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Excessive restaurant wine prices -- Dallas

Bhutani Jun 12, 2007 11:35 AM

If you haven't read the article by Lettie Teague in this month's F&W, it is a good read about the absurdly high markups most restaurants charge for wine. She again single out Dallas (as she did in her previous article about steakhouse wines) along with Las Vegas and Miami as having higher markups than most. I can see why Las Vegas and partially why Miami restaurants can get away with charging 4-5 times warehouse prices for their wine. I am befuddled why Dallas restaurants fairly consistently charge more for their wines than you would find in either Austin or Houston (2 Texas cities that I am familiar with). Besides Lola, there are few if any restaurants where I do not feel that I am being pilfered when it comes to wine prices here in Dallas.

Any ideas about why Dallas is a unique case (the cost of living in Dallas is comparable to both Houston and Austin)? I am just waiting to get a diatribe from a sommelier who reads this post getting on his pulpit with claims that I know nothing about the cost a restaurant incurs with storeage/stemware, etc. Are these costs different in Dallas?

  1. c
    chickstein Jun 12, 2007 07:48 PM

    In a nutshell-YES! When you look at some of the more well known steakhouses in Dallas, they actually fall into a "dry" area. This means a Class B wholesaler must service them adding a layer to the wholesaler tier system. This adds 13% (I think) to the price. The upside to this is, they don't have to worry about calling 8-10 different wholesalers to place orders, they can place one order.

    2 Replies
    1. re: chickstein
      Bhutani Jun 12, 2007 08:16 PM

      Thank you for explaining that concept of which I was completely unaware. However, I don't feel any better about Dallas wine prices but I guess that partially explains some of the price gouging. However, places like Nick and Sam's (don't mean to specifically single out them as their prices are every bit as outrageous as every other steakhouse in town) shouldn't have to worry about that problem but they still have prices comparable to the wine prices in steakhouse restaurants in "dry" areas.

      BTW, does this class B wholesaler concept apply only to the acquisition of wines? If not, why do cocktails at most restaurants cost the same regardless of whether they are in a "dry" area or not.

      1. re: Bhutani
        c
        chickstein Jun 13, 2007 05:22 PM

        Because ALL liquor is sold through the Class B system.

        Nick and Sam's can buy their wine from a Class A or Class B wholesaler, providing they are not in a dry area. Del Frisco's is in a dry area. In some cases, a Class B wholesaler has a cheaper price than a Class A. Class B's have the ability to purchase quantity retail deals.

        Also, someone told me today that if you purchase a LIQUOR, BEER and WINE license you have to charge 12% tax on all alcohol (built into the price). This is not the case for a Beer and Wine license.

    2. Bill Hunt Jun 13, 2007 08:11 PM

      I think that it is (other than the mentioned additional tier of distribution) a case of "what the market will bare." Steakhouses are notorious for this. Their general clientele are less concerned with unit prices, and more with the whole-deal.

      A case in point was the '96 (?) Cinque Cepages, which was awarded the WS "Wine of the Year," a few years ago. In Denver (similar demographic to Dallas, though smaller), one major steakhouse had it at $125 (about $27 retail, upon release). Next visit, it was $250, shortly after the WS award. When I last saw it, it was listed at $450. I asked the sommelier, who I knew well from another restaurant about the price, and his reply was, "because I can get it with no questions asked."

      I see similar in New Orleans, Phoenix, Chicago, Las Vegas, and, to a degree, San Francisco. Hawai`i has similar prices, but then there IS the transportation to figure in.

      I'm so very glad that I've got a heavy-duty cellar, and enough great Bdx and Cab to last the rest of my life.

      I think that this is one reason, that I do not do "steakhouses," any more than I do. I can cook it as well, get the same, or better (Kobe #9+), and have major reds to go with it. Now, some other cuisines are far more than we are likely to undertake, so I frequent those, over the beef and high mark-ups.

      Hunt

      8 Replies
      1. re: Bill Hunt
        Bhutani Jun 13, 2007 08:38 PM

        For much the same reasions Bill, I don't do steakhouses either . Aside from the fact that the vast majority of steakhouses are bastions of culinary conservatism without any hint of innovation, they cater primarily to a corporate clientele that could care less about prices.

        Being a physician, in Texas no less, almost every drug rep I know constantly chooses from the vast array of boring steakhouses Dallas has to offer. They order their Cline Zinfandel or J Lohr Cab at 4 times retail without question. The amazing thing with steakhouses in Texas is that most will act bewildered (and sometimes even appalled) at the notion of bringing in wines from home b/c as they say "we have a x-number cellar with a wine selection to meet your needs". I am glad to see that someone out there shares my sentiments regarding American steakhouse.

        1. re: Bhutani
          p
          pinotho Jun 19, 2007 04:26 PM

          Bhutani : I definitely share your thoughts and questions about Dallas restaurant prices. They are so out of hand that they are silly. Like the man said , I charge it because I can get it . I think the best revenge is your own collection . I don't eat out nearly as often now , and the quality of our wine drinking has gone way up .

          1. re: pinotho
            p
            phattychef Jun 22, 2007 05:20 PM

            As a restaurantuer, I have to comment on a few things.

            The goal of a restaurant or any business is to make money. We absolutely do not want to offend our guest by the way of the prices, but if I know someone will buy a wine for $120 that is what I am going to charge for it. Some people will pay $300/sq foot for a house and others refuse to pay over $100. The goal of LBW cost and food cost is the same-get what you can while still bringing in the business.

            Again, making money is the goal here. Wine sales are huge in helping the restaurant make money in the end. Afterall opening the bottle is pretty much effortless. But the last thing we want to hear is someone trying to bring in their own bottle. We won't make a dime on it and everyone gets burned by it (the owners don't make the profit; server doesn't get a tip, etc.). This is especially the case when someone wants to bring in a bottle of everyday wine. However, I have let bottles come in before, particularly when the bottle is special (a 20 year old bottle, a cult wine that I can’t get, etc.) I think that should be the key when you discuss about bringing a bottle in to the manager. BTW-just because they don't carry your favorite everyday brand of wine shouldn't be the factor.

            Back to the high prices-I feel that a lot of guests are failing to notice that the wineries themselves are jacking up their prices every vintage (with very few exceptions). I think Jordan is a great example of this-I remember carrying that wine on the menu for $82 several years ago whereas today I am having to charge 120 + to keep the same profit margin for a relatively poor product. This is where my choice comes in if I want to keep it or not. If I have it on, I could make someone's day because I have their label, but at the same time upset them because it’s overpriced. A good wine director should steer you to a better product around the same price...it’s their job and trust me, we enjoy talking about wine. Most of these overpriced flabby wines are slowly finding their way off my list as I have found a ton of wines that have the structure to blow their doors off. After all-Silver Oak and Opus 1 are not the end all, be all of wines (unfortunately, their ownership thinks they are). The only way to stop the on-going of high prices is to stop buying them.

            Another thing to look at with pricing is the environment and atmosphere of the restaurant. I would much rather pay $100 for a bottle when the energy of the place can't be matched than go to another joint and pay $60 for a bad experience. You have to factor that in the cost too.

            In the end, you (the guest) makes the decision on where you want to dine. Just like me and the overpriced (that I feel) wines on my list...you can choose to not order wine or not to dine out. Restaurants are just like wineries...there are plenty to choose from which is why this business is competitive and for me, fun.

            BTW-TABC (Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commisson) charges 14.00% tax that is inclusive to every price. That means when the distributor sells to the store tabc gets 14.00% of that, when the store sells to the restaurant another 14%, and when the restaurant sells to you another 14%. Do the math, it adds up quick.

            1. re: phattychef
              Bhutani Jun 23, 2007 10:50 AM

              At least your honest Phatty. I am all about restaurants making a profit but there is a limit to what is fair and reasonable. I guess the fault does rest a fair bit on the shoulders of the consumers. Restaurant patrons may not be familiar with retail costs or where the value buys are. While it seems like the staff at your restaurant is happy to provide good wine advice to your patrons, this is definately not a univerisal phenomenon (I can't tell you how many times I have gotten frankly rotten recommendations from clueless servers making the improper assumption that I am completely green when it comes to wine).

              I guess it is going to take some sort of Dateline expose about the "fleecing of America" regarding the wine industry (I say this somewhat tongue in cheek) in this country before we as consumers push back. In NYC, where the cost of living is far higher than anywhere in Texas, there are plenty of higher end restaurants where wine lists on a whole are far more reasonably priced (this is likely a factor of more competition and a better wine-educated consumer base).

              BTW Phatty, I could rationalize your arguments until you got to the end. This 14% markup at each step of the distrubution chain is a pretty weak excuse. That in no way serves as justification for some restaurant's marking up 4 times what we as consumers can buy retail (and whatever costs anyone argues that restaurants in Texas pay for wine, it is not equivalent to retail).

              1. re: Bhutani
                p
                phattychef Jun 23, 2007 02:59 PM

                The 14% was more of an FYI comment. I was trying to rationalize about how quick the price does go up. Lets go back to the winery, if they raise their price by $1 a bottle, the standard mark ups on each level will just make the wine that much more expensive.

                Training the staff to make the appropriate recommendations is such a key. At my joint, we meet twice a month to taste 3 wines and most of the times talk about specific regions, I also make this mandatory. I try to implore my staff to not gouge our guests with simply expensive bottles of wine. If they can't sell a Gaja Sori San Lorenzo for 650 by telling the guest why Angelo Gaja's barbaresco is not a DOCG designate and what is special about it, I would rather they not sell it and instead focus on more stuff they can talk passionately about.

                I guess in the end it should be the 'strip club' mentality. Meaning that I certainly cannot pay the exorborant prices that a strip club demands (well sometimes ;) ) and this is the reason I am not a regular at places that charge this much for booze. However, most of them aren't hurting for business and I don't see them lowering their prices anytime soon.

              2. re: phattychef
                Bill Hunt Jun 23, 2007 06:49 PM

                Thanks for your perspective. Yes, wine, like all else, should generate profit, otherwise you cannot keep the doors open. I appreciate that. The restauranteur might also have invested in a good cellar, and spending the time, effort and money to keep it updated. I also have a cellar, although not a “commercial” one. I know what it takes to build the cellar, maintain the equipment, organize the wines and keep a database of my collection. I also am very, and painfully aware, of the costs of shipping, regardless of the source of my wine. To you, this is overhead. To me, it’s my life.

                I agree with you, up to a point. That “point” is “what will the client pay for this wine?” To me, the overhead is fixed, as should the intended profit. If I had two cases of a wine, marked on my list at US$60 and it went ballistic, whether from Parker, or WS, or whomever, I’d keep it at the list of $60. That’s what it takes to make my costs and a predetermined profit. I encountered a similar situation with the afore-mentioned Ch. St. Jean, Cinque Cépages, 1996. In PHX, a local steakhouse had it at US$55/btl. It went to the “Best Of... “ list, and they maintained the price. I bought the last three btls. for a meal with some friends and it was excellent with their fare. That same wine went from US$70 to US$450/btl. at a similar Denver steakhouse, “because I can get it.... “ That wine was a good wine. I still have 2 btls. of it in the cellar, though the last that I opened indicated that it was not aging well, still. Maybe a “dumb phase,” who knows? Still, I would rather pay for a “bargain,” at $60, and knowing that the restauranteur had paid US$25 and marked it up to meet their business model, than pay $450 for the “snob appeal,” and know that I am being ripped-off. That is just me.

                As for the BYOW, I am with you 100%. In the few situations, where I have brought my own wine, it has been VERY special, and I’ve offered some to the server, the sommelier, the chef and the owner. Plus, I have tipped, as though I had purchased the wine (at MY purchase price) at the restaurant. It’s the same as having a coupon for a “free entrée.” I tip on what the total bill should have been. As for bringing the a bottle, that is on the list, I would NEVER think of this. Besides being in bad-taste, I just could not bring myself to do this. Why?

                I understand the added taxation on the wines. I also understand the cost of maintaining a good cellar, plus the costs of service. Though I usually hire the servers, I do provide the glassware, and wash 99% of it by hand the next day.

                Now, let’s discuss a fairly recent study by one of the restaurant survey groups. Their findings were that in restaurants, where the cost, to the client, of wine, was more in line, the restaurant sold much more wine with the food. Also, each restaurant, in the survey, made more profit, overall, than did similar restaurants, that charged much more, and sold far less wine. I have been searching for a link to this survey, with NO success.

                To me, it’s all about the total experience. I cannot imagine a fine meal, without wine. However, I also cannot imagine paying 200% more for a glass, than I could spend for a full .75 btl. of the same wine, especially if it is a current, or close, release.

                I want the restaurants, that I really enjoy, to be there next year, and the year after. I want the restauranteur to be successful and to prosper. Heck, that’s what fine dining should be about. However, I do not want to feel, as though I have been taken advantage of. It might hurt me, as I know what the retail and wholesale prices are for many popular wines. Give me a great wine, paired with a great meal, at a fair price, and I will darken your door year, after year.

                Again, thanks for your observations. It is refreshing to hear from the supply-side of the business. I wish you great success and hope, one day, to sample your fare.

                Hunt

                1. re: Bill Hunt
                  p
                  phattychef Jun 25, 2007 05:37 PM

                  I kinda agree with you on where you stopped agreeing with me. I am, however, the guy that has 2000 mouton on for 1k. Honestly, I don't want to move it and I don't need to yet. But if someone wanted to drop that much, I would sell it. About 90% of my list are wines that I believe in and why they are worthy of the price in my building. The other 10% are the ones I have to carry to make certain people happy.

                  The best of "wine" is an absolute joke...and I would laugh if someone changed their price because of it. Smart restaurant move to make money, but if the wine is good the director should have picked up on it when he bought it originally. If it sucked, he surely shouldn't have brought it on just because of parker or the spectators rating.

                  I said before, the director or the sommelier should direct you to the value on the list. Its their job and they will probably teach you something for 'thinking outside of silver oak'. This is the quality of being at a nice restaurant (or it should be) and hence the rationalization of the price.

                  1. re: phattychef
                    Bill Hunt Jun 25, 2007 07:50 PM

                    Hey, who knows, there could be another Dot.Com boom, centered around Dell, or maybe some investment bankers from Mayfair, will drop in, thinking that your spot is Petrus - West! Just kidding.

                    I understand those additions to the list. We have a few, very wine-friendly restaurants, that keep a bottle of Screaming Eagle on the list at US$2K, "just in case." Also, Dallas has some parallels with PHX, where I currently live. There are folk with more money, than wine sense, and the "show," is often more important, than is the substance. Were I doing a list for a high-end restaurant, I'd include some "ringers," if I could acquire them at a fair price, or en premiere from the Ch. and not from a broker.

                    Again, thank you for the insight from the "trenches." By any chance, is your wine list on the Internet - PDF, perhaps? Don't get to Dallas much, anymore, but am always looking for a good restaurant with a wine list, that is matched to the kitchen.

                    Hunt

        2. z
          zin1953 Jun 23, 2007 04:06 PM

          There's oil in them thar hills . . .

          1. w
            Walters Jun 24, 2007 11:17 AM

            Bhutani, It's not just the Dallas steakhouses. I'm from the Pacific Northwest; on a recent trip to Dallas to visit friends we went to a local wine shop. Their price markup on Pacific Northwest wines was outrageous. It appears the owners picked wines they thought were obscure enough and figured their pricing might not be noticed. When it comes to wine in D-Town, buyer beware.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Walters
              Bhutani Jun 24, 2007 03:18 PM

              I agree Walters, but the most egregious culprits IMO are the steakhouses. I am originally from Houston and have resorted to making the majority of my wine purchases on trips back to Houston or on-line (still end up with significant savings after shipping). While you can find reasonable retail prices for wine in Dallas, it takes some research and often some patience.

            2. c
              chickstein Jun 25, 2007 09:03 AM

              I guess I want to know why no one has complained about the price of the steak in a steakhouse. I know I can buy an 8oz filet for about $13.00 at Central Market or Market St., but in a steakhouse I pay $42.00 for that same filet.

              19 Replies
              1. re: chickstein
                p
                pinotho Jun 25, 2007 11:59 AM

                Chickstein , I see a big difference between food items and wine . There is a lot of added value with the steak....they cook it , sauce it , etc etc .. If there is any added value to the wine , oh please explain it to me . And , please don't start about the storage , since the storage of wine is no more complicated nor expensive than for the steak . This ,IMHO, is the heart of it : you don't begrudge the restaurant their markup on food since they are getting it by the stint of their kitchen talent . The wine markup is by stint of nothing , IMHO .
                The restauranteur says his price goes up because the winery prices are up . BULL . He buys a wine for $50, sells it for a hundred , and he is happy with a $50 profit. When the price goes to $70 a bottle , he then insists on selling it for $140. Why ? He was satisfied with a $50 profit , so why didn't he remark the wine to$120. ?Restaurants in Dallas , and a lot of other places , gouge people on wine, and with the straightest of faces will say they don't . Stay home , learn to cook , invite friends over , you will be amazed at how much better your wine drinking will be .

                1. re: pinotho
                  p
                  phattychef Jun 25, 2007 05:21 PM

                  Typically mark ups are associated with a percentage, not a $ profit. It is typical for the restaurant to use a sliding scale pricing.

                  Your last line says it right...if you don't like the pricing a specific restaurants stay at home and drink there with friends. But if you want a good atmosphere and a social outlet (aka bar) be prepared to pay for drinks. Depending on where you want to go will depend how much you will pay for it.

                  Our goal (restaurantuers) again is to make money just like it would be for you in your business. I would love to give away food and booze just like the next guy, but then I would go out of business.

                  1. re: phattychef
                    z
                    zin1953 Jun 26, 2007 07:10 AM

                    >>> if you don't like the pricing a specific restaurants stay at home and drink there with friends. <<<

                    I would disagree. I like the food that Chef _________ prepares in her kitchen, but I don't like the fact the the wine list is prices at (generally) four times wholesale. I do NOT want to sit home and eat my own cooking all of the time. I want to be able to go out and enjoy the great meals prepared by Chef _________. So I am perfectly willing to pay the $25 corkage fee, bring in a bottle of perfectly mature wine from my cellar (that is NOT on the restaurant's wine list), and share a glass with Chef and the sommelier . . .

                    But to say that there is only the option of outrageous markups or "giving away" the wines is a false one.

                    >>> Typically mark ups are associated with a percentage, not a $ profit. It is typical for the restaurant to use a sliding scale pricing. <<<

                    Only twice in my life can I recall not being able to find a bargain on a restaurant's wine list. One of the signs of an excellent list is that there are some bargains, marked up below the "norm" for that establishment.

                    Some of the most successful wine programs in restaurants DO look at the $ profit per bottle and not the percentage.

                    Standard retail in the wine trade is a 50% markup for a 33% profit. That is, a bottle that is $20 wholesale is $30 at retail. (Standard retail in normal, non-discount stores is a 100% markup for a 50% profit; a $20 item is sold for $40.)

                    If a wine -- say a California Cabernet -- costs, at wholesale, $720 before any discounts, that translates to $60 wholesale / $90 retail. To mark up that wine according to a formula, that bottle may be anywhere from $180 (3x wholesale) to $360 (4x retail). Do you really need $300 beginning gross profit on a bottle to survive in business? And how many bottles will you actually SELL at $360, versus $180, or will you merely be "dressing up your list" and end up sitting on your inventory???

                    Better to realize the $120 profit and TURN your inventory! Or, indeed, mark up the wine by $$$ and realize what you need to make that way . . .

                    The cost of serving a white wine is the same regardless of type -- e.g.: the cost of refrigeration, glassware, etc., is identical if you are serving a New Zealand SB or a Grand Cru Montrachet; the same is true for red-to-red comparisons and sparkling-to-Champagne comparisons. The only variable is storage costs (how often you turn your inventory).

                    For years I ran a very successful wine program by taking a flat $ mark-up over retail. We took the same percentage markup as a retailer (50% markup; 33% profit), tacked on a fixed dollar amount, and put the wines on our list.

                    It worked great . . . .

                    Cheers,
                    Jason

                    1. re: zin1953
                      p
                      phattychef Jun 26, 2007 12:44 PM

                      >>>>Only twice in my life can I recall not being able to find a bargain on a restaurant's wine list. One of the signs of an excellent list is that there are some bargains, marked up below the "norm" for that establishment. >>>

                      A sign of a good wine list and someone that knows what they are doing. Another thing too, there are a lot of wines that never hit the shelves at your wine store. You think the average wine store carries multiple single vineyards of Barolo? Or verticals for that matter.

                      <<<<For years I ran a very successful wine program by taking a flat $ mark-up over retail. We took the same percentage markup as a retailer (50% markup; 33% profit), tacked on a fixed dollar amount, and put the wines on our list.>>>>

                      I could talk about this for hours...restaurant theory. Same arguement with food cost as well. And mentioning the turnover of the wine is key, menu and price management.

                      1. re: phattychef
                        z
                        zin1953 Jun 26, 2007 01:19 PM

                        >>> You think the average wine store carries multiple single vineyards of Barolo? Or verticals for that matter. <<<

                        There is honestly no such thing as "the average wine store." In some juridictions, supermarkets, 7-Elevens and even gas stations can sell wine, beer and spirits; in some, only wine and beer; and in still others, no alcoholic beverages at all!

                        But even if we eliminate anything other than a "serious" wine merchant (and can even agree on the definition of "serious"), it would still depend upon one's location. Having multiple single vineyards of Barolo, or verticals for that matter, would be a waste of inventory in most stores in an area like (e.g.) California's Central Valley but be essential in most stores located in a market like L.A. or the San Francisco Bay Area; the same with a store in, say, rural upstate New York compared to a merchant in Manhattan. And the same can be appried to restaurants (e.g.: it would be silly for a La Vegas restaurant like Lotus of Siam to have a vertical of single-vineyard Barolos, but not for the Vegas location of Valentino's).

                        That said, every retail wine store I ever worked in or for, either as a sales person or wine buyer/manager, did . . .

                  2. re: pinotho
                    c
                    chickstein Jun 26, 2007 06:13 AM

                    My point is, you pay for the whole experience. You pay for the steak and you pay for the wine. Creamed spinach costs under a dollar to make and patrons are charged $7.95 for a side. BUT, I am not at home making it. It is the whole experience.

                    On another note, a qualified wine director or sommelier does not come cheap. A LOT if effort goes into putting together a good wine list. Vintages change every day. Wines change constantly. Distributor inventories change constantly and one table can come in and drink yoiu out of your entire allocation of some wines. Again, my point is: It is not all black and white.

                    1. re: chickstein
                      ccbweb Jun 26, 2007 08:22 AM

                      To your last paragraph...you're entirely correct. My issue with wine prices comes up only in the mid to upper-range restaurants that have really pretty much abandoned a "wine program" but are still charging large markups on wine. As I wrote in another thread, when the wine program is truly that and has a sommelier (or two or three), proper and varying stem ware for different wines, decanters (that are actually used when appropriate), well trained wait staff who know something about the wines and the ability to recommend wines based on what we wish to order to eat (or, conversely, to recommend dishes to complement a wine we saw that we must have) and proper storage facilities, then I see a lot of value in all of that and feel like paying a lot more for a particular bottle than I might elsewhere is a fine deal for me.

                      However, when a restaurant is pricing wine at a certain level because that's what other restaurants are charging (and they figure, hey, its the same wine, right?) but don't offer that full program...then I feel like its absurd and I'm more than likely a) not going to go to that restaurant, b) go but not order wine, c) go, slog through the wine list, become discouraged when the wait staff have nothing helpful to offer and then have to sit there when I realize that the wine stored right next to the kitchen wasn't for show and I've just been served the far too warm bottle and, by the way, it was served in an entirely inappropriate glass and decide whether I want to send it back...regardless, it isn't going to work out well. As a last note on that...I find that then there is such inattention to the wine program it shows up in other areas of the restaurant as well.

                      If you're going to charge a high amount for wine, it has to be for something other than the fact that I've walked through the restaurant door...there has to be service behind it. With food it usually comes down to something that almost all patrons either can't or don't want to do at home. At higher end places its more likely to be can't do. (This is not a dig at the cooking skills of the fine folks on Chowhound...getting ahold of some of those ingredients and taking some of the time required even before you get to the skill and experience necessary is prohibitive.) Food prices are fairly easy for me to get my head around because of the absolutely unique elements that go into the food. With wine, a restaurant has to offer _something_ to justify the markup. Otherwise, the perception and, indeed, the reality is often that the restaurant is just fixing their price at a very high level for something the customer can easily do at home themselves.

                      Access to the food and "atmosphere" isn't enough on its own to justiy higher than reasonable wine prices, by the way. That's enough to warrant a cover charge for the atmosphere and higher prices on the very good food. To charge for the wine, I want some value with the wine itself.

                      1. re: ccbweb
                        p
                        phattychef Jun 26, 2007 12:21 PM

                        You 'get it'. I agree with 100% of what you have said. I will go back again and say "if you don't think your experience was worth that price of the wine, you are probably getting ripped off."

                        Excellent, excellent illustration.

                      2. re: chickstein
                        winepunkguy Jul 9, 2007 11:21 PM

                        Thank you. It really is so much harder than people realize. Keeping vintages accurate alone is a full time job, Not to mention the sales people who need to move so much stock to get their paid vacation. And don't even get me started on wine clubs. Yechhh!

                    2. re: chickstein
                      p
                      phattychef Jun 25, 2007 05:28 PM

                      You don't know where that beef is from and where the restaurant got theirs. Prime, choice, etc are determinations of the marbling of the steak and beef, not the taste the locations of the beef, or what it was fed.

                      I can no longer eat beef from Central Market...let alone buy the fish (the first place I would if I had to buy it). Quite frankly, the products are not up to my standards (I run an very heavy seafood/steak joint). I love Central Market and Whole foods...but last time I was there their fish had major gaping and a salinity smell to it---I could tell it was not fresh. As for the beef....well, Allen Bros Prime is hard to substitute (but thats my taste).

                      1. re: phattychef
                        Bhutani Jun 25, 2007 06:41 PM

                        As to your first of the last 2 posts phatty, there should be some reason in restaurants pricing methods. The markup in terms of percentage better be (or at least should be) lower as the retail price rises. Consumers shouldn't be expecting a 100% markup on $100 of wine like they may expect on a $45 bottle (they would be foolish to pay a $100 markup). The "whoa is me" defensive attitude of I would love to provide food/drinks gratis but . . . doesn't resonate well with me. The point of the original and I think subsequent posts is that we as consumers want to have a pleasurable dining experience without feeling that we are being taken advantage of.
                        There is little transparancy for the consumer in terms of restaurant wine pricing and that is why more and more consumers are being turned off.

                        One of the primary goals of your and I hope anyone who owns a restaurant (and maybe I am being a little idealistic) is to make your customers happy while making a profit. I am a physician (a service profession itself, but always viewed in a different light than other service industries) and if my primary goal was to make money then my patients would suffer in more ways than one.

                        1. re: Bhutani
                          p
                          phattychef Jun 25, 2007 11:42 PM

                          Last I checked a kleenex wasn't 5 dollars a sheet. In fact I just payed $30 a roll of waterproof gauze for my cast and if I didn't have insurance, I am not sure I would even have been able to afford the regular cast. Don't try to say that physicians are solely in it to help people...they fatten their wallets plenty enough.

                          You are aware that the restaurant buisness profit margin is much lower than your own? The average bottom line on restaurants are about 10-12% (I think this might even be high). Restaurants that hit 20 and above are considered to be out of the park. 30% is absolutely unheard of. As a matter of fact, this is the reason why most celebrities and such get out of the business....they learn how much work and what little profit is made.

                          I am not trying to deny there are some "gouging" restaurants out there. But as a high end steakhouse manager, our markups are there for multiple reasons...the atmosphere, the quality of service (aka staff), the consistency, presentation, etc., etc. If you go somewhere and you pay an extraordinary price for something and it doesn't fit the quality you probably are getting ripped off. Afterall I would flip if I paid a 4 times markup at a chilis, fridays, or any other chainish restaurant. But to go and have a great meal, with on point consistent service and food in an unmistakable atmosphere, the markup on wine shouldn't be an issue.

                          I will say again, the best advice I have for anyone that might be offended about the prices is to ask for the wine director. They SHOULD lead you to a good deal. It is their job.

                          You drink starbucks?

                          1. re: phattychef
                            c
                            chickstein Jun 26, 2007 06:14 AM

                            Phattychef, if you feel comfortable please share with us what restaurant you work for.

                            1. re: chickstein
                              p
                              phattychef Jun 26, 2007 12:21 PM

                              Eddie V's Downtown Austin

                            2. re: phattychef
                              Bhutani Jun 26, 2007 09:24 AM

                              I am doing my best to bite my tongue with the last comments. I didn't indicate that Doctors' mission is not to make money but any good doctor is primarily there to take care of his/her patients. We would have our license revoked and be thrown in jail for medicare/medicaid fraud if we knowingly price-gouged our patients. What is the recourse when "upper-end" steak houses gouge their unknowing customers?

                              Just as everyone in the restaurant industry argues with me that I have no idea about costs incurred with running a restaurant, I could, if I were so inclined, make that same argument when it comes to my field and you. If I were to use your argument, then I would say if you aren't happy with what you pay at the doctor's office then take care of yourself at home.

                              To answer your question, I don't drink starbucks. But if I did, I could argue that at least they are "making" something.

                              I am all for paying a premium for a finer dining experience -- part of that premium is reflected in tips to the service personnel (thus off-setting some of the cost a restaurant should incur to hire/maintain such quality service). What I still do not understand, is why that premium in Dallas (especially at Dallas steakhouses) is such a unique thing. Are upper-end steakhouses in Houston, Chicago, etc so much different? And in Dallas, is Lola not a higher end restaurant and are they not turnig a profit ? (they have what many would argue one of the top lists in Dallas and have plenty of well-qualified personnel to boot).

                              1. re: Bhutani
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                                phattychef Jun 26, 2007 12:36 PM

                                This is not a specific to Dallas type of thing though. The markup for most steakhouses are close to 3-4. A standard wine cost for most places I have worked has been 33% and that is after the inclusive tax is taken out.

                                The other 77 cents of that dollar goes to well, paying for the $5 stem of glassware some drunk guy carelessly breaks, or one of my servers. Also factored in is the decanters (that when they pop its an automatic 70 bucks right there), and general overhead (electricity, rent, etc.).

                                I would never pay 40 bucks for a La Crema Pinot on a list, but I can also look at a list and the vintages and find a steal (most of the time). Again, this is where the wine director comes in...ask him, its his job to help you out. If he sucks or is cocky or even worse...he trys to just rake you over-you just now found out the place is a rip off (a quality most Dallas joints have-a reason I did not go to Lola the last time I was there).

                              2. re: phattychef
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                                zin1953 Jun 26, 2007 11:07 AM

                                >>> You drink starbucks? <<<

                                No.

                                1. re: zin1953
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                                  phattychef Jun 26, 2007 12:45 PM

                                  Good, because it is a rip off.

                                  About 5/lb for some beans that produce 500 cups of coffee that they charge $5 a cup for. #2 was onto something.

                                  1. re: phattychef
                                    z
                                    zin1953 Jun 26, 2007 01:23 PM

                                    >>> Good, because it is a rip off. <<<

                                    But this is true of EVERY establishment, not just Starbuck's. Even Dunkin' Donuts and McDonald's -- places that serve brewed coffee (as opposed to espresso-based drinks) -- are making a killing when viewed on a percentage basis of retail-price-per-cup versus cost-of-producing-that-cup.

                                    O.K., Philippe's in downtown LA still sells a cup of coffee for 9¢ (but 75¢ if you want decaf!). But that's pretty much the only exception I can think of . . .

                                    Cheers,
                                    Jason

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