I just read this Facebook question: “What are your issues about Corkage Fees?” written by Bill Eyer.

This question was stemming from a thoughtful blog on the subject at Cruvee Corner Wine Blog, also written by Bill Eyer.

First, Corkage fees are defined as what one pays when he or she brings his or her own wine into a restaurant, rather than ordering wine from the wine list.

Being in the wine business, I’ve frequently taken my own wines into a restaurant. At first I used to get off on not having to pay those fees (because I could flash a business card and get away with it). Then I grew up, after I had given serious thought to what I was doing. I have no qualms now, whenever I have to pay that fee, and always leave at least a 25 percent tip for the effort, if I’ve not been charged.


Because I’ve come to realize the following:

  • It takes workers’ time ~ from getting stemware to washing stemware to storing it, replacing it, etc., (which equals money).
  • Whomever has hired the people to do the service has to pay more for the server’s hourly wage (regardless of how small that may be, that equals more money).

When you’ve managed a payroll, you see things differently and understand the complexities.

  • People enjoy the wine they’ve brought in, take their time over dinner (it takes more time to empty a bottle than it does if people are only drinking water or tea), and they linger at a table (that equals money lost by the owner)…
  • … A table where new paying customers could be seated, who might actually order from the wine list (which pays for that real estate).

When tipping the wait server, we tend to not give 20 percent for the service that was just provided, because it’s not reflected on the bottom line, if you didn’t have to pay for corkage.

Yes, some places charge outrageous fees for corkage that have been created  and obviously inflated to dissuade us from bringing in our own wine… which mostly is a money saving maneuver by most of us.

Yes, on a very rare occasion we’ll have a ’45 Margeaux that we’ve just got to enjoy, because it’s that important a day, but what are the odds of that?

Mostly, in today’s economy, it’s about trying to save money. And, if it’s free we have no reason to help the restaurateur to cover his costs of meeting (time) with wholesale and winery reps, doing their purchasing, using restaurant floor space for storing their wines purchased, menu costs (do wholesalers still pay for printing menus, then bill back the winery for that?).

What are your feelings? Do you bring in your own wine? When it’s a free service, do you give the wait server a better tip because he or she had to do the service for you? Do you stop going to a restaurant that charges outlandish corkage fees?

What’s going on these days in the real world of corkage fees? I’m not that in tune with restaurateurs to know what’s happening, and appreciate your thoughts.

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