HOME > Chowhound > Wine >

Discussion

Restaurant Ripoffs: Wine and Water

I'm getting to hate restaurants, especially because of their ripoff policy on wine pricing. For example, recently at the Bryant Park Cafe the cheapest wine on the list was $30. Not so bad--but I know they got it for about $6 wholesale (Beverage Media Monthly tells all!)

Latest scam: selling tap water! Pretending to respond to environmental concerns about the waste involved in bottled water (glass and plastic, shipping over long distances) some fancy joints are not filtering tap water and selling it for $6+ a bottle.

By the way, eco-pals:Restaurants that use "reverse-osmosis" filtration are the worst offenders. This kind of filter WASTES 5 gals of perfectly clean municipal tap water for every gallon of filtered water it delivers.

Anybody for BYOB? How about restaurants that encourage BYOB--are there any?
(I know there are plenty that try to kill it by charging ruinous corkage fees--and would be glad to hear from 'Hounders about excesses they've experienced.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
  1. Clarification needed, Bill:
    "some fancy joints are not filtering tap water and selling it for $6+ a bottle"

    did you mean to say "are NOW filtering tap water..."?

    1. Interesting thoughts on the H²O, I have run afoul of some of the water situation in some spots, but it has not been a big issue.

      With regards to wine, a study was done about 10 years ago by the restaurant industry (wish that I had a link handy), that showed when most restaurants cut their wine markup, their sales AND their profits soared. Too bad that more restauranteurs did not see this study. However, most restaurants seem to be run by MBA's and their view of a "bottom line," is often skewed from the real world.

      Many restaurants could stand to revamp their wine list, offering fairly priced wines, that pair with their chef's food, from the lower end all the way to the to the rare cult wines. In New Orleans, a great food town, I find that too many shops offer Kendall-Jackson Vintner's Reserve for US$60/btl. then jump to the top-end DRC Burgs at US$6000/btl. Nothing in between!

      As for BYOB, I only utilize this, when I have a "special occasion" wine, that I want to share with my wife, or good friends. Otherwise, I work the wine list, as best I can.

      Hunt

      2 Replies
      1. re: Bill Hunt

        Worse wine offender is some hotels relabelling two buck chuck, calling it their Private Label, and charging $30 (that's fifteen times retail, or ten times retail if you're in a state where Charles Shaw is three buck chuck).

        1. re: Pei

          Yewe-e-e, that hurts! I am always suspicious of "private labels." I have been burned, more than once with such marketing. One, in particular, still hurts and it was six, or so, years ago. Of course, it still hurts that restaurant, as I have vetoed board dinners there on about four occasions.

          Roy Yamaguchi does a lot of this, but many of his "private labels," are from Brian Babcock, Central Coast, CA, and are usually good wines, and good matches for his menus. Still, I'm not a big fan of private cuvees, lables, etc. Most are poor and marked up way too much.

          Hunt

      2. I don't know where you are but if a restaurant in my area was going to charge me for tap water I would be getting up and leaving. I don't get the reverse osmosis thing as the only situation I've ever heard of that being used is in large scale desalination plants.

        As a far as wine prices, I generally agree that a lot of restaurants go nuts with the markup. I have a very good friend who is an importer and I know what restaurants he sells to and the prices. When I go to those restaurants, he tells me what the best value is on the wine list.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Den

          RO is used in large desal projects (all you in California may see a couple down south soon) but smaller home units are available as well.

        2. I have to agree with you on the wine pricing. As most of you know, I work for a high end Napa Valley winery. Our wine can be found from $150.00 in some parts of the country all the way up to $400.00 in others. In my experience, I have found the smaller markets have the most mark up.

          As a winery representative, I can only suggest pricing. I cannot dictate it. One thing that really iritates me is when a restauranteur tells me my wine doesn't sell well, and it is marked up to $400.00 a bottle. Well of course not, it is signifigantly overpriced. AARRRGGGHH!!!

          8 Replies
          1. re: chickstein

            this may not be the best thing for wineries but I think I've noticed a bit of a trend here in San Diego to expanded 'by the glass" lists. This is something I really appreciate as it makes it easier to match each dish and I get an opportunity to try one or more wines that I may not have tried previously. The places that do this also seem to be a bit more user friendly on prices.

            1. re: ibstatguy

              I've noticed more half bottle selections out west (Las Vegas and California). I really like that and wish the midwest would catch on.

              1. re: Cookiefiend

                I find this to be a real "plus" with a wine list. I always make a point of letting the sommelier know how much I appreciate the half-bottles, even if we have done a pairing, or a couple of full-bottles. We often dine as a coupe, and appreciate the ability to do, say 3 half-bottles to work with the full meal. If we have 2-6 other diners, it's not a big deal.

                If you let them know how much you like it, more will be doing it.

                Hunt

                1. re: Bill Hunt

                  We'll keep trying!
                  That's the best way to learn about wines as well - to find out if you like a particular wine or not!

                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                    The selection of half-bottles is the measure I judge a wine list by the most. My wife and I are big fans of the 375ml format as it allows a bit more than a glass each which is often what we're looking for on a weeknight out. For longer dinners, it also allows for the half bottle with starters or first course and a full bottle with the rest of the meal. It really opens up the possibilities for choosing wine for the meal.

                    1. re: ccbweb

                      There are only a handful of cities that are really 375ml friendly (at least in my world). I can sell 375ml bottles in New Orleans all day. I can't give them away in Birmingham. Since my winery makes so few half bottles, for resons too numerous to list, I would not even offer half bottles to Alabama and give more to Louisiana.

                      Each city has its own personality.

                      1. re: chickstein

                        Interesting observation - thanks. The trend in halves in NO must be a fairly new one and I'm glad to hear it. In my days there, wine was usually low-end (horribly marked up), jumping to rare Bdx. and Burgs at even MORE obscene markups. Glad that things are changing. I never spent any time in Birmingham (your example), so I have no clue as to how wine is thought of there. Though once close in size and not that distant (mileage wise) from one another, I would guess that there is a major social difference, that would show up in wine lists.

                        Yes, halves are not cheap for the winemaker, and sometimes a headache to the restaurant. That's why I heap praise on anyone, who takes the time and $ to stock them, especially if they pair well with the cuisine.

                        Thanks for the info,
                        Hunt

                      2. re: ccbweb

                        Hear - hear. Even if I do not partake of the halves on a list, I always let the server/sommelier/manager know how much I appreciate the offerings.

                        Hunt

              2. Water first: Chez Panisse has stopped selling bottled water. Good for them! One can only hope it spreads.

                Now wine . . .

                Unlike chickstein, I am OUT of the wine trade after 35 years -- having worked for retailers and restaurants, wineries (both in production and marketing), wholesalers and importers.

                When I bought wine for a restaurant, I worked in a small wine bar in Santa Cruz, CA (11 bar stools, 14 tables). No liquor lisence, we had beer and wine only. Three beers on tap, 24 by the bottle. Wine list was 200+, with 20+ available by the glass -- changing frequently.

                Our wine list pricing policy was simple. Rather than working on a percentage-based mark-up policy, we sold wines at a flat $5.00 over the Winery Suggested Retail Price. (Today, I'd probably mark the wines up $10-15, depending upon the cost of the wine.) The result was a $20 bottle at retail was a very affordable $25 on our list; a pricey bottle -- say $100, sold on our list for $105.

                We sold a lot of wine, and had very little BYOB -- but we always welcomed that, too.

                11 Replies
                1. re: zin1953

                  I would love to see that these days. It drives me crazy when a wine I can buy at the local grocery store for $7 is on the wine list for $35-40. C'mon. Even an almost 200% mark-up at $20 would be ok.

                  That said, i now tend to pass on alcohol at restaurants b/c i feel the mark-up is criminal. If I really want a drink with the meal I go for just a glass of wine.

                  1. re: stolenchange

                    Drives me crazy too -- but I usually take a different route. Rather than abstain from ordering wine, I pick one that's generally not available in my local stores. A lot of great restaurants here have relationships with wineries that get them bottles us mere mortals can't normally get our paws on. Alternately, I'll order something with a little age on it. Yeah, it's expensive, but it never feels like a waste.

                    I actually believe having a kendall jackson on your wine list *at all* is the mark of a bad restaurant. I've gotten up and walked out of places with awful lists like that.

                    1. re: oolah

                      oolah,

                      For the most part I agree with you, why buy something that you can easily get at the store. I haven't seen a K-J I wanted to drink since the '97 Cab, but they used to make some very good wines. Not much anymore, but they are a good "restaurant" wine in that they are a known name and many people are comfortable with drinking them. I tend to BYO for the most part unless I go to a place that has a great, and reasonalby priced wine list. Mainly because my cellar is better than many restaurant lists (of course there are many restaurants here in DC that have much better lists than I can produce from the cellar) and much of what I collect will never show up on a restaurant list because it was made in such small quantity and is highly allocated. These are the wines that are fun to take to a restaurant that has people who know wine. You would be suprised how many times I've had the sommelier come over to see what I brought (but then I normally buy from the list even if I bring something) for him/her to taste. I don't think I've even gotten up and walked out of a restaurant because of its list, but i certainly have not gone back to lots of restaurants because I could find just as good food at a restaurant that did have a decent list. (However, I have to admit that since I live in Montgomery County, MD, I am often forced to eat at restaurants where I love the food but that have nonexistant or horrible lists, but that is the county's fault, not necessarily the restaurant's.) Where I tend to be sure to go to a restaurant just because they have a great list is where there are holes in my cellar, great Burgs, old Bordeaux, etc. Sometimes that gets me in trouble however, because I can't resist that wine I've always wanted to taste, and damn the cost.

                      1. re: dinwiddie

                        Round numbers for the sake of discussion . . .

                        I've always found that -- when it comes to wine lists -- there are three types of restaurants:

                        1) Places which are "tied-in" to a specific wholesaler -- they may carry wines from more than one source, but they rely on one company far too much to have a truly good list; no one company has it all.

                        2) Places that carry only (mostly) the "big names," mark them up like crazy, and think they'll sell a lot because they have all the hard-to-get wines. They may. But the majority of the people I know who are serious about wines (in or out of the trade) will either BYOB, or go there only on someone else's nickel.

                        3) The places who are really "into" wine, and know that a great list need not be huge, have all the big names, nor have sky-high prices. (For examples, think A-16, Bacar and Slanted Door in San Francisco, Lalime's, Pizzaiolo and Chez Panisse in the East Bay, and Lotus of Siam in Las Vegas.)

                        Again, just my $0.02 -- YMMV

                    2. re: stolenchange

                      Depending upon where you live . . .

                      Yes, BYOB is always an option, but I've rarely found a restaurant with a good list that doesn't have a few bargains -- or at least, reasonably priced. FWIW, whenever I find a restaurant with a ridiculously priced wine list, I always let the manager/sommelier know. They are costing themselves business, and -- to generalize -- when restaurants mark up by percentages, they make far less money charging corkage than they do by selling a bottle. So, by not buying a bottle, and explaning why (in a nice, constructive way), they just may realize they are costing themselves money! (It's happened more than once.)

                      Just my $0.02 . . .

                    3. re: zin1953

                      Zin1953 & Chickstein:

                      Since you are/were in the business, do either (or anyone else) recall, and have links to the restaurant business survey from about 8 years back, showing the additional profits realized by reducing the markup on the wine? I alluded to it earlier, and have searched for a link to it. IIRC, it was re-printed in an article in one of the Usenet NG, but I have not found it archived there. Any assistance would be greatly appreciated.

                      Hunt

                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                        Bill, I *vaguely* remember the article in question, and it certainly echoed my personal experience on the restaurant side of things . . . but I can't remember where I saw it. It may have been originally published as part of Ronn Weigand's newsletter, or . . .

                        I don't know. Let me see if I can find out . . .

                        1. re: zin1953

                          Appreciated. I will continue to seek the source. I've spoken with a number of restauranteurs, and many echo the findings. They price their wines very fairly, sell a good deal more, and make more profit. Of course all of these, whether chef-driven, or even in a resort location, have been folk, who understand the place of good wine, with the food. Most did not have a bunch of MBAs to answer to, so they did what was needed to 1.) sell more wine and 2.) make more profit. In any case, the diner was the real winner!

                          Thanks,
                          Hunt

                        2. re: Bill Hunt

                          Sorry for not responding, I have been traveling this week. I don't have a copy of that article, but I know what you are referring too.

                          1. re: chickstein

                            I'm very patient, so do not worry. When/if you find it, please share a link. Thanks, and hope that the travels have been fruitful.

                            Hunt

                          2. re: Bill Hunt

                            When I worked in the restaurant business I always worked for a larger parent company, for better and worse. These large companies like Marriott set there wine budget at a pour cost of 28%. I would always plead with my manager to let me lower the costs of wine and I would try to explain that we would make more money through volume. This was always to no avail. My managers inevitably answered to higher managers who answered to corporate people who said the budget was 28%.

                        3. C'mon over to Philadelphia, where you'll have your pick of many, many restaurants, all cuisines, all price ranges, designated as BYO. And many don't even have a corkage fee. Philly may be lacking in some areas, but it may well be the most BYO-friendly metro area in the country. http://marksquires.com/byob.htm

                          22 Replies
                          1. re: CindyJ

                            Yes, but you have to deal with the PLCB . . .

                            1. re: zin1953

                              As a matter of fact, the ever-growing number of terrific restaurants offering a BYO option enables consumers to bypass the restrictions and taxes imposed by the nonsensical PLCB. I'm fortunate in that I live only 3 miles from the PA/DE state line, so I never have to shop for wine in PA. Consider, too, that Center City Philadelphia is situated just across the Delaware River from NJ, and that those living in Philly's westernmost suburbs are straddling the PA/MD state line.

                              Rumor has it that it's illegal to tote alcoholic beverages across the state line back into PA, but, given the number of stores selling wine, liquor and beer that are situated mere feet past the PA border, I don't think Pennsylvanians are intimidated by those rumors. The parking lots of those stores are jammed with cars with PA license plates on weekends, and I've never known anyone caught or fined for "bootlegging."

                              1. re: CindyJ

                                >>> I'm fortunate in that I live only 3 miles from the PA/DE state line, so I never have to shop for wine in PA. <<<<

                                Fortunate indeed!

                                BYOB varies across the country, of course, by state. Here in California, it's perfectly legal and a (relatively) widespread practice . . . within certain circles.

                                1. re: CindyJ

                                  What does the PLCB do that is nonsensical? Just curious.

                                      1. re: zin1953

                                        It could be worse, you could live in Montgomery County Maryland where the county is the only legal wholesaler (and all stores and restaurants in the county may buy only from the county) and they 1) have lousy service and selection, and 2) mark up the prices 35% above what wholesalers elsewhere charge. And they wonder why everyone drives to DC or the surrounding counties to shop for wine.

                                    1. re: tom porc

                                      A number of things. Their most egregious offense, in the eyes of most of us, is that the state of Pennsylvania purchases all of the wine/beer/liquor first, then resells it to customers, effectively creating a monopoly and elminating competitive pricing.

                                      1. re: tom porc

                                        Simply stated, the state government should not be in the business of selling alcohol. The PLCB is a bureaucracy whose useful life has passed. It deprives consumers of choices and eliminates competition. Their argument that they are the watchdogs that prevent sales of alcohol to minors implies that no private seller is capable of doing the same. State store employees are not well informed about the products they sell, and are not qualified to even make a wine recommendation; that's not their job. That's for starters -- I could go on and on.

                                        1. re: CindyJ

                                          Besides that, their argument that they prevent sales of alcohol to minors is a moot point, when you consider that the beer distributers are not state-run and neither are the bars who sell six-packs out of their coolers.
                                          The PLCB is in it for one thing, and that's to make money for the goverment by monopolizing liquor and wine sales and taxing the crap out of them before selling to Pennsylvanians who don't have much of a choice. There's no such thing as competition. If I want a certain bottle of wine, I go to a PA liquor store and pay whatever they want me to pay. If they decide they want to charge 20 bucks, I have to pay 20 bucks. I can't drive down the road to a competitor, because all I will end up in is another PA liquor store that sells the same bottle for...you got it...20 bucks. Instead, I can choose to drive to NJ or DE and pay 15 or less...which, if you believe what the rumor is, is illegal.

                                          Don't even get me started on all the rules and regulations about shipping wine into PA either. God forbid you be able to get it shipped directly to your home. Oh no, you have to have it sent to a local PA liquor store, where they impose all the proper taxes upon it before letting you have it.

                                          The first time I walked into a grocery store that had beer and wine for sale (I believe it may have been Florida?), it was like heaven.

                                          1. re: QueenB

                                            It all points out the enormous strength and influence of the PLCB, which, when you think about it, is kinda scarry. My impression is that they're a bunch of thugs holding Pennsylvanians hostage -- or at least trying to. Funny, too, how when Ed Rendell was campaigning for governor, he stood up for privatizing the state liquor stores, but once he was elected the whole issue just slipped off his agenda. Makes me wonder who threatened him, and how, but NOT if.

                                            1. re: QueenB

                                              I guess this explains why there are so many liquor stores in the Camden/Cherry Hill area. And I thought everyone there were alcoholics. Forgive me.

                                              If PA controls all alcohol in order to reduce underage drinking and driving, has there been less drinking/drunk driving noted? Fewer car accidents at least?

                                              Also, I dont think they can prohibit personal wine sales carried into the state as it would be unconstitutional. Something about restricting commerce across state lines. However, they can expect you to pay use tax on your out of state purchases on your income tax forms or other method they have developed.

                                              1. re: tom porc

                                                tom,

                                                As far as PA is concerned, direct shipments of wine into the state are prohibited. One gallon (approx. five 750ml bottles) may be brought in tax free if purchase while abroad can be demonstrated; state markup and taxes apply to foreign purchases in excess of one gallon. Certain military personnel may personally bring in tax free up to one gallon of alcohol lawfully purchased.

                                                1. re: zin1953

                                                  NJ doesnt permit mail order either but you are permitted to carry in a gallon of wine although you can transport more if you pay a $50 fee to the Div of ABC.

                                        2. re: CindyJ

                                          I can't tell you how many times I toted cases of wine home from Delaware. The PLCB needs to go. Just a cash cow for the PA government, as far as I'm concerned. There are few things I miss about PA, and the PLCB and their "Wine & Spirits Stores" aren't one of them.
                                          It's nice to actually go to the grocery store and buy beer and wine, as opposed to having to go to two different places, one that's basically a monopoly.

                                          1. re: QueenB

                                            There is one good thing about the PLCB. Since they are the largest single buyer in the US, they are able to negotiate some deals that are not seen in other states.

                                            1. re: chickstein

                                              What kind of deals are we talking here?

                                              1. re: QueenB

                                                I speak from experience here.

                                                A Sonoma Valley vintner, VERY respected, makes a Sonoma County merlot. An amazing merlot. The suggested retail on this merlot is $40.00. Parker gives it a 90 and WS gives it 91 points. The winery is small, but has a good vintage (1999) and has quite a bit of wine. When it is time to sell this wine, Sept. 11 has happened, the stock market is down and a movie called Sideways comes out. No one is buying a $40.00 bottle of Merlot. Mr. Vintner has vintages backing up and investors want to know how the sales force is going to sell the wine. Do you discount the wine, bastardizing your brand? Do you sell it to restaurants only for a really cheap price and run the risk of angering the retailers who help you sell your other wines? Don't forget you have a lot of Cab and Chard that needs to sell through too! Or do you make a deal with the PLCB for a "private" label wine?

                                                These are the deals I am talking about!

                                                1. re: chickstein

                                                  Okay... whisper the name to me, I'll put on a pair of dark glasses, and hope that (1) no one I know sees me enter the state store and (2) no one sees me leaving with a case of merlot.

                                                  1. re: chickstein

                                                    Interesting scenario. I'll bet that it happens (albeit not quite in the "Perfect Storm," setting, that you describe) often. This is where the marketing department/firm earns its keep!

                                                    Some vintners have built-in second-labels, etc., that can easily come into play. Others just do not do a "Reserve" bottling (yes, some vintners do something special with their "Reserve" bottlings, as you well know) and grapes from some of their single vineyards, etc. end up in the must for the regular wine. Was it '89 that Chuck Wagner did not do a Special Selection for his Caymus, but just put all of his grapes into one hopper, so to speak, making the best "regular" Caymus Napa Cab, that he could.

                                                    Thanks for sharing,
                                                    Hunt

                                                2. re: chickstein

                                                  The benefit of that volume negotiation is virtually lost to the consumer when you consider that the cost of each bottle of wine sold still includes the 18% Johnstown Flood Tax, imposed back in 1937. The only entity that makes out in the negotiation is the state. That's one more reason to NOT support the state liquor stores and the PLCB.

                                                  I also read recently that prices of the much-touted "Chairman's Selections" -- wines advertised as having outstanding value because of the negotiating power of the PLCB -- are impossible to compare with prices in other states because many of them are bottled and labelled uniquely for sale only in PA . Therefore the identical bottles don't exist anywhere else.

                                                  1. re: chickstein

                                                    Costco, not the PLCB is the largest single buyer in the US. (If you get to count the folks at the PLCB as a buyer, you have to be able to count Costco, they are both retailers of wine.)

                                          2. Restaurants tend to over-mark-up less expensive wines and take less of a mark on expensive bottles. Bad strategy -- the average consumer knows the prices of the lower-priced wines and when they see a rip-off, they assume all of the wines are overpriced. I recently had an experience at Simon on Las Vegas that was really irritating -- they had Falesco Vitiano on their list for $40 -- I just bought this at Cost Plus for $8. Five times retail is a joke.

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: Husky

                                              I have yet to run into a restaurant that charges for tap water (although there were restaurants that did so years ago when there were severe water shortages at the beach)

                                              Wine markup however, is always a bone of contention, but you don't have to buy wine if you don't want to pay the price. As Husky said, the lower priced bottles tend to have the highest percentage markup, with higher priced bottles less so. But it costs a restaurant to have wine on hand, especially if they store it properly. I object when a restaurant marks up a wine that I can buy for $10 to $40, but then I probably wouldn't buy it in the first place. (You guys know I'm something of a wine snob.)

                                              Here in DC there is quite a bit of competition among restaurants, and for that reason, there are many places where you can buy wine that hasn't been marked up so outragously as to be obscene. Several that come to mind are:

                                              Dino with lots of Italian bargains and all wines listed between $10 and $20 over what you'd pay at a retail store, regarless of the level (i.e., a 2005 Di Leonardo Grave del Friulia for $21 or a 1991 Ridge Monetbello for $225)

                                              Tallula which offers more wines under $30 a bottle than any restaurant in the area (of course it has a wine store so that makes it easy)

                                              Corduroy (absolutely wonderfully priced Burgandies like a 1999 Savigny Les Beaune, Dominique Laurent for $62)

                                              and even Citronelle which has an expensive list with over 700 selections from around the world (with strengths in Burgundy and Bordeaux) but still more than 160 bottles priced $60 or less. (and a fantastic sommelier in Mark Slater)

                                              Others with well thought out and reasonably priced (if sometimes small) lists include Bistro Bis, Obelisk, Firefly, L'Auberge Chez François, and the Tabard Inn. And beleive it or not, Legal Sea Foods has a good, well priced list.

                                              1. re: Husky

                                                That's what I noticed in Vegas. Lots of cheap stuff at huge markups, lots of name-brand stuff at huge markups, but a number of really great wines at more reasonable markups in the $60-80 range. You have to really study the lists.

                                              2. I am with you completely. I hate being ripped off. I am very lucky, I am in Montreal, where BYOB restaurants are plentiful and fantastic! Really great food, and no corkage. The restaurants have no alcohol at all, and you are expected to bring a bottle! There is no better way to eat out... If you are ever in town, you should look up one of these places.

                                                In a restaurant with a wine list, I am happy to pay top dollar for a rare bottle, or a special bottling that is unavailable in regular liquor stores. A carefully thought out wine list is a thing of joy. But if the wine list is full of bad bottles marked up for some crazy amount, I'd rather drink (tap) water than pay too much for boring bad wine. And I love wine! but you can only stand for so much.

                                                3 Replies
                                                1. re: moh

                                                  Just to play devil's advocate here...

                                                  A restaurant needs to use its wine markup to pay for a lot of associated costs including liquor liability insurance (HUGE) service training, proper storage, making back the initial cost of the license (in some places as high as $150,000 in others as low as $7,000) and all associated inventory and glasware.

                                                  Now, obviously taking 3buck chuck and marking it to $30 is unacceptable. For that reason I only stock wines that are not sold retail or are only sold at boutique wine shops. But for people to think that wine should be sold at a price comparable to retail is ridiculous as well.

                                                  Funny how people go after restaurants all night and day for everything. Rarely do you hear people complaining that McDonald's charges $1.50 for the Coke they paid 3 cents for.

                                                  Now, before people jump on me screaming obscenities... mind you I think most restaurants ARE charging obnoxious markups... but some TRY to be reasonable and TRY to at least make the selection interesting. Maybe go after the real enemies... law suits, taxes, and government alcohol control... and don't forget MADD and the other groups that believe the answer to all society's ills would be adding new higher taxes to alcohol every year.

                                                  1. re: lebelage

                                                    You do have a valid point. I have never heard anyone complain about the price of beer in a restaurant or that a Filet Mignon now costs $38.00 for an 8oz. cut. Only the price of wine.

                                                    1. re: lebelage

                                                      Well put. I don't mind if a restaurant's markup is two or three times markup from retail. Anything beyond that and they're just losing my wine business. It's nothing for me to get riled up about.

                                                      People are happy to pay for what they're used to ($1.50 for a three cent coke, $60 for a $20 steak, $5 for a small scoop of ice cream after dinner) but get their hackles up with the charge is something new, even if it's logical or something they would pay anyway ($10 corkage, a mandatory tip, markup on wine)

                                                  2. Jfood came to this site for the "water" aspect and will start a thread later today. But as far as Jfood is concerned the resto can mark up wine all they want to cover the cost of the food for those of us who do not drink.

                                                    The problem with wine is that it is easy most times to know an approximate cost. I give people credit for knowing the price of vintages across the board and their ability to say, "Hey I can buy that for $25 in ABC Liquor Store." That's the problem, knowledge. Do the same for the entree. Four ounces of salmon at $5/lb wholesale, three asparagus spears ($1.25), some steamed cauliflower ($0.75) and some lemon juice ($0.15) and the dish costs $26.50. No problem with that ~3-6x mark up? So why should wine be different? I know the chef has to prepare and cleaning, etc. but the wine has a carry cost and a cellar and the risk that it goes bad. The resto is taking a long term investment in wine but a short term investment in the salmon. How about $38 for a 6 oz filet, that's probably $5-7 wholesale (could be a 7x mark-up).

                                                    And most restos do not make it for financial reasons.

                                                    But wrt water charges. When a resto starts charging the jfoods for tap water (and sometimes that's all we really want) I would probably hope they understand that this is fairly unpleasant and allow us to bring bottled water w. If not either the jfoods leave or pay to play.

                                                    Bottom line is the resto has the right to charge as they see fit and the custo can decide to order and pay or they can leave. Nothing is forcing the custo to order or pay.

                                                    1. Why doesn't anyone ever complain about the cost of beer in a restaurant. Wholesale many common beers cost 50 cents. But they sell for $4 - $5.

                                                      I mean why do restaurants have to make a profit anyway. it's insane!

                                                      1. Some thoughts to chew on. The restaurant I work at marks up wine 300% over wholesale which is a fairly standard markup in our area. So far this year we are operating at a 2% profit margin which isn't too bad all things considered. As I write this the owner is washing dishes, she washes dishes after the rush 5 nights a week generally to about 3 in the morning.

                                                        This is what we have to do to keep the doors open. For something to be a rip-off it is implied that the person doing the ripping-off is receiving some sort of unearned gain. The fact of the matter is that our "outrageous markup" on wine is our entire profit margin and then some. Many people seem to want restaurants to opperate at bankruptcy pricing. Few get rich in this industry.

                                                        8 Replies
                                                        1. re: Somnifor

                                                          Thank you Somnifor. I've seen this same ridiculous thread too many times to count. I'm always amazed at the number of otherwise intelligent people who join the rant against "evil" restaurants trying to stay in business by earning a profit.

                                                          1. re: Somnifor

                                                            I don't think anyone is complaining about restaurants like yours. There's only one place near where I live that bugs me, and it's because they have very few wine options, one of which I buy at a local chain for $6 per bottle (vinho verde), and they sell for $26 at the restaurant. The online menu lists what wines are available, but not the prices even though the print version of the menu is nearly identical, just with prices. That's dishonest. Their food is in general very good, and also pretty expensive, so I think they could easily have some better wines on the list with the standard 3x wholesale markup. Better wines would end up more expensive, but they could still get a decent profit out of each sale, and many customers like me would buy more wine. As-is, the food is good enough that I will return, but I only drink beer there.

                                                            1. re: SteveG

                                                              Why is it dishonest that they are not posting their prices on the web? It would be dishonest if they posted a price that was lower than what the menu price was. I imagine they don't post the prices on the web because if they need to raise the price of something they don't need to change their web page.

                                                              1. re: jpc8015

                                                                They post prices for the food, which is entirely based on market availability of fresh fish, they post prices for beer, sodas, and everything else but wine, where they have markups of over 400% of retail on certain wines.

                                                                I know cheap wines are often marked up more as a percentage, because they need to recoup service, storage, stemware costs and other similar slices of overhead, but in this case the wine is opened by the cashier and the customer is given a tray of glasses and the open bottle of wine. It's a pretty efficient process, in fact more efficient than drawing a pitcher of beer.

                                                              2. re: SteveG

                                                                Remember, the cheapest wines are almost always marked up the most.

                                                                1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                  This is absolutely true. The cheapest or "house wines" are always marked up the most; especially when sold by the glass. In every restaurant I've ever worked in we would pay for the entire bottle of wine plus a few cents when we opened a bottle to pour one glass out of it. Every other glass poured out of that bottle was profit on the bottle.

                                                                  On the other hand, Wines on the high end of the list were marked up as little as 15-25 percent. You will always find your best values somewhere in the middle of the wine list.

                                                                  1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                    Yes, but this place only offers cheap wines despite charging premium prices for their admittedly good fresh fish dishes. I don't begrudge them the $20 markup on the bottle of wine, I'd just rather it was a $20 markup on a $20 bottle of wine, not a $6 bottle of wine. The price difference to me as a consumer would be much less than the increase in quality.

                                                                    1. re: SteveG

                                                                      Friend, I hear what you're saying, but a $20 markup on a $20 bottle of wine is only a 100% markup, which is rare.

                                                              3. I ordered a club soda at the Border Grill in Santa Monica, and they brought me a quart size milk bottle, with a lid, of restaurant filtered and bubbled water. Price - $1.50. I thought that was reasonable, actually. And it tasted good.