Quince Corkage fee and policy
We went to Quince last night and did the 5 course tasting menu with addiitonal cheese course, bought a $45 botlle of white wine, spent another $75 on additional glasses of wine and also brought 1 bottle of red. They charged us the $35 corkage and when I asked if it could be removed, they outright refused (it's their policy, fine I accept ). I've been to a lot of high end restaurants and I've never had a restaurant refuse to remove corkage in a similar situation. I've made sure to tell all my frineds that this is their policy and I know that none of them will ever eat there because of this.
There are a lot of great and expensive restaurants in this town and standing alone with poor policies will not get you very far. I'm curious if anyone else has ever had a similar situation in the top tier restaurants like I mentioned, I never had the corkage charged when I bought other bottles.
I ordered one btl off the list and brought one to Fifth Floor and was still charged corkage, but I expected that.
I would never think to ask a restaurant to waive a corkage fee if I also ended up buying a bottle or glasses of wine. Can other chowhounds comment on if this is a relatively normal request? Seems like if a restaurant were inclined to waive the fee if you buy enough of their wine, they would just go ahead and remove the fee without a request to do so.
I agree. If the restaurant chooses to remove the corkage fee on its own -- fine. But I wouldn't dream of asking the restaurant to bend the rules in this scenario. We've eaten in restaurants where we've brought our own bottles of wine, paid corkage, and ordered other bottles at the restaurant. Never have they removed the fee. And I totally understand why they wouldn't.
There's an interesting article in Food and Wine called Corkage for Dummies. It says "Buy at least one bottle, preferably for every bottle you bring. .... you'll look like a sport and you might even find the corkage waived." It's not quite the standard policy that the OP claims it is.
I actually had no idea that it was proper etiquette to always offer a sommelier a taste. But reading the article, it makes sense.
>>>I would never think to ask a restaurant to waive a corkage fee if I also ended up buying a bottle or glasses of wine. Can other chowhounds comment on if this is a relatively normal request? <<<
Quince is located in San Francisco, where many diners have a nice collection of wine at home, due to SF's proximity to Napa, Sonoma and other winegrowing regions. It's very common for a resto to waive corkage for a bottle brought in if a bottle is also purchased from the wine list.
I nearly always bring wine to a resto, and I am quite familiar with corkage policies throughout the SF Bay Area. Only a few restos are adamant about refusing to waive corkage if a wine is also purchased. I've found quite often that the decision to waive corkage is the server's call. I always offer a sample of the wine to the server, and try to tell them a little about the wine if the server seems interested. I also tip very well. It's difficult for me to remember the last time I paid corkage. And, I never bring in a wine that is also on the wine list.
It is nice when a restaurant waives corkage when you order off their list, but they are under no obligation to do so, and if they don't want to waive it, that's up to them. Some restaurants don't allow "outside" wine at all. I would never bring my own wine to a restaurant unless it was a special bottle that I knew wasn't on the list, and if I do so, I check corkage policies before I go, so I would never ask to be comped corkage. Even if you and your friends don't go to Quince, I don't think Quince is hurting.
The bottle I brought was a 1996 Silver Oak, not on their list that was given to me for an anniversary present. I always follow the guidelines, check the wine list first and if there's nothing on it that really excites me then I dig an old bottle out of my cellar to bring along.
I also did check corkage policies ahead of time and fully aware of the $35 fee but was completely surprised that they didn't remove it after the purchase of additional botte and glasses. As I said, that's their policy but it isn't the way most high end restaurants handle this. As I said, it 's their policy. and my policy is to avoid restaurnats like that...there's plenty of others.
You can't have it both ways. You say you accept their $35 corkage, but you're trying to get around it. Based on their pricing, they don't want diners to bring their own wines.
Personally I wouldn't pay $35 corkage unless it was for an extraordinary bottle, but I wouldn't expect the restaurant to bend the rules either.
This is an interesting topic for a first post...
Actually, I've been posing to this site for years, just nothing "controversial" I guess :) I say I understand the corkage policy of $35 but I've never encountered a restaurant that wouldn't waive it once another bottle was purchased...and in addition to another bottle, several more glasses. On a $500 tab, $150 was wine (not counting the corkage).
Like I said, there's a lot of great restaurants in town, and you are right, they obviously don't want people to bring their own.
That can really only help, its already hard enough to get a table. Quince has some of the best food in town to my tastes and an exceptional wine list. Except for a very special bottle on an equally special occasion, I can't imagine why I'd want to bring a wine to Quince instead of availing myself of the selections they have.
Their policies are made known and they apply them consistently it seems, makes for a fair and easily understandable experience in my mind.
Paying 3 times the retail for a bottle of young cab is not what I like to do. Even paying $35 and bringing my 1996 Silver Oak was still a better deal than paying $200 for a 2003 something.
I do agree that at least the policy is consistent, it's just not a policy that's followed by the other top restaurants which is what caught me by surprise.
I would offer that a corkage fee is to cover: not only a place holder for a lost sale, but also a service charge. For the glassware; opening the bottle; any sort of special attention the bottle needs: chilling, decanting, filtering; pouring the wines; not to mention a well trained staff that can perform these functions.
Restaurants are a place of business and open their doors to make money.
Although, yes, you as a consumer are free to vote with your dollars... If Quince has a policy of charging corkage, whether a bottle is bought off the list or not, they are playing fair by applying policy to all. Not just those who follow the policy, but also those who ask to not pay after the fact.
No argument there. They are just over pricing their corkage and refusing to refund yet the other top end restaurants do. They can do as they please, I couldn't agree more, but I know all my foodie friends always bring a good bottle of wine (we're talking old French wines and boutique California wines here) so this will be a spot that none of them will bother with. There's plenty of great restaurants in the city that will do the right thing.
I just can"t imagine ASKING for the corkage to be waived. If they weren't going to charge you for it, it wouldn't have been on the bill. Yes, some other restaurants would waive it in this situation, but I'd never EXPECT it to be waived.
In Jfood's opinion trashing a place because they did not waive a fee, that the customer is fully aware of is very wrong.
You knew that the restaurant had a corkage fee. You brought a bottle and you're surprised that they charged you the corkage fee. Then it is a bad place because it would not match the so-called policy at other restaurants. Is it acceptable to tell a resto that the place down the street has a 24oz porterhouse for $5 less, or the bar next door has Stolly Martinis for $2 less? Last jfood checked dining out is not subject to the most favored nations status.
Rationalizing by stating the resto triples the price, it does not have that vintage, other restos do it or anything else is not right. You play, you pay. Pretty simple rule to follow and nope, it's not half the fun.
>>Rationalizing by stating the resto.....does not have that vintage....<<
To be fair, I think the OP was stating that he checked the restaurants own wine list to make certain he wasn't taking a bottle of his along that was available at the restaurant. Most serious wine collectors who take their own wine to restaurants think it is bad form to bring wine that is on the restaurants list.
Absolutely agree and the OP did absolutely everything correctly and proper in the bringing of the wine. It's in the last 10 minutes and the trashing on these boards that jfood disagrees with.
Likewise there was lots of rationalization in the OP follow up threads:
"Paying 3 times the retail for a bottle of young cab is not what I like to do. Even paying $35 and bringing my 1996 Silver Oak was still a better deal than paying $200 for a 2003 something." And the Restaurant complied. And the OP thought it was a good deal.
"I always follow the guidelines…I also did check corkage policies ahead of time and fully aware of the $35 fee but was completely surprised that they didn't remove it". Well the guidelines are $35, so why trash the place when the five words state that there is agreement?
But the one that strikes most is the "that's too bad, that's half the fun of life". This is almost stating if the restaurant does not give in the OP will trash the place, which OP did.
And jfood will bet for every restaurant that will remove the fee there are just as many that won't. Likewise some charge 2.5X the store price, others 3.0X, etc. There is no most favored nations clause in dining out.
I mentioned that one part of your reply because you lumped it in with your other comments, setting out what you found wrong with the OP's behavior at the restaurant.
I simply pointed out that the OP is actually being considerate of the restaurant by checking their wine list. The remainder of your reply to me has nothing to do with the point of my post, so I'm not sure why you reiterated it.
>>>And jfood will bet for every restaurant that will remove the fee there are just as many that won't.<<<
Jfood, like and appreciate many of your posts, but in this particular case,
the location of the restaurant gives enormous context.
As mentioned above, the resto in question is in San Francisco, and since this city has several wine regions less than an hour to the north and south, waiving the corkage for a single bottle of wine brought in when another is also purchased is almost Standard Operating Procedure here.
Quince, and only a handful of others, choose to have a different official policy. Yes, it's official: you play, you pay. But in this area, it seems quite odd to enforce the policy *adamantly*, especially when a customer has already spent $120 on wine purchased from the resto. In this case, given the location, I'm quite surprised the resto took such a firm stance, instead of acquiesing, taking into account the amount the custo already spent on wine, and letting the corkage slide. That is very unusual here.
re: maria lorraine
Yup jfood is an east-coaster and not familiar with the SOP in SF. OK maybe it is unusual and it should be viewed as such within the context of the area.
But maybe this should be phrased as a "head's up" versus scorched earth. A policy that is not waived should be viewed as that, not as a "how dare they?"
As usual, you make very good points.
It seems the behavior of both parties -- the resto and diner OP -- took an inappropriate tone.
The resto was adamant about an official policy, rather than choosing to look at the merits of the OP's request, which was not outlandish given the situation and SOP elsewhere.
The OP seemed overly offended at the resto's decision, and is still angry about a situation that should have been let go. Further, the OP is now vengeful, saying, "I've made sure to tell all my friends that this is their policy and I know that none of them will ever eat there because of this." That goes too far, and I agree with jfood that this is scorched earth rather than shrugged shoulders and C'est la vie.
And, in truth, paying $35 to drink a 1996 Silver Oak that currently sells for anywhere from $200 to $400 on a wine list, depending on its provenance (Napa Valley or Alexander Valley), is not a lot. This is a lot of anger over $35.
Further, it seems the OP didn't go about setting up the situation in a manner that increased the likelihood of waived corkage. When the bottle is first presented to the server, it is common to quietly say to the server, "Would you mind waiving the corkage on this since we've already spent $120 on wine? I'm happy to offer you a taste."
As with making any special request, especially one that “bends” the rules, the tone and style with which the request is made has a great deal of bearing on whether or not the request is granted.
The decision to waive corkage, as mentioned above, usually rests with the server, even in a resto with an official policy to the contrary. Heck, there are already glasses on the table, the server is already in a rhythm of pouring wine for the table, what's opening another bottle and making a few more pours, maybe even bringing a few more glasses? No big deal.
But after the corkage is already on the bill, then it is difficult to take off.
Then a manager has to get involved, and in this case, the manager enforced the policy, rather than looking at the individual situation.
Also, when the OP first presents the wine to the server, and learns that corkage cannot be waived, then the OP can make the choice -- to open the wine and pay corkage, or to save the bottle for another occasion. That makes the corkage policy clear then, so there aren't any surprises (or offense taken) when the bill is presented and corkage is on it. The OP took a false step in assuming the corkage would be waived when the official policy was otherwise.
So, the situation wasn’t handled well by both parties. And who knows how much the emotions escalated when the bill was presented, causing each party to dig in their heels.
re: maria lorraine
It's difficult to ascertain if you'l'l be ordering more wine or not so asking for a waiver on corkage before the wine is opened isn't realistic in many cases. I had no idea if we'd order another bottle, a glass or what so that wasn't an option and usually isn't ahead of time.
I actually did get my $35 back from them after 2 calls that went unreturned and an email. I sent a brief email describing the situation and why I thought it would be appropriate, based on the custom in this area and the purchase of additional wines.
But IS it an oversight? I mean, you asked for corkage to be waived and they said no. Doesn't sound like an oversight to me. It sounds like someone who knew the restaurant's policy, but decided that he was right anyhow, and bothered the restaurant til they refunded the money.
In any case, you got your $35 back.
jood's gotta agree with Invino on this. The restaurant just wanted the badgering to stop. After 2 calls, emails, constant bashing on these boards they figured the $35 was worth more to you than them. They paid the vig as a way to stop the nonsense.
And jfood still believes that the restaurant makes the policy and there is no such thing as "Most Favored Nations" wrt what the guy down the street or clear across the country does.
So if your happy you got your $35 back, more power to you, but jfood doubts the process for receipt is something that true Chowhounders would approve of.
i got the sense dk#### was upset by the quince "exceptionalism"
in re other restos, rather than being outraged that he personally
wasnt catered to, in re: other patrons.
i think "leaning against the wind" isnt unreasonable here,
just as we might wish to "lean against" the tipping standard
being renormalized to 25%, or linear tips on high end wine.
i dont think it is a "shakedown".
i believe you -- mr food -- have often mentioned how you get
special treament at places you are a regular ... and presumably
would be upset and treatment indifferent from a new customer,
as you have spent $1k+ in that resto. surely somebody spending
say 2x-3x te avg bill on a single night can expect some of that
special treament right away ... i dont see you defending absolute
while the proposal here is ridiculous ["a special wine"]
i thought the tone of the reply was also kind of obnoxious:
i dont know which were the words of the Quince person and
which was from the column writer.
jfood does receive special niceties at certain of his haunts, and likewise has had the benefit of spending, on occasion, the 2x-3x the normal tab.
and jfood would never expect anything special from his fly-by dinner and he also never "expects" anything when he goes to the normal haunts. A fly-by is just that, a one night stand, and everyone knows what to expect with that. You get what you pay for. :-))
But the long term customer is just that a long term customer and they are treated as such. They send others, they come at off times, and this is a win-win, similar to Platinum members of airlines. The person who flies once a year and buys a first class ticket is just a faceless slug in a leather seat for a few hours. The person logging 25k+ miles in this environment deserves more than the one-timer up front.
And jfood firmly believes in equality. The one timer big spender is treated with the utmost of respect, given what they order with the highest degree of graciousness and given the bill at the end and a warm thank you, thanks for coming, have a nice life. The perpetual customer gets more. The former bucket is treated as a class and the latter is treated as a class. so jfood pushes back on the equality statement. These two groups are not equal, but within each is a level of equality.
And jfood agrees that a little leaning against the wind was a proper response and was told "no." it's the multiple calls and emails and more than likely an unpleasant exchange that led to the refund. that's where jfood and psb/dkn## have a disagreement. You give it your shot and then move on. and then please do not double down and trash the place on the boards, just does not feel right.
But as jfood stated, if the OP is happy, no biggie for jfood.
based on other situations where we have agreed ["you can have a
6pm reservation, but i need the table at 7:15"], i think we both give
a lot of deference to disclosure and contractual agreements ...
but i think that speaks mostly to rights. but there is more involved
than rights. in the "i am giving you a conditional reservation with
the "attached string" of "you have 75min to eat", the resto
doesnt have a right to be obnoxious at the end of the time
or to serve you crappy food, or send you a surprise $1/min
over time penalty.
so i suspect you, me and dk#### would agree quince had a
"right" to charge.
but there is reasonably more one can say about the situation ...
say you lived in a town with two michelin ennobled restos and
their chefs/owners ran into each other at the local piggly wiggly
and voila, all of a sudden both wound up with FULLY DISCLOSED $100 corkage policy ...
would you say "well it was all disclosed, so suck it up and dont 'whine'. or would one be entitled to complain to friends and neighbors
about this "money grubbing move" ...
surely your "right" to complain flows from the "extraordinariness"
and not whether it is a violation of the sherman act or other
what if a resto instituted a disclosed price discrimination
corkage policy: corkage is some %age of "bluebook" value
of the wine? isnt there more to fairness than disclosure?
i think a patron's obligations go beyond your technical rights
as a patron ... many restos dont go into great detail about what
bottles may be covered under their corkage policy and the
rely on reaonable patrons not to abuse the privilage based on
norms like "dont bring a bottle on the wine list" (is that ok to do
if the resto doesnt explicitly forbit it?). Reciprocally i dont think restos
should take refuge fatuous but really self-serving claims.
[again the phasing in that link was very off putting to me].
again, i dont think mr. dk#### was trying to shakedown quince
and i think this was a principled objection rather than a claim
of privilage. i also get the sense that his follow up was in the
spirit of full disclosure ... judge for yourself my fine feathered
friends about the late breaking development ... and not a case
of crowing about victory.
always love the tete a tete with you mr psb. keeps the mind fresh.
- but jfood does not see where the resto was obnxious
- jfood does not agree that the OP had the "right to charge
- and to the shakedown point please look at the OP comment from Apr 14, 2008 11:38AM where s/he states "that's too bad, that's half the fun of life"
Seems to jfood twas a game, not a principled objection.
feathers on a dog, nah, never happens on a dog, but a crowing boyd, absolutely. :-))
To the anti-trust piggly wiggly, probably happens all the time.
re: maria lorraine
At the restaurant where I work the decision to waive corkage is the managements decision, if a server comps your corkage they are considered to be stealing from the restaurant. One of the reasons I no longer accept tastes of wine from people is because it's not done to share, it's merely to get corkage withdrawn. Not that anyone should offer a taste, I just hate the ulterior motive. Also, we charge corkage even if a bottle of wine is bought especially a 45 dollar bottle. As a customer I just expect to be charged and if I am not charged I am pleasantly surprised.
Sometimes the offer of a taste of wine, especially from an unusual or expensive bottle, is indeed a generous gesture.
There is no ulterior motive, and the gesture is unrelated to corkage.
Especially in San Francisco, with its proximity to wine country.
If the server expresses an interest in wine, or remarks upon the bottle, a taste is always offered, at least among those with whom I dine. We are happy to contribute to the education and "palate" of the server. We are fully prepared to pay corkage if we are charged, but often we are not.
This is a different situation from your restaurant, where management makes the corkage situation.
Very well put. I never hurts to ask, but you shouldn't fault them for charging something that they said they would charge. I almost never take wine to a restaurant that has wine unless its a special occasion with a special bottle, then I call first to make sure its cool and that it isn't a bottle on their list. No awkward surprises that way.
and that's exactly what I did....special bottle, not on their list, etc. what folks seem to be missing here is that the waiving of corkage, in San Francisco, is SOP and for a high end restaurant to not only say no after the criteria are met (special bottle, not on list, other bottle/glasses purchased) is surprising. it's EXTRMEMLY common for the corkage to be waived. In fact, it's rare for the corkage to be charged in similar situations. at least in my experience eating in the Bay Area (Michael Mina, Fifth FLoor, Cyrus, Fleur de Lys, Masas, etc).
Don't feel bad or I should say don't feel like you aren't "special". I've done business with Quince since they opened, eaten there a dozen times, sat at the chefs table (minimum $1000) and still get charged the $35 corkage. In addition to that once my party and I arrived early for our reservation and waited for our table for 40 minutes. While waiting we were offered a couple of glasses of champagne presumably to take the edge off the people sitting at our table that refused to leave an hour after they finished their meal. Since there is no room to wait anywhere, it was raining outside, I know a few folks, I'm in the business we figured what a nice treat. After we all ordered the special tasting menu made just for us (read more expensive than normal) the bill arrives and there is the corkage and there are two glasses of champagne for $50! I was livid....they took them off but I was made to feel like an a-hole...I'll still do business with Quince I just won't be dining there again anytime soon.
re: high mountain
I want to understand your situation, high mountain.
You say you arrived 40 minutes early for your reservation. You also indicate that the people sitting at your table refused to leave an hour after they had finished. With your arriving early, I cannot ascertain if this means you were delayed in being seated for your reservation time or not. Were you? How far past your reservation time was it before you were seated?
If you were delayed, then the resto's offer of a glass of Champagne means that the wine was comped to offset your being inconvenienced. If you were not delayed, then the "offer" was not really an offer, merely a suggestion of something to do (have a drink) while you were waiting for your reservation time.
Please explain. From your wording, I can't tell what exactly happened or what the resto actually said. I don't want to jump to conclusions, but if you were delayed in your seating, and the restaurant offered you a glass of Champagne, that should have been comped. To have not done so was an error.
BTW, I love the food at Quince. But, I've always been the guest of another and have never glanced at a bill.
re: maria lorraine
Arrived 15 mins. early waited extra 25 past the res. 'offered' drinks....turned up on the bill for $50 with no mention of cost prior. It was to me (mis)understood that they were offering drinks for the inconvenience of standing at our table watching long finished guests stare at each other. It worked out in the end but was awkward to say the least.
Doesn't make sense to me.
Yes, yes, corkage is for service and 'utensils' but indeed it is also for lost profit.
Apparently you had a thirsty party and I think we must assume that you would have bought more wine from the restaurant - had you not brought your own. They would have made more wine profit.
So is your argument is that you only want to cut into their profit a little?
It seems reasonable to charge the fee; unreasonable to expect it to be waived.
Especially unreasonable when only one bottle is purchased from the establishment and considering that was a $45 bottle - total retail barely more than the corkage. The gross wine income was $155 - you deserve $35 off the net profit because of that?
I guess they could have thrown in a second $45 bottle, it would have cost them less.