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No Corkage "rules"

hi all

my sister & i are taking our mom to dinner next sunday at a restaurant that has an ad in the local paper every week stating "sunday-no corkage"

now tell me, what are the "rules" ? ( to not piss anyone off! )

i started drinking malbec rose last summer and LOVE it, but its not like its some fancy rare bottle. i can pick up a bottle for $15 at my fave wine store in town.

does it have to be some rare wine?

what if we each have a cocktail first?

we WILL be chowing alot of food & WILL tip good.

on one hand im nervous to do it because i dont want to seem cheap, but on the other hand i feel they put that ad in the paper every week...the economy sucks right now...restaurants NEED customers, right?

what do you think? dont hold back if you think im totally wrong :)

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  1. You can bring whatever you want to drink at a restaurant. I don't think it matters what the bottle is, how much it cost at the liquor store or anything. I am also positive that they would gladly serve you a cocktail to start (for which you would pay list price) and then serve your bottle of wine with the dinner (for which you would pay no fee).

    1. Don't sweat the small stuff.

      Bring anything from ripple to chateau l'expensive.

      Order what you like, enjoy the food and the company and give the server a higher than normal tip for the wine service.

      1. Niccole,
        Does this restaurant actually have a liqour license? If not, you may not be able to order cocktails first. A corkage charge is to cover the restaurants costs of glasses, ice, service etc. If they have a liquour license, it may also account for some of their lost profit when you bring you own alcohol.
        In some states it is not legal to bring your own into a licensed establishment.

        Here it seems the restaurant is trying to boost their Sunday business, by offering to provide the glasses and service at no charge for your brought along alcohol.

        Enjoy the bargain, but you should increase the servers tip a few dollars for the service.

        3 Replies
        1. re: bagelman01

          it does have a full liquor license....had a few $13 martinis there last time.

          1. re: bagelman01

            bagelman: in some states it's illegal to bring your own into an UNlicensed place, for example Oregon.

          2. Ask for a copy of the wine list and make sure the bottle you want to bring is not on the list. It doesn't have to be fancy or expensive, just not on their wine list.

            1. If a restaurant advertises free corkage, feel free to bring almost anything you like. The only 'rules' are to not bring something on the restaurant's list, and don't forget to tip the server as if you had purchased the bottle in the restaurant. If it's an unusual bottle, it is a nice gesture (though not at all required) to offer a small taste to the server or wine steward.

              1. There's no "rule" not to bring something on the restaurant's wine list. If they're spending the $$ to advertise free corkage on Sundays they don't care what you bring, they just want you to come.

                The only "rule" is to tip on the wine you didn't buy from them. Add the cost of a low-range bottle of wine from their list to your bill and tip your usual amount on that total, not the total you're presented with.

                10 Replies
                1. re: hsk

                  There may not be a "rule" about bringing a bottle already on the list, but it's definitely frowned upon.

                  1. re: invinotheresverde

                    for a "no corkage" promotion, i agree, no rules, but certainly etiquette.

                    bring a bottle not on the list. if you paid $15 retail, assume the restaurant would list it for between $30 and $45. tip based on that price.

                    just because you might be saving a few bucks on wine, don't feel like you have to bust your budget to compensate.

                    don't be nervous -- the restaurant wants your business. please also don't start your meal by telling the server you're a big tipper. generally that's a red flag that the guest is a terrible tipper. just be your normal pleasant self and tip generously. enjoy!

                    1. re: hotoynoodle

                      I don't mean to be dense, but can someone explain why you would tip on something that you didn't buy from the restaurant. I totally understand adding an additional amount to the tip for the service of actually serving the wine. What I don't get, though, is why you should ballpark what the place would have charged for your bottle and tip on that. I get (and agree) with a flat "thanks for the glasses and for corking and pouring my wine" tip of, say, around $5-10. I mean if I brought a cake to a restaurant for my husband's birthday, would I tip the waiter off the cost of the cake (nothing, say, if I made it myself, but otherwise 20% of what it cost at the bakery)? I would be more likely to tip some fee for the service, but not based on the cost of the item. Maybe I'm missing something, but I just don't get it.

                      1. re: jenhen2

                        any place i have ever worked has charged a plating fee if they even allow you to bring your own cake -- between $3 and $5 per person. that is added to your bill, and you tip on it.

                        if you feel fair tipping $5-$10 for corkage, please do the math. on the op's bottle, which would likely list for between $30 and $45, you are tipping 18%, or more. the bumped up gratuity is more a nod to the server. kind of like eating someplace during restaurant week. if your check would normally be $100 pp, but for rw it's $35, do you only tip 18% on the rw price? most nice folks duke the server some extra -- they have bills to pay too.

                        1. re: hotoynoodle

                          Thanks for the reply. I get that you tip on the plating fee, as I said, and I get that my tip would be 18% for a $30-45 bottle. What someone above said was that you should estimate what your wine would have cost at that restaurant and tipped on that. That's the part I don't get. If I bring a $200 bottle of wine to a restaurant, I'm supposed to add $40 to the bill?!?!?!

                          1. re: hotoynoodle

                            FWIW, I've only ever heard of the RW 'full price tipping' here. I avoid RW and such things like the plague, so it doesn't matter to me, but i run in some pretty broad circles and everyone always thinks i'm insane when i mention stuff like that.

                            1. re: jgg13

                              I tend to agree with you. Like you, I don't do RW, and I don't bring my own wine to restaurants, so I don't think I've ever had to decide what to do on these things. But tipping on a "virtual" bill seems odd to me.But don't flame me. I've heard all the arguments here and know them well. I just doubt that your run-of-the-mill restaurant patron thinks that way.

                              1. re: jgg13

                                and those are the people who consistently gripe about getting crap service during rw.

                            2. re: jenhen2

                              I work as a server in a restaurant that doesn't have a corkage fee, which boggles my mind since we have an amazing wine list that has been painstakingly selected to go along with the food served. I've found that in most cases if something isn't listed on the bill, people pretend it never happened. Opening someone else's wine still takes time. Have to get glasses, do the full wine service, etc.. I don't think you need to tip 20% of the retail value of the bottle, but just a few extra dollars is nice. Maybe $5 per bottle they open for you.

                              1. re: Azizeh

                                I would tip on a low-range bottle on the list - if the wines start at $30, I would tip my usual % on $30. If your list starts at $50 that's what I would go with. It's a moot point for me, I never bring my own bottle unless it's a place that doesn't have a liquor license. I don't want to get into the whole what should you tip on a $400 bottle of wine thing but if you bring your own, tipping on what it cost you is just wrong. As is tipping on the plating fee for bringing your own cake, it should be tip on what a cake would cost if you got it from the restaurant, assuming it's served the same way (although it boggles the mind why restaurants would allow people bring their own food and charge a plating fee).

                      2. I'm with everyone who says do not bring a bottle that is on their wine list. And yes, tip the server as though you had bought the bottle at the resto. You are already saving money on the bottle of wine, so don't economize on the tip at the expense of the server. I hardly ever bring my own wine to a restaurant, because I consider it a great chance to try something new to me. However, we have several restaurants in our area that waive the corkage on the first bottle you bring if you purchase it at our local wine shop, so I do take advantage of that every now and then, though I usually end up buying another bottle from the restaurant too. A good friend of mine is a winemaker and always brings his wine to the restaurant when we go out, and always offers both the server and the wine steward (if there is one) a glass of his wine. But that's also good business practice for him, as he hopes more restaurants will stock his wine!

                        1. Generally speaking, it's considered bad form to bring a bottle that the restaurant has on its list. But this place is trying to increase business on otherwise dead Sunday nights by advertising free corkage. In other words, they're actively encouraging you to bring in your own wine so that you'll buy the food. Under these limited circumstances, I think it would be more acceptable to bring in a wine they carry.

                          If you do, a tip appropriate to the level of wine service is in order. If the server just pulls the cork and pours the first glass, $5 might cover it. If a sommelier comes over, inspects the bottle, determines which of the many fine wine glasses is appropriate, carefully decants the contents, and attends to your every bibulous need, you should tip more. You're more likely to get the latter service if you bring in a '78 Margaux than if you show up with a bottle you picked up at the gas station on the way over, so the price of the bottle may have something to do with the amount of the tip. But never lose sight of the fact that tips are for services provided. The better the service (in terms of quality or quantity), the greater the tip should be.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: alanbarnes

                            Excellent point, alanbarnes. I think you're right on.

                            1. re: alanbarnes

                              Maybe it's just me, but $5 to uncork a bottle of wine and pour the first glass? Seems high to me! Do you also recommend tipping $5 for two glasses of tap water that was poured into the glass from a pitcher?

                              1. re: Rick

                                And really, taking orders and bringing out plates isn't that difficult, either. Why tip at all?

                                Because it's customary. You may disagree with the custom; there are cranks everywhere. That doesn't change the facts on the ground, as they're understood by the vast majority of the dining public.

                                Nobody but the most boorish customers will stiff a waiter for wine service. And nearly everybody will agree that 15-20% is customary, although a flat per-bottle rate may be appropriate for wines over a certain price point.

                                I for one don't see a whole lot of wines on restaurant lists for under $25 per bottle. A $2 minimum tip might be appropriate in a restaurant where the wine list is concentrated around the $10 price point, but I don't believe such a place exists.

                                A waiter provides exactly the same service opening a bottle you bring in that s/he does opening a bottle purchased from the restaurant. Given that the service is the same, there's no reason the tip shouldn't be the same, too.

                                In this case the customer is saving a minimum of $10, and probaly significanly more, by avoiding the restaurant's wine markup and corkage fees. After the restaurant has extended that courtesy - and its attendant financial benefit - to the customer, the least the customer can do is give the server a tip that approximates the tip that would otherwise be paid.

                                It's like when the owner gives you a complimentary dessert. You don't stiff the server because of the boss's generosity; rather, you tip as though the food had been on the bill. Maybe even a little extra. Doing otherwise is inexcusably cheap.

                                1. re: alanbarnes

                                  "in a restaurant where the wine list is concentrated around the $10 price point, but I don't believe such a place exists."

                                  could have a bum themed resto, where the wine list features things like Thunderbird and MD 20/20

                            2. I usually follow two self made rules when i bring a bottle into a restaurant. (1) I offer the chef and/or waited a taste. (2) i buy something off their list.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: baldwinwood

                                I"ve been in the restaurant business for over twenty years, on and off, mostly as a sommelier, and I'm always amazed by the blank stares I get when I offer tastes to the waiter and kitchen, or, worse, the scared look followed by some idiotic statement like, "I can't DRINK. I'm WORKING.". The 'angel's share' is such a gracious and civilized tradition, and it makes me reallly, really sad realize that it's no longer de rigueur.

                                1. re: aimless1

                                  <The 'angel's share' is such a gracious and civilized tradition...>

                                  Psst. That's not what "angel's share" means. It's the liquor that evaporates during the aging process. But your definition is nice, too.

                                  1. re: aimless1

                                    it's hardly an "idiotic statement" when their bosses have a zero tolerance policy for that sort of thing, and it's only getting worse. i've worked for owners who will drink their faces off at the end of the night, yet won't let anybody else even sniff the booze. yes, they are crazy people.

                                    it's a very generous gesture from guests, and a great way for staff, especially in the boh, to learn about wine.

                                    i've heard it called the "queen's share". ;)