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Wine Mark Up

What do you consider to be an acceptable mark up for wine at restaurants? I know it can range wildly but I am curious at which point the mark up percentage goes from acceptable to theft. Is there a general rule of thumb that someone can suggest? Thanks.

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  1. Depends on the bottle really. For instance, I see crappy Kendall-Jackson on some yuppified steakhouse menus at darn near $30. I could buy the same bottle for $10 at my local liquor store... that's what I consider theft. Now if we're talking a '96 Chateau Margaux, that's a different story!

    1. Well, it used to be that standard markup was 100-200%. Now 250% is considered very common, with 200% at the low end of standard and 300% at the high end. Lower cost bottles are usually marked up more.

      In the end, what's fair is what you are willing to pay.

      When I see a wine list that is marked up too much for my taste, I sometimes order a glass of tawny port and sip it through the meal. It's usually the best value on the glass list, especially since you don't gulp it down anyway.

      Btw, one can do what many people in other countries do and water down your wine. Shock! Horrors! How uncouth! (But, it *is* "authentic"...)

      6 Replies
      1. re: Karl S

        I think if you're talking markup, you have to factor in that the restaurant is paying wholesale. So while the price looks like a 250%-300% markup on retail--it's actually a much higher percentage. So that crappy $30 Kendall-Jackson probably cost the restaurant $5-$7 bucks, tops.
        Markups are much lower on bigger ticket bottles, because no one will pay that percentage on a $100 (wholesale) bottle. It's what the market will bear, basically.
        In NYC, there's a little trend toward lower markups. The reason? Restaurants found that they generated good will, bumped up covers, plus, tables would order multiple bottles. They actually earned MORE profit in the end with less extortionate markups. Of course, this is in NYC, where you can get stinko and not have to drive home.

        1. re: nrxchef

          Yes, 3x wholesale will probably be 2x retail.

          1. re: nrxchef

            That may be dependent upon state laws, though. In PA restaurants do not receive a discount on wine; prices are set through state stores. The same is true in parts or all of MD. I would guess that some other states have similar laws, but they may be in the minority.

            1. re: nc213

              Of course, thanks for mentioning it -- I should have said depending on the state. In New York State, wines are seriously discounted for restaurants. Big buyers get even lower discounts, as the prices aren't particularly regulated.
              So I wonder if markups are lower in PA and MD, since the prices are regulated. OR are the retail prices lower to begin with?

              1. re: nrxchef

                In my experience the markups tend to be the same. 250-300% for inexpensive wines. Markups decrease as retail prices get higher (as others have said). To complicate (or simplify) matters, liquor licenses are expensive and limited in PA, so there are lots and lots of byob places. I miss boybs!

                In PA, the prices of wine and liquor are actually often higher than other places (like NJ right across the bridge) b/c there is no competition. The State of Penn buys all of the alcohol for the state and then sells it at state stores. It's an absurd system for many, many reasons. I've lived in MD for three years and I still don't understand how the system works. Prices seem high. though you can actually buy 6-packs of beer at delis, so that's cheaper than PA.

          2. re: Karl S

            I used to wonder sometimes if that(water down) wasn't done when a carafe of house wine came to the table. Can you still order by the carafe? Haven't seen that in a while on a menu/wine list.

          3. There's an excellent restaurant here in San Antonio, Bin555 that has 55 wines for $55. They are all bottles that retail for $35-40, so the mark-up is nothing.

            Franciscan Magnificat, Treana red meritage, Veuve Cliquot....

            Apparently the attitude of the owner is that he would rather sell more wine and let everyone have an enjoyable time. I wish more places would do this, in the meantime I'm working my way through the list!

            1. The current rule of thumb for most places is three times what they paid the distributor. So a lot of $10 bottles are $30.
              Less for more expensive bottles. Your food bill might be less than it needs to be when the place does a good business in
              wine. Theft? As long as the price is stated and you order it,
              it is never theft. The cost of keeping the doors open, the cost of complying with myriad local, state and federal regulations, the insurance, the relentless overhead---and the fact restaurants have the highest failure rate of any business tells you that it is not any easy thing to stay open. Smart restaurants carry bottles you can't find yourself, which can spare you that agony when you realize the bottle you just paid $50 for was on the shelf at Costco for $15. Let it go.

              7 Replies
              1. re: itsonlyfood

                Same overhead & ancillary expenses, even maybe higher, apply overseas, however restaurat markups are minimal compared to US. Case in mind: Italy. High end restaurant prices are never more than 25% on top of retail.

                1. re: RicRios

                  that's false. wine prices in 2- and 3-star michelin restaurants are comparable to similar u.s. restaurants. liquor licenses in europe cost pennies, and they don't have to pay employee health insurance premiums... among many other things.

                  1. re: hotoynoodle

                    I clearly remember paying at Pierre Gagnaire(3 star Michelin) in Paris 120 Euro (back when 1 Euro = 0.85 U$S ...) for a 1996 Chateau Rayas Chateauneuf du Pape that was retailing at the time in the US for close to $100. That same year I had that same bottle at Spago in Beverly Hills for U$S 250. This one I remember clearly, since that was the year I "discovered" Rayas, but by no means is the only example.

                    1. re: RicRios

                      i can only speak for the boston and nyc markets, and my last experience in france (with a more recent conversion for the euro -- more like 1 euro=$1.35) but i felt the mark-ups were similar.

                      and again, as i mentioned below, comparing retail and wholesale prices is a flawed equation. stores can get deals like mix and match and large case drops that restaurants simply do not.

                      if you feel the wine is over-priced, the answer is simple -- don't buy it.

                      1. re: hotoynoodle

                        And I don't.
                        For the last several years I've been BYOBing every time I go to a restaurant.

                        1. re: RicRios

                          And this is why restaurants can't survive. Everyone feels there is a conspiracy, when all they are trying to accomplish is stay open. Restaurants make 10% profit on average. That's 50,000 bucks annually on 500,000 in sales. With all the maintenance issues that come up, that quickly dwindles away to nothing. With consumer attitudes the way they are, we'll all be eating at T.G.I. McChili-Bee's very soon.

                          1. re: hollandshield

                            There are some restaurants that for one reason or another, have lower markups than other restaurants. Some places sell wine at the range of retail prices (iirc Plumpjack in SF for instance - they happen to have a wine store as well). Places like this are not common, but it's not something that the combined efforts of chowhound can't uncover.

              2. it's unrealistic to compare store prices to restaurant prices. a behemoth like costco negotiates a price based on purchasing 100s, if not 1000s, of cases of something. even a decent-size liquor mart will buy in 25 or 50 case drops for wines they move at great volume.

                no restaurant has the storage space for that, and it's often hard to fit a 5-case drop, even if you can get a better price.

                laws, taxes and distribution are different in every state, so prices vary wildly across the country.

                the profit from wine and liquor is what keeps most restaurants afloat. nobody is trying to "steal" your money. but the bottom line is the bottom line. any decent place will have some little undiscovered gems reasonably priced. try something new, maybe?

                1. If a restaurant is going mark up wine 300%, then they should at least serve it at the proper temperature, in a proper glass, make sure it is the vintage shown on the wine list, and offer to decant wines that would benefit from doing so. Granted, I do not expect this with a $7 bottle selling for $20, I'm talking about a $30 bottle for $75 - $90. The word is value.

                  1. True, very true. What restaurants try to do is find "little gems" that are relatively inexpensive and that not many places have access to. Chilean wines are(ooops, I mean used to be) a good example. Also, many little known Frence wines from the Loire or Lang. ect.....some of these can be found for pennies AND there may be very few available.....these wines may be inexpensive and marked up quite a bit. But, hey - I would rather pay a bigger mark up to discover an inexpensive wine....blah blah. A recognizable wine (i.e. KJ)IS, in my opinion, a rip off marked up 3x....boring, ect.ect.
                    On the other hand, if I pay $50+ for a bottle of wine at a restaurant....it had better be good......OR at least interesting!!!!!

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: morla

                      But what about all the not-so-good wine in everyday or lower-range restaurants? Same huge markup. And the by-the-glass thievery? Cheap wine and beer used to cost the same; suddenly wine is a high-ticket item and now a crappy glass often costs more than a cocktail.

                      1. re: Up With Olives

                        I thought that the price of a glass of wine was supposed to be the cost of the bottle to the restaurant. Then if they open it for you and sell no more they still break even.

                    2. A markup is designed so that the proprietor can make a profit from the business. Some just try too hard. There really isn't an appropriate markup. There are standard markups that consumers become used to paying. But any business person, yes restaurtant owners are business people too, will mark something up to as high as they think the market will allow.

                      Notwithstanding all the excellent replies those foar, for wine, I can only compare it to alchoholic beverages in general. If you knew how much the food and beverage industry marks up liquor and beer (even when accounting for the relative alcohol content), you'd wouldn't complain about wine mark ups.

                      10 Replies
                      1. re: lyndentodd

                        i've actually mentioned that in other threads. a bottle of premium beer wholesales for about $1.25, and most places here in boston will charge between $6-$8.

                        let's also figure food costs. most consumers understand a bowl of pasta costs less than a rib-eye from the business' end. a simple pasta entree may cost under $1 for raw ingredients, yet the menu price could be anywhere from $12-$25. when's the last time there was a thread whining about that sort of mark-up?

                        1. re: hotoynoodle

                          Well, almost, while the actual cost of items in that one dish may be $1, you have to consider total food cost over a longer period to include waste and prep for sauces and stock and stuff. I think the food cost is closer to 20-30% on average. And restaurants want wine to have similar margins, and I think that might be part of the problem. People don't mind paying the margin for food because the restaurant is preparing and creating the food. They are doing something at a level that most people can't achieve on their own. With wine, however, the restaurant is just opening the bottle, so we expect a shorter margin for such a task.

                          1. re: thirtyeyes

                            Oftentimes a restaurant will average food costs for menu as a whole. So, if the food cost for the $20 chicken dish is actually $2.50-$3.00, this offsets the cost of the $35 lamb rack whose food cost is $20-$25. Of course, part of this is figuring out how many orders of chicken vs. lamb you can expect, but it is almost impossible to charge for dishes strictly applying the 25-30% guideline for food cost per item. People have come to expect a wine list to span prices from the low $20s to the hundreds of dollars (reflecting a consistently applied markup formula), but everyone expects the food prices to fall within a certain range, say between $10-$20 for apps and $20-$40 for entrees.

                            1. re: thirtyeyes

                              most restaurants shoot for about 30% cost on food, obviously there are loss-leaders like rib-eyes and profit turners like pasta. any successful chef will know how to formulate a menu in this way. even doing this properly doesn't begin to pay for all the other costs associated with operating. kitchen payroll is astronomical, rent (my current owner pays $30,000 a month), insurance, equipment maintenance, licenses (a full-service liquor license in boston, when one can be had, costs $250,000), valet service, charity events and donations, etc. etc. trust me, those fees are not being paid by the extra $15 we make on your pasta.

                              as far as "just opening a bottle", i spend about 4 hours each week tasting with salespeople; another 2-4 hours placing orders; 10-12 hours putting orders away; 3 hours a week training staff. due to breakage, we spend approximately $800 a month on glassware. i maintain a wine inventory of $150,000 and have worked in places where it exceeded $300,000. i am available 5 nights a week to help guests select wines they will like, and take pride in designing a list full of off-beat producers and little gems of great value.

                              if you're at some crappy chain and drinking over-priced kendall jackson chardonnay that's your own fault.

                              1. re: thirtyeyes

                                So, you don't have waste, theft and breakage when it comes to wine and spirits? You have never gone to a restaurant and gotten a free glass of wine? and maybe tipped more, so the lesson to the waitstaff is, "give away more drinks and you'll get a bigger tip". Wine storage costs money; inventory costs money; over pouring costs money; glass ware breakage costs money; increased insurance, so if you drink and drive and kill someone costs money; paying people to serve the wine costs money; paying someone to clean the glasses you used costs money; AND the latest geneation of wine snobs has to have the best glasses, which break if you look at them funny! All of these are issues that wine and liquor stores do not have. That doesn't consider flowers, heat and air conditioning to the optimal temp for the oh so sensitive guests. etc......come on, think about it! the average customer has no idea what goes in to running a restaurant, let alone one that is very successful, and actually makes money.

                                1. re: wfo3chef

                                  I agree with you, but what an old topic!!!!! Almost 4 years old.

                                  I was just thinking the the day that I wonder if it's possible for the entire blogosphere/forumosphere to come to a screeching halt one day because there's just too much old stuff out there. I guess the techies will just build smaller and small memory hardware to hold it all. Don't you wonder where all this stuff really goes? I expect some of it hiding wherever the other halves of my orphaned sock pairs are hiding. ;o))))

                                  1. re: Midlife

                                    This is no more and no less than an old technology brought back to life.
                                    Talmudic dialogs operate exactly like that, but accross centuries.
                                    Rabi X issues an opinion, Rabi Y rebuts it, Rabi Z confirms Rabi X.
                                    Only problem is, most of the time X, Y and Z lived quite a few centuries appart.

                                    1. re: RicRios

                                      What a fascinating, and true, point.

                              2. re: hotoynoodle

                                Another winning observation. No restaurant that I know of can establish a food cost that low. It's simply impossible. Standard mark up for a restaurant is 4x what the ingredients costs. This hopefully offsets the amount of food waste. Once you get done paying the government, the insurance companies, your employees, their benefits, the utilities, the licensing fees, etc. There isn't much left. Get over your exaggerated assumptions please.

                                1. re: hollandshield

                                  I've personally achieved a food cost in the 30% range at more than one establishment. Maybe some of us are more proficient at our profession than others.

                            2. No matter how good you are and as a general rule, the financial success of restaurants in the US depends on their alcohol sales. It is the negative reason I give when people ask me why I don't open a restaraunt there.

                              1. I assume that wines will be around twice retail and that equals a markup of 300% for the restaurant. Corkage is my friend.

                                1 Reply
                                1. Restaurants generally mark up wines from 2.5 times to 4 times cost. Typically the high end wines will have the lowest mark up. Sometimes the lowest end will have the highest mark up. Wine that is available by the glass usually falls in these parameters, there is a cost of overpouring (no one really measures out the 5oz. priced for) and also waste from wine that is dumped for having been open too long. The average person has no idea how much work it is to run a wine program, the investment of time and money is staggering. Some states do not allow you to bring your own wine, others charge you a corkage fee. I will charge you $15 if you bring a wine to my restaurant. Keep in mind that in general you are not allowed to bring wine that is offered on the restaurants list. Bringing your own wine is a huge savings to the guest, so if price is a real concern, go pick up a good bottle and bring it with you. Cheers.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: TruDiner

                                    "you are not allowed to bring wine that is offered on the restaurants list"

                                    I am aware that this is the proper etiquette but do you actually refuse people who bring something on your list? I know of people who bring a carry-case of several wines (to avoidthe transgression) or who call ahead, but I would think that the majority of guests would be unaware of the correct etiquette.

                                    1. re: Midlife

                                      While most people know this and call ahead, or bring a selection as you have mentioned, I would graciously open their bottle anyway to avoid disappointing a customer.

                                  2. I was shocked to read on the Manhattan board that a New York restaurant charged $80 for a bottle of Austrian white that retails for $11.50. My math is not good but to me that appears to be an 800% markup. The restaurant is Le Bernadin, by the way...

                                    Can this be true?

                                    1. We live in Texas and I recently found out that a place we go to gets the wine they serve for about $5-$6 a bottle (because they buy so much from this place). But the "by the glass" price is $4.50! WOW! What a difference. Now, you need to know that this is a low-end place. No fancy wines, but still . . . never getting wine there again!

                                      14 Replies
                                      1. re: danhole

                                        That's just over a 4x markup. Pretty common for wine by the glass.

                                        1. re: KTinNYC

                                          But how common is the markup at Le Bernadin I mentioned...charging $80 for a bottle that allegedly sells for $11.50 retail??? (the retail price was on-line so the actual retail in NYC might be $15 or so but still...) ???

                                          1. re: erica

                                            These are more reasons to like living in N.J. where most restaurants (even some of the finer ones) are BYO. You're much more likely to go out for dinner more often if you don't have to add $30 to your tab for an $8-$10 bottle of wine.

                                            1. re: erica

                                              I don't know the circumstances behind the pricing so I can't really comment. Who knows maybe when they bought the wine the price was much higher and the price has since dropped. Then again maybe they felt that they could markup the price by 7x because it was so reasonably priced.

                                          2. re: danhole

                                            Why never buy wine there again? $4.50 is a terrific price for a glass of wine (here in NYC the average price is upwards of $8 or better for the cheapest glass of anything drinkable). Just because they buy in quantity does not lessen the quality of the wine they serve which would be a reasonable reason for not buying there.

                                            1. re: danhole

                                              I'd agree that 4x is pretty common. What many places do is try to cover their wholesale cost with the first glass. That way they are at break-even if they don't sell another glass before the wine goes bad.

                                              1. re: danhole

                                                Why are you never getting wine there again? The glass is $4.50. Sounds like a good deal to me. Sounds like the the owner is a businessman, negotiated a good price per bottle and is making some profit on wine. I think you should worry about what you're paying for the glass. I dont think you will see $4.50 per glass very often anywhere, casual or up-scale. Restaurant business is one of the hardest in the WORLD. They're just trying to stay in business...

                                                1. re: relaxpeople

                                                  It's not very good wine, and you are right that $4.50 is a good price, but this stuff is not worth that amount.

                                                  1. re: danhole

                                                    Isn't that more of a problem with the wine itself, and not the price, then?

                                                    1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                      If I am low on money I can go to the grocery store and get a bottle of this wine for about $10-$11, just to have some for a meal. Then I get more than 1 glass. (Granted it wouldn't be my first choice at all, and when I have the cash I buy the good stuff.) If I am in a bar and they want $4.50 per glass for the same stuff, then, in my mind it's not worth it. So it's a little of both - the wine and the price.

                                                      Another point is that this place is not a restaurant, it was a bar. I gave up on the wine at that place and just went ahead and spent a bit extra and ordered a Bloody Mary.

                                                      1. re: danhole

                                                        But if you analyze what it cost to make that Bloody Mary you're realize the markup is 4x if not even higher. It will drive you crazy if you think too much about it. Just order what you like and can afford and enjoy yourself.

                                                        1. re: KTinNYC

                                                          Exactly. The markups are always going to be high. If you overanalyze it, you'll never really enjoy yourself when you're out (my mother is guilty of this).

                                                          "...I can go to the grocery store and get a bottle of this wine for about $10-$11...".
                                                          Retail on this bottle is $10-11. This bar charges $4.50 per glass. There are normally four six ounce glasses in a bottle, +/-. 4x4.50=$18.00. Now knock the price to buy the whole bottle down a couple bucks, since a discount is always given. We'll say it costs $16. $16 for a bottle that retails at $11 is a FANTASTIC price.

                                                          1. re: KTinNYC

                                                            KT - I know that and figured someone would call me on it, but man, that bartender made a killer Bloody Mary!

                                                2. Many years ago I had an interesting discussion about this issue with the owner of a mid-upscale restaurant. I remarked that the wines in the $100 range on her list were great values compared to less expensive bottles; she said that the pricing was intended to induce guests to drink better wine because it would enhace their dining experience and improve their impression of the restaurant.

                                                  Details are lost to the mists of time, but it seems like she marked up all her wine by a modest percentage (25%?), then added a fixed amount to each bottle ($20?). So (assuming these numbers are correct) a bottle you could buy at the grocery for $12 was $35 on the list, while a $60 bottle was $95.

                                                  Our party ended up spending far more money on far better wine than we would have done if the markups were more in line with what seems to be the industry standard, and the restaurant made more money on our wine tab as a result. Seems like a win-win situation to me, and I've always wondered why more restaurants don't take a similar approach.

                                                  Of course, in restaurants where cost is no object to the majority of diners, it's in the owner's interest to charge what the market will bear. But most diners in most places are at least somewhat cost-conscious. Why not entice them a little further down the wine list by making the better stuff a comparative bargain?

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: alanbarnes


                                                    The sliding scale is a puzzle to me. I am usually into the mid-range wines, say US$150. While there are many restaurant wines less than that, but I'd much rather have something that is not in my cellar.

                                                    What I wonder about is the list that goes from K-J Vintner's Reserve at US$60 (for a US$8/btl retail wine) straight to the DCR's at US$6000. All too often, there is nothing in between. I find this more often in the Deep South, than in the other metro-areas. That raises my dander. It is as though they wish to make obscene profits off of the "low-rollers," and also from the "high-rollers." A good wine list should have moderate markups and a full lineup of wines to pair with the food offered. While I seldom quibble over the exact % of markup, I hesitate to pay for a list that is totally profit-driven with no consideration to the food from the kitchen.


                                                  2. I know that a restaurant will charge more for a bottle of wine vs what I pay for it at a store. I've heard various reasons for this - cost of liquor license, restaurants having to pay a supplier and/or not buying in as large volumes as stores etc. In the end, the mark up is acceptable because I know it's there so I will simply order a bottle that fits into my meal budget for that night. What I find unacceptable is seeing a markup so out of step with other restaurants' pricing that I, the paying customer actually notice it. It strikes me as plain greediness by the restaurant.

                                                    Case in point, beer prices I saw this week in NYC at 3 casual noodle joints all located within ~3 blocks of each other in the East Village:
                                                    22 oz Orion Beer at Ippudo - $9
                                                    22oz Orion Beer at Soba-Ya - $7
                                                    22 oz Orion Beer at Momofuku - $15... $15?!?! are you kidding me?

                                                    And you know which meal was the worst? Momofuku!

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: SeoulQueen

                                                      I noticed the booze markup at Momofuku seemed to be outragous.

                                                    2. Personally, I like the places that have a set "profit," that is added to the wholesale, or to the retail price of a bottle. However, this does not take into account cellaring a bottle for 20 years. Then, it depends on the wine list.

                                                      I' comfortable with 200% to 300% over retail. I'd rather pay a bit more, than have to choose from a list of the "usual suspects," regardless of the actual markup. I am more concerned with how well the wines on the list pair with the food.

                                                      While I know the general prices, both wholesale and retail, it comes down to the quality and the experience. I do not bother to closely calculate the markup.


                                                      24 Replies
                                                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                        I used to work for a steakhouse chain in Canada that had that policy (at least back in 70's/80's when I was there). For bottles that cost them less than $20, they added $5 to the price (IIRC); if the bottle cost more than $20, they added $10. Made sense to me, as the more expensive bottles didn't sell as well, so the carrying costs were higher. It used to floor me when I went to other restaurants at the time, and saw a bottle of Mateus (for example) which we sold for $12.50 going for $20 or even $30!

                                                        And, in Ontario at least, restaurants not only paid the same retail prices as consumers, they also had to pay an extra tax based on the volume of alcohol sold. So their costs were higher than mine.

                                                        1. re: KevinB

                                                          Perhaps, but your restaurant probably didn't have a very serious wine program. If a restaurant owner invests $1800 for a case of Shafer Hillside Select, is the $120 he's going to make off of it worth his initial investment? Not even close.

                                                          1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                            Well, this was in the late 70's/early 80's, when a bottle of Dom Perignon (the most expensive wine we had) was $45 CDN at an Ontario liquor store. I'm sure if wine prices had been higher, the flat fee would have been higher as well - as I noted, the rationale was "we sell a lot more of the cheaper wines than we do expensive ones, so we need a higher markup on the expensive ones to make up for the cost of carrying them". In your example, I could see a markup of $60-75 on a $150 cost reasonable, since I doubt the owner would go through a case every two or three weeks.

                                                            And, on very old vintage wines, like 82 Bordeaux, I can see an even higher markup justified as carrying costs for 25 years! But I've seen 200-300% markups on wines that aren't particularly distinguished; that's what I object to.

                                                            1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                              So a restaurant that charges retail prices for wine doesn't have a "serious wine program"? It causes me great distress to know that one of my favorite places (Passionfish, Pacific Grove, CA) is so frivolous. The 2004 Shafer Hillside Select, which is available for $210-400 online, appears on their wine list at $230. I would feel sooooo much better if the wine cost $500 or more.


                                                              Seriously, restaurants that price wine near retail are the exception rather than the rule. But they're out there, they're profitable, and they're no less "serious" than the places that take the more traditional restaurant profits or gouge their customers with confiscatory markups.

                                                              1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                Yep - those restaurants may not be "normal" but as chowhounds, we're not looking for normal, we're looking for exceptional. I know of a restaurant where the wine prices are lower than auction (not retail, because those wines aren't easily available retail). They still make a profit on wine because they were careful at investing when wine prices were low, and because they are extremely savvy at buying and selling cellars.

                                                                  1. re: RicRios

                                                                    I left out the name intentionally, because the folks at that restaurant are good friends of mine (I used to eat or drink there 3-5 night a week for several years and befriended the folks there) and there would be a conflict of interest if I were to recommend a restaurant belonging to friends. The restaurant is well known and there's plenty of posts about it, so it's not that I'm holding out on a hidden secret.

                                                                    1. re: limster

                                                                      OK, I can live with that, and your ethics are appreciated - still, what neighborhood? What are the cross streets? As a "yank," who finds himself in the UK several times per year, and loves wines, a hint would be greatly appreciated. Two hints would be even better! [Grin]


                                                                        1. re: limster

                                                                          Oops! Wrong continent. Wrong side of the "pond."

                                                                          Heck, I was all ready to book them in October!

                                                                          Thanks for reporting,


                                                                1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                  Similar to your example. Locally, we had a steakhouse that had the Ch. St. Jean Cinq Cepages '96. They had 5 cases of this wine and sold every bottle of it at US$55. The wine was released at about US$27, and then re-released at US$35. I bought many bottles, including the last. In Denver, a similar steakhouse had 4 cases of this wine. I knew the sommelier very well from a previous gig. They offered this same wine at US125 initially. WS voted it wine of the year and the price went to US$450. I asked why. Answer was, "because we can get it." Later, I visited again, and asked about this particular wine. They still had 3 cases of it, and the price was now down to US$200. There was a notation on the wine list that it was the WS "Wine of the Year."

                                                                  Now, who made more profit? I do not know. I've not seen the books from either. Who sold out at what I would call a "slight" markup? We can see who that was. Who still had some of that wine, even at a reduced, based on their high-watermark? That is clear too.

                                                                  Personally, I do not expect even retail on a wine list. I know what goes into purchasing and storing fine wine. I do it every day. The overhead must be paid. A profit must be included. I just feel that it should be fair, and not "obscene dealer markup." Though I can most often afford it, I am just not comfortable paying it and resent being charged for it. Yeah, personal, but that is what drives me.


                                                                  PS have not done Passionfish, but thanks to your comment will look into it. We do several donor events in CA, and some get up to Monterey. Normally, for our personal dining, we'll do Fresh Cream (not in the last few years, as we've not been that far north), but will definitely add your rec.



                                                                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                    Passionfish isn't exactly a spot for a "donor event." It's pretty casual and very reasonable. If I lived in town I'd be a regular.

                                                                    The staff is well-informed and enthusiastic, and the chef prepares consistently good and occasionally brilliant food. But the wine list will blow your socks off. The only downside is that it's hard to pair their best food with the great reds they carry. Seafood is their forte, and the white wines are well-selected and equally well-priced.

                                                                    Take the donors to Fresh Cream, extend the stay for a day, and treat yourself and your lovely wife to a dinner at Passionfish.

                                                                    1. re: alanbarnes


                                                                      That sounds like a plan! If my wife and I can squeeze an extra day (hey, I don't get to Monerey/Pacific Grove often enough. Besides, my wife deserves a night off - just the two of us, with no donors, or having to beg for $'s. Sounds great.



                                                                  2. re: alanbarnes

                                                                    I found the notion of Mateus used as the example wine funny. Calm down, yo.

                                                                    I respect and seek out places with reasonably priced lists. I also understand why most places mark their wines up to more than retail.

                                                                    1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                      Okay, I'm with you on the Mateus. But I seem to recall trying to impress a date with a bottle of Lancer's. If you were born before 1960, feel free to sneer at me. Otherwise, I'll go all curmudgeon on your ass.

                                                                      I know you know wine and respect your opinions. Just don't get too enthusiastic defending The Man.

                                                                      1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                        1978, so no sneering allowed.

                                                                        The markup at my establishment is less than 100% (on the pricier bottles, at least ((example: Clos Apalta, WS's WOTY was $90))). I hate wine rape. I respect The Man who wants as many people as possible to buy his wine, but make a hefty enough profit to stay in business.

                                                                        I think we're on the same side of the fence here

                                                                          1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                            I see that I am not the only one to get the reference. However, when it was around, I was already an aging adult, and you folk were drinking on forged ID's... [Grin]

                                                                            Actually, just the other evening, I was involved in a Lancers, Mateus discussion. Now, most of the crowd remembered their parents, or grand parents talking of those - hey, I lived those days, and I can actually remember them - for a short while and in little foggy snippets, if the meds are working...


                                                                            1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                              A "fence?" You're not talking about stolen wine here, are you?

                                                                              Seriously, a 100% markup, even over normal retail is really a bargain. I'd say that you were more interested in patrons enjoying good wines with meals, and hope that you're also making enough to stay in business yourself.


                                                                    2. re: KevinB

                                                                      There was a survey in a trade magazine about 10-12 years ago, that indicated restaurants that had a lower markup actually made higher profits, because they sold more wine. Once, I had a link to that article and the survey data. That is long gone, and I have never been able to access that, even amongst the trade. I have no idea how this would play now, as it's at least a decade ago. Still, something similar to what you describe, with a good wine list for the cuisine, *seemed* to be worth the efforts.

                                                                      I only wish that I could find that data, and even better, a more contemporary study.


                                                                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                        there was also a survey about 5 or 6 years that showed the wholesale prices of premium napa and sonoma wines had increased upwards of 300% in a decade. especially wines of extremely limited allocation like araujo and peter michael. market differences only amplify this -- a california buyer is paying far less than i am here in new england.

                                                                        in the last few years with that weak dollar, it's highly challenging to buy new releases of better known d.o.c.'s and appellations that can be passed on at value to guests. even something like a marsannay or a rully is no longer a steal.

                                                                        if your cellar is deep, you can continue to hold pricing on older bottles. if you don't have that space, or an owner willing to carry inventory, you're in a bit of a bind.

                                                                        i've worked for owners who will only consider formula pricing, i.e., every bottle has the same mark-up and some who want to charge whatever they can get, i.e., jordan or silver oak in a famous steak house. regardless of my philosophy, i work for the MAN, lol.

                                                                        1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                          Interesting study that you cite. Do you happen to recall a link?

                                                                          I only wish that I could access the study on profits vs markup, but it was probably 12 +/- years ago, so may not even come close to be relevant now. Still, way back then, the actual profit was not linked to markup, and less yielded more profits. Only wish that I had the bookmark now, and that the link would still be active. I'd share that one, if only I had the danged thing.

                                                                          Still, you make very good points, and it is appreciated that you're offering them from the "house side," as most of us only see things from the "patron side." There can be similarities, but are more often different and for different reasons.



                                                                          1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                            it was an industry publication, but my declining faculties aren't helping me remember which one. :)

                                                                            1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                              Dang! We're in the same boat. The study that I am referencing was a trade journal in a client's office. They were in the commercial ice-maker business, and had several different restaurant journals. One day, I hit upon that article and the statistics from the survey. I read with great interest and barely finished before my meeting started. I should have asked for that copy, but did not.

                                                                              Oh well, it is likely that some other group will do similar, especially as the general economy changes. The newer data will me much more useful.



                                                                  3. I know it's been a while but I stumbled on a couple of Markup & Margin equations that can help clarify what the terms actually mean. Margin tends to be a better gauge as to how much the restaurant is making:

                                                                    Retail is what you pay at the restaurant
                                                                    Cost is what the restaurant paid

                                                                    Markup % = ((Retail – Cost) / Cost) X 100
                                                                    (or to define your Markup as a seller, Selling Price = Cost x Markup+Cost)
                                                                    Margin % = ((Retail - Cost) / Retail) X 100
                                                                    (or to define your Margin as a seller, Selling Price = Cost/100%-Margin)

                                                                    Got the info here:

                                                                    It's useful for budgeting wine lists before going out when you have the internet for research