner at a restaurant, bringing your own bottle of wine is often the most economical choice — even with corkage fees, you'll usually end up paying less for a good bottle of wine by purchasing it elsewhere. If a restaurant is waving the corkage fees entirely, bringing your own bottle of wine becomes an even better value.

If I managed a restaurant, I'd certainly experiment with waving corkage fees in an attempt to improve business. First, the publicity of such a move should draw more attention to the restaurant, perhaps bringing in more customers. Second, if people aren't paying as much for wine, they might spend a little more on the food — so while the restaurant might not make as much on wine, it's making more because people are at least coming in to the restaurant.

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