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Restaurant Alba, who is the idiot

Delucacheesemonger May 28, 2010 08:18 PM

Please give me a vote on who is the idiot here. Went a few times to restaurant Alba in Malvern when they were a BYOB, and always had a lovely meal. Went tonight after they decided to have a bar but still allowed BYOB with corkage. Went with four people and four bottles of wine. Paid the corkage as expected, but when asked for red wine glasses were given pretty junky glasses. We noted that other tables had better glassware, as they did, and were told by staff and owner that these were finer more expensive glasses reserved for those who ordered wines from their list, versus those who brought their own wine as permitted. All of a sudden l was a second class patron and felt f----ed on. Who is right here.owner or me?

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  1. b
    Buckethead May 28, 2010 08:31 PM

    You are right. Even if they do have two separate sets of glassware, one for people who BYO and one for people who buy off the list (which is something I've never seen before), for them to actually *tell* you that is unbelievable.

    8 Replies
    1. re: Buckethead
      invinotheresverde May 28, 2010 10:13 PM

      Why?

      1. re: invinotheresverde
        b
        Buckethead May 29, 2010 09:59 AM

        Why tell the customer that? It serves no purpose other than to say "well, we don't think people who BYO are worth nice glassware". It fosters bad feelings on both sides. If they're trying to get people to buy off the list, they should make the corkage fee higher, or just disallow BYO entirely.

        1. re: Buckethead
          invinotheresverde May 29, 2010 10:17 AM

          We have two tiers of glassware for guests at my work. The better glasses are only for bottles purchased that cost $75 and over. People don't seem to have a problem with it. This doesn't seem much different to me.

          1. re: invinotheresverde
            b
            Buckethead May 29, 2010 12:36 PM

            I don't have a problem with the two sets of glassware, it's the way they related that info to the customer (in the most annoying way possible), which, though I didn't witness it, obviously made Delucacheesemonger feel like s/he was being treated poorly. Making your customers feel like they're being treated poorly is not good for business.

            1. re: Buckethead
              invinotheresverde May 29, 2010 05:54 PM

              "it's the way they related that info to the customer..."

              What, by telling them the truth? He/she felt he was being treated poorly because he didn't get his way.

              1. re: invinotheresverde
                Delucacheesemonger May 29, 2010 08:11 PM

                No, because wasn't treated equally. They encouraged BYOB then treated one differently after they made the rules. Why is it 'my way', all l wanted was all to be equal.

                1. re: Delucacheesemonger
                  jfood May 29, 2010 09:08 PM

                  In the OP..." they decided to have a bar but still allowed BYOB with corkage," as well as "versus those who brought their own wine as permitted", note the words "allowed" and "permitted"...now it has changed to "encouraged?" Please...noone encourages people bringing in a bottle from outside. Oh and then you brought not one, not two, not three but FOUR bottles of your own stuff? What, you could not bring three and order one to be a good customer? Nope, you told them not one bottle on their list was worth ordering.

                  Sorry you were wrong in bringing four bottle of wine for four people to a place that has made a business decision to start selling wine. You should have been a better customer, or should jfood say and equal customer and order a bottle of wine off the wine list like the other customers obviously did. You did not want equality you wanted special.

                  1. re: Delucacheesemonger
                    invinotheresverde May 30, 2010 05:33 AM

                    You're not equal, though.

                    Those others purchased wine from the restaurant. You did not, you brought in four bottles of wine for four people (which I think is unbelievably tacky, but that's a thread for another post) to a restaurant that sells wine. You didn't even buy a bottle of bubbles or white from them to begin the evening. If you did, I bet they'd have had no problem giving you the better glassware.

      2. m
        Mary McChugalug May 28, 2010 11:40 PM

        meh...this seems like a pretty innocuous way to make the transition from BYOB to bar service. If you like the place then you want it to stay open right? And even with alcohol most restaurants are barely staying afloat. And since alcohol is the only thing that restaurants can sell that has a decent profit margin the owners probably want you to just buy alcohol from them. Not because they're mean greedy people, but because they're trying to stay in business because they like what they do, and you like what they do, and you want a drink with your food, and so hey, why not just buy it from them?
        But it can be awkward going from BYOB to full bar without being all "now you have to buy it from us"
        Sooooo....was your food or service in any other way "second class"?
        No? Then you're not being "f----ed on", you're being subtly, very subtly, hinted to. So take the hint or continue to perform a second class act (bringing your own booze to a place that sells booze) and expect to be second class treatment (at least as far as glasses are concerned, which isn't that big of a deal)
        Good luck!

        2 Replies
        1. re: Mary McChugalug
          EWSflash May 29, 2010 09:37 AM

          The wording is a little strong but I have to fully agree with Mary.

          1. re: Mary McChugalug
            Striver Jun 2, 2010 08:28 AM

            First, I've said it before and I'll say it again (and probably again): because of its liquor laws, NJ has an unusual number of BYO's, including several of the best restaurants in the state. Somehow they manage to be successful and profitable without selling alcohol or even charging corkage. I don't buy the argument that alchol is necessary for profitability.

            Second, if the restaurant has decided to permit corkage without any additional restrictions (e.g., only wines not on their list, 2 bottle limit, etc.), I'd say they have an obligation to treat a corkage customer just as well as a customer who's buying a bottle from the restaurant.

            As I understand it, the corkage fee is in part to comp the restaurant for your non-purchase of their offerings and to cover the cost of wine service. That service should be just as good as any other customer's. If their corkage policy is not sufficient to allow that, then the restaurant should either (a) limit corkage, (b) charge a higher fee, or (c) eliminate it completely - all of which is entirely up to them.

            IMO, the OP's party was treated inappropriately. They followed the restaurant's rules and were given inferior service. There's no justification for that, IMO.

          2. babette feasts May 29, 2010 09:59 AM

            What kind of glasses did they use prior to having the bar? If they got the new glasses when they got the liquor license and you had been drinking out of the cheap ones back in the byo-only days, it does seem a little silly to complain. OTOH, a good service policy would make the nicer glasses available to byo guests if they noticed the difference and asked to switch.

            1 Reply
            1. re: babette feasts
              wonderflosity May 29, 2010 11:49 AM

              I think this totally makes sense. The nicer glasses are probably a hell of a lot more fragile, and more expensive to replace.Since the restaurant doesn't make as much money off people bringing their own wine, I can see why they would want to use less expensive, more durable glasses.

              They could have perhaps stated it a little differently, but there is nothing wrong with that at all. It's akin to using the better glasses for more expensive wines ordered off their own menu and the regular ones for the less expensive wines.

            2. jfood May 29, 2010 02:56 PM

              jfood is not a wine drinker so he is giving his opinion as such.

              Jfood does not understand the vitriol or the "second class citizen" comment at all. You brought wine thereby almost telling the restaurant either their wine list was second class, or you did not want to pay what many have said are way too high mark-up.

              Jfood thinks you are not an idiot but taking this situation waaaay too seriously. You had a good meal, with the wine you wanted and now the glasses are an issue.

              Don;t sweat the small stuff.

              1. m
                Maximilien May 30, 2010 05:33 AM

                IMO, paying corkage fee should make you the "same" as other clients who pay wine from they restaurant's list.

                1. Midlife May 30, 2010 09:33 AM

                  Gotta say that, from the standpoint of good wine service (and as was noted by invinotheresverde's own experience at work) ............... the quality of the stemware should be related ONLY to the quality of the wine....... nothing else.

                  So............. my first conclusion is that this restaurant either doesn't understand good wine service, OR is definitely sending a message to BYOers, especially if they explain it the way they did.

                  My second conclusion is that if the restaurant prefers not to do BYO business, THAT's what they should be telling you, not the apparently condescending line you got. If I'd brought in 4 bottles of '97 Araujo I'd want to drink it in high quality stemware and would read the response you got as an invitation to have left my wine at home. If they don't want to do BTOB, they should just not do it.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: Midlife
                    jfood May 30, 2010 12:23 PM

                    Here is their wine list. jfood is clueless on wine so you can decided if it is OK

                    http://www.restaurantalba.com/Wine%20...

                    Jfood basically agrees with your conclusion, but on the second, his only point would be if they all of a sudden change from a BYOB to a not. The next thread would be..."Do you believe Alba just change from a BYOB and did not tell me when I made a reservation."

                    Rude is never acceptable and only the OP was there to hear the tone, so we can only give opinions.

                    1. re: jfood
                      Midlife May 30, 2010 01:44 PM

                      I guess I should have been more clear. I wasn't relating to Alba's own wine list, which seems to be very moderately priced (if they're making anything like the standard 2-3 times wholesale margin). I was simply comparing the stemware the OP got vs. the 'better' stemware OP said they use for wines from their list. IF any distinction is made regarding stemware used, good wine service would say that distinction should be based on the wine, not how it got on the table.

                      I would have to say that relegating only BYOBer's wine to second class stemware is not just poor service but (to agree with you) really rude. I think the tone could only make that worse. The OP says they were told the better stemware was reserved for their own wines, no mention of price or quality, or of a new policy. But, then........ we weren't there.

                      1. re: jfood
                        b
                        BN1 May 30, 2010 06:19 PM

                        That is an excellent Italian wine list, beautifully organized and as Midlife said "very moderately priced". Unless one just does not like Italian wine or had their own really special bottle, BYOB there would be like bringing sand to Saudi Arabia.

                        I often have to BYOB to local restaurants because their selections just aren't drinkable. If I were given crummy glasses, I would not return. My regular haunts know to bring out the good stemware and some keep special cases not on their lists (Brunello, etc.) for me. I wish Restaurant Alba was nearby.

                        1. re: BN1
                          Striver Jun 2, 2010 08:53 AM

                          It's a nice enough list; certainly there are plenty of choices at mostly moderate price points.

                          The mark-up? On the lower end, they've got a Morgante Nero D'avola 2007 at $38; that's an occasional weeknight table red in our house, and I get it for $12-$13 retail in NJ.

                          1. re: Striver
                            b
                            BN1 Jun 2, 2010 12:55 PM

                            Striver, you bring up a good point that many times the really low end wines are marked-up much more than the more expensive wines. On Google, I found a merlot I purchased that cost the restaurant about $4, but it was listed at most restaurants for $26 to $30. Their stated reason was that really low priced wine does not sell. On the other hand, I have found that the lowest priced wines on great wine lists at top restaurants are often hidden gems. Buyer Beware! But no crummy stemware please.

                          2. re: BN1
                            invinotheresverde Jun 2, 2010 03:18 PM

                            I'm curious about which wines the OP brought.

                      2. RetiredChef May 31, 2010 09:09 AM

                        If you pay a corkage fee you deserve to have the standard wine glass that other patrons use – period. As others have said if there are two tiers of wine glasses it is the quality of wine that should dictate the stemware.

                        The owner is sending a message and a poor one, if he doesn’t want to allow BYOB than make it that policy but do not take your $$$$$ in corkage fees and then treat your wine without respect.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: RetiredChef
                          a
                          anonymouse1935 Jun 5, 2010 02:49 AM

                          "If you pay a corkage fee you deserve to have the standard wine glass that other patrons use – period."

                          Absolutely. You got bad service, Delucacheesemonger, and kudos to you for noticing the cheap glasses.

                          I'm curious as to why a restaurant owner would have cheap glasses and good glasses to begin with. Where does he keep the cheap glasses for those who BTOB? Is the staff instructed to put out the cheap glasses in the cheap cabinet for those who BTOB?

                          Amazing stuff.

                        2. t
                          tastearoo May 31, 2010 05:14 PM

                          I just don't know about this. I think I would not tell you what you were told. I understand the markup is fairly modest. I know the corkage fee is $10/bottle and can be higher on special events. Restaurants will have a finite number of glasses and could have different style glasses. They do have a nice wine list. So, either, they should have made up some better excuse or you can decide to be pissed at them because they told you, in their eyes, the truth. I do understand why you would be unhappy.

                          1. e
                            emn76 Jun 1, 2010 06:33 PM

                            I agree with you, I think you were f----ed on. Who are they to decide which glasses were appropriate to use for the wine that your party brought in? Just because it wasn't from their list does not mean it didn't have a great rating or it wasn't from a respected vinyard and quite frankly that should not matter anyway. If you enjoy drinking it, it deserves the same resepect (for the lack of a better term) as those that they offer. We almost exclusively bring our own bottle (s) and one of two things inevitably happen, either they praise our selection or they admit they never heard of the label (usually a private one). When the latter happens they seem to be at least curious of our selection. I consider what happened to you a slap in the face and enough to warrant me not going back.

                            1. jfood Jun 2, 2010 09:04 AM

                              Jfood has to thank many on this thread, he did not realize that so much goes into a wine service. And he is not being snarky, he just never gave most of what people has posted here as a passing thought since he does not drink. Jfood would never have thought that a different glass was disrespect, he never looks to what utensils other tables are using, could not care less if someone's fish comes on a better plate than jfood's And he would never consider that a restaurant disrespected the wine by serving it in a different glass than others.

                              This past weekend some guest brought over a bottle of wine with a mid 3-figure cost, and he served it in some Mexican glasses. And noone said a thing to jfood other than can we bring the bottle outside. It was a casual dinner with friends, some steaks, etc. and the crystal stayed indoors. Did jfood "disrespect the wine?" He hopes not.

                              But man, this is another reason why jfood is glad he does not drink, life's just way too short for him to get all worked up over what glass a wine is served in. Give jfood a great piece of foie gras or a Peter Luger steak on a paper plate with some plastic utensils and a paper cup with water. It's still a great meal.

                              33 Replies
                              1. re: jfood
                                Striver Jun 2, 2010 09:28 AM

                                Sure - although the right glass definitely enhances a good wine, and nice glassware is part of a good restaurant's presentation as is appropriate tableware, it's not necessarily a sticking point. OTOH, if I went to a restaurant with entrees in the $30+ range and they served me on melmac with sporcs for cutlery, unless it was the restaurant's theme ("Chez Plastique"?), I'd be taken aback. My guess is that you would, too.

                                My objection - as was the OP's - is to the separation of good glasses for one set of customers and not-as-good for another. The restaurant determines whether or not to offer corkage, under what circumstances, and for what price. Further discrimination against customers who follow the restaurant's rules is, IMO, simply unacceptable.

                                1. re: jfood
                                  Midlife Jun 2, 2010 09:51 AM

                                  While I tend to agree with you, jfood, and I'll take my Ch. Margaux in a paper cup rather than not at all............... the stemware can REALLY enhance the wine experience. I tend to think it's a phenomenon that not everyone has the olfactory or palate sensitivity to fully discern, but I often can, so it's not reserved for a tiny minority.

                                  1. re: Midlife
                                    jfood Jun 2, 2010 11:20 AM

                                    Just as an aside, should the same hold true for a birthday cake. If you bring a cake and they do not bring out the same plates and utensils as they use for the flan, is that also a ding.

                                    1. re: jfood
                                      c
                                      chow_gal Jun 2, 2010 12:48 PM

                                      You're really just showing your ignorance of the nuance of wine drinking, jfood. Stemware is an essential part of the wine drinking process. And indeed, you showed disrespect to your most generous guest and the wine itself by serving it in "Mexican glasses" - whatever that means.

                                      I love Riedel stemware and have many different glasses and shapes: "Claus Riedel pioneered the practice of tailoring the shape of a wine glass to the specific characteristics of the wine it's made to hold."

                                      There is an extensive process to create a new wine glass wherein the world's best winemakers of that specific type of wine gather to test various shapes and sizes until they approve one that they feel best celebrates the unique characteristics of the wine upon which they've based their life and livelihood.

                                      1. re: chow_gal
                                        BubblyOne Jun 2, 2010 02:32 PM

                                        Excellent post. I'm lost as to why someone who does not drink wine would "contribute" to this thread.

                                        1. re: BubblyOne
                                          jfood Jun 2, 2010 02:56 PM

                                          Hey you want to take pot-shots, no biggie, but the OP placed this on the NAF board, not the Wine board. You rarely, if ever, see jfood on the wine board, so point taken.

                                          Jfood understands the shape of the glasss itself contributes through the amount of oxygen and breathing the wine can take, got it. but the idea that the material contributes to the flavor enhancement is just the emperor's new clothes stuff.

                                          1. re: jfood
                                            b
                                            Buckethead Jun 2, 2010 04:29 PM

                                            Actually the OP put it on the Philly board, the mods moved it.

                                            It's not the material of the glass that enhances the flavor, it's the shape of the glass, the amount of surface area of the wine it exposes to the air, and how much air the shape allows to reach your nose, both before and during sipping. I have noticed the difference drinking the same wine out of different shaped glasses, mainly between a glass with a mouth big enough to get your nose into when you sip and a narrower one, but it's not a big enough difference to make me stop drinking wine out of empty jelly jars.

                                            1. re: Buckethead
                                              jfood Jun 2, 2010 06:24 PM

                                              jfood agrees with the shape and how it might effect the experience, totally get it. But the idea that the $2 glass and the $25 glass of the exact same shape present a totally different experience and the former disrespects the wine is total silliness.

                                              1. re: jfood
                                                Midlife Jun 2, 2010 06:33 PM

                                                Again............. my years in wine have taught me that all this is related to the experiendce, education, and sensitivty of olfactory senses and palates. You an call it silly all you want........... for you I'm sure it is......... and that it's all self-indulgence. But I know people who insist that the glass itself (what it's made of and how it's made, not just shape) influences their tasting experience.

                                                1. re: Midlife
                                                  jfood Jun 2, 2010 06:38 PM

                                                  M

                                                  Jfood should correct one thing he wrote and thank you for being mature in this discussion. It does enhance the experience in a similar manner to wearing a great tie makes you feel better than a bad tie. And anything that makes anyone have a better experience is great in jfood's book. But he doubts that the tie or the glass material has any basis in science.

                                                  Salut

                                                  1. re: jfood
                                                    Midlife Jun 2, 2010 09:04 PM

                                                    I find this stuff kindof hard to believe myself, but below is a ink to an rticle that yiu should find interesting. Eisch is one of two German glass wear companies that make some of the best stemware available. Reidel is much older and larger. Reidel sued Eisch to stop claiming the 'breathable' qualities of this group of wine glasses and actually won, though it is still something of an open argument as to exactly what it is that makes the Eisch Breathable glasses make wine taste different. Read it for yourself: ttp://www.winereviewonline.com/Michael_Fran...

                                                    1. re: jfood
                                                      shaogo Jun 3, 2010 06:18 AM

                                                      jfood

                                                      I *love* the "tie" analogy. Of course there mightn't be a basis in science, but there's something delightfully "de luxe" about drinking fine wine out of a paper-thin glass that I enjoy very much.

                                                      Here's another analogy for you: if you rented a car to drive the Autobahn, would you opt for a Chevy subcompact or rent the BMW? The "subcompact" responders are fine with the jelly jars. The BMW responders are the crystal-wielders. Eh?

                                                      Cheers,

                                                      shaogo

                                                      1. re: shaogo
                                                        jfood Jun 3, 2010 08:19 AM

                                                        S

                                                        Jfood would take the ICE train in Germany, been there done that. :-))

                                                        And with jfood's experience in italy renting cars, would the rental agency actually give you the BMW or would they look you straight in the eye, hand you the keys to the chevy and tell you it was a "double-upgrade." Been there done that as well.

                                                      2. re: jfood
                                                        b
                                                        BN1 Jun 3, 2010 08:50 AM

                                                        Being penurious and something of a curmudgeon, I am not much interested in wasting money on stemware. However, I sat down at home and compared the wines I drink side by side with different types of glassware and different stems. I found the difference amazing even between different sizes and shapes of Reidel Vinum stems. I pay a lot for many of the wines I drink, so why would I not want to experience all the flavors of which they are capable?

                                                        1. re: BN1
                                                          jfood Jun 3, 2010 09:03 AM

                                                          As stated above:

                                                          "jfood agrees with the shape and how it might effect the experience, totally get it. "

                                                          1. re: jfood
                                                            Midlife Jun 3, 2010 09:59 AM

                                                            I noticed that my link was incomplete above. This is a long article but it does build a case for more than the glass shape.

                                                            http://www.winereviewonline.com/Micha...

                                                            Then, again, a 'non-believer' could easily write it all off to delusion. :o)))

                                                            1. re: Midlife
                                                              Miss Needle Jun 3, 2010 10:56 AM

                                                              I'm not a wine afficinado by any means as I am pretty ignorant about vintage, wineries, types of grapes, types of glasses, etc. I just like what I like. And I don't always like the more expensive stuff. One of my favorite wines out there is about $15 a bottle.

                                                              But I wholeheartedly agree with you that good wine glasses change the taste of wine completely -- and it goes beyong the shape. We've got a few of the Riedel Sommelier glasses at home and its less expensive counterparts. Huge difference between drinking the wine from the sommelier glasses versus the less expensive glasses -- even if the shape is the same. I think the thinness of the rims play a big role into it.

                                                              I hate to admit it, but we're pretty spoiled with our wine glasses at home. Even if we're out at a nice restaurant and order an expensive bottle of wine that comes in some good stemware, I always prefer drinking at home.

                                                              1. re: Midlife
                                                                jfood Jun 3, 2010 11:55 AM

                                                                As someone who worked in water desalination he understand the potential for the oxygen molecule to work through the glass and cause increase oxygenaztion. So he could be a believer if science were introduced versus a 34 out of 37 taste tester, which has a low probability if an x-y answer is the output.

                                                                1. re: jfood
                                                                  Midlife Jun 3, 2010 12:14 PM

                                                                  What is this? Battle of the wine geeks vs. the science nerds? :o)))
                                                                  Could get really tiresome.

                                                                  To a very real degree, this is one of those things you either get or don't get. I'm not sure you could scientifically measure how a wine tastes to a given individual from a paper cup vs. a $100 wine glass, or anything in between. I just know how it tastes to me.

                                                                  1. re: jfood
                                                                    c
                                                                    chow_gal Jun 3, 2010 07:10 PM

                                                                    Sometimes it's OK to be wrong. jfood has always been such a lovely, gracious poster (OK it did take me a while to get over the 3rd person voice), I don't get what's going on with Him.

                                                                    1. re: chow_gal
                                                                      jfood Jun 3, 2010 07:27 PM

                                                                      huh? You replied to jfood above..."You're really just showing your ignorance of the nuance of wine drinking" And jfood did not respond to this post. Jfood appreciates your kindness on this post but is unclear as to your point. Jfood agrees the shape of the glass matters, but does not yet believe that the a $5 glass and a $50 glass of the same shape brings a different result other than the tie analogy he mentioned. Not wanting to re-hash his opinion on the OP, it's all pretty spelled out in various posts, he does not think it good form to bring 4 bottles of wine for 4 people (say that four times fast) even if allowed. He has expressed his opinion regularly on the entitled voice expressed sometimes on the Boards of the "How dare they" directed at the restaurant.

                                                                      Sometimes the NJ comes out and sometimes the CT comes out in the threads. :-)).

                                                                      1. re: jfood
                                                                        c
                                                                        chow_gal Jun 3, 2010 07:42 PM

                                                                        I was referring to the obtuse sciencey stuff. So sorry it wasn't indented sufficiently. You're getting a little Aspie on this.

                                                                        1. re: chow_gal
                                                                          jfood Jun 3, 2010 07:51 PM

                                                                          not to worry but think about the results if the oxygen molecule, which is smaller than a wine molecule(s), could penetrate through the glass and assist wines to breath over the top and sides while it sits in the glass. Think about the nicotein patch, the drug contained in the patch passes throug the skin instead of taken orally. likewise certain water filters can "trap" disease molecule (i.e. Legionnaire's disease). Same concept.

                                                    2. re: jfood
                                                      southernitalian Jun 3, 2010 11:09 AM

                                                      Love that response JFood. I have been thinking exactly the same thing while reading this. I see the appeal of a Riedel glass over say, a jelly jar, but if the wine is good enough, it should be good enough out of either vessel.

                                                      1. re: southernitalian
                                                        b
                                                        BN1 Jun 3, 2010 12:45 PM

                                                        Southernitalian, you should try it yourself and then report back. In yearly visits to Italy over the past 10 plus years, I have seen wine service change from water glasses to the almost universal use of very good stems.

                                                        1. re: BN1
                                                          southernitalian Jun 3, 2010 01:31 PM

                                                          I try it myself all the time. I have several Riedel glasses and I don't have to feel like they're too precious because I get them from a friend who owns a restaurant and he can purchase them very inexpensively for me when the restaurant places an order. They're lovely and I enjoy drinking out of them. I totally get it.

                                                          1. re: southernitalian
                                                            b
                                                            BN1 Jun 3, 2010 06:10 PM

                                                            Southernitalian, I appreciate your reply. I guess I misunderstood your post. As you point out, restaurants can get good stemware inexpensively. I wonder why Restaurant Alba would give any customer inferior glasses. It would seem that they are trying to encourage some customers to not return.

                                                            1. re: BN1
                                                              Midlife Jun 3, 2010 06:29 PM

                                                              Or to not BYOW.

                                                              1. re: Midlife
                                                                b
                                                                BN1 Jun 4, 2010 08:48 AM

                                                                Midlife, I considered that, but I decided it's all or nothing. Your scenario suggests you can make the customer just a little POed, just enough to alter their behavior to suit the restaurant. I don’t think so.

                                                              2. re: BN1
                                                                shaogo Jun 3, 2010 06:29 PM

                                                                Crystal of any sort is still head-and-shoulders above conventional glassware in cost, even for restaurants. I'm sure southernitalian is talking about *comparative* cost -- restaurant (by the case) cost vs. MSRP retail.

                                                                1. re: shaogo
                                                                  southernitalian Jun 4, 2010 05:43 AM

                                                                  That's exactly what I'm referring to Shaogo.

                                                                  1. re: shaogo
                                                                    b
                                                                    BN1 Jun 4, 2010 08:41 AM

                                                                    Shaogo - That's true, but restaurants don't charge a $10 to $50 corkage fee for the use of their conventional glassware. I've gotten restaurant price on stemware at times, so I am aware of the actual cost. Poor wine glasses carry a cost to a restaurant in lost customers. If they added a list with fine wines, then I assume they are trying to attract patrons who are into wine. Those customers want good stemware.

                                                                  2. re: BN1
                                                                    southernitalian Jun 4, 2010 05:42 AM

                                                                    I've never heard of Restaurant Alba nor do I know anyone who works there. But if I had to guess, I'd say it's a strategic decision on the restaurant's part to discourage customers from BYOB (while not completely barring it).

                                                2. shaogo Jun 2, 2010 10:02 AM

                                                  The restaurant now has a bar (and a passable wine list that's reasonably priced). If the OP's BYOB selections weren't remarkable compared to the wine list, the OP's doing the BYOB for economy's sake. I think that's wrong (but I'm a restaurateur).

                                                  If the OP's selections were indeed something special/rare or otherwise particularly suited to the restaurant's cuisine, then the restaurant made a big boo-boo in two ways; the hassle given to the OP about the corkage and the glassware as well.

                                                  There was a big stink made a while ago about a Hartford, CT restaurant that uses the two-glassware approach (for the two price tiers of their wine list -- they don't allow BYOB). At first I thought it was nasty of the restaurateur. But when I called and asked "how do you get away with that?" the gentleman made it clear to me that there was indeed method in his madness.

                                                  It seems that those who drink more economical wine selections are more prone to toasting and "clinking" glasses. Over time, this poor man's collection of restaurant-quality Reidel was decimated by the boors who had no respect for the quality of the crystal they were bashing about. So if you drink something serious at his place, you'll get the good stuff. However, if you're going for a $20 bottle of chianti you're going to get a glass that'll be a little more durable when you and your buds engage in the cameraderie of toasting.

                                                  I'd love to know the difference in quality in the glasses, too. I mean, were the "low-end" wineglasses really that awful, or what the restaurant had carried *before* they developed their wine list?

                                                  6 Replies
                                                  1. re: shaogo
                                                    Striver Jun 2, 2010 10:58 AM

                                                    Is there an asterisk or other symbol on the wine list to indicate which wines come with good stemware? Or a blanket statement that "only wines offerred at more than $XX will be served with appropriate crystal stemware"? Just curious.

                                                    1. re: Striver
                                                      shaogo Jun 2, 2010 12:24 PM

                                                      At the Hartford place it's an unwritten rule; at about $100 and above you merit the good crystal. So, possibly, you'll be drinking a $95 wine out of Anchor-Hocking...

                                                      1. re: shaogo
                                                        Striver Jun 2, 2010 12:31 PM

                                                        I was thinking Welch's...:)

                                                        1. re: Striver
                                                          shaogo Jun 2, 2010 02:40 PM

                                                          Heaven knows there've been times I've been drinking a $50 wine and was thinking to myself that I'd *rather* be drinking Welch's!

                                                          1. re: shaogo
                                                            Striver Jun 3, 2010 03:06 AM

                                                            Oh, not the grape juice - the old Welch's glasses that remained when you finished all the jelly in the jar. :)

                                                            http://ny-image0.etsy.com/il_fullxful...

                                                            1. re: Striver
                                                              shaogo Jun 3, 2010 06:19 AM

                                                              Oh, I forgot about those. When I was growing up my mom used those for our orange juice in the morning. And my grandmother used to take her shot of sweet wine in the evening from one (I remember that vividly 'cause I used to get a sip!).

                                                  2. s
                                                    smartie Jun 2, 2010 08:05 PM

                                                    it's not uncommon in France to get short tumblers for drinking wine - admittedly in low end cafes and bars and sometimes in people's houses, but nonetheless it's done. I was surprised the first time I was given one.

                                                    1. c
                                                      chefbeth Jun 3, 2010 07:34 AM

                                                      If the restaurant has recently added a full bar, then they have had to ante up for a number of alcohol permits - local, state and federal - that they didn't have to pay before when they had just a byob policy. In addition, I can guarantee that their alcohol liability insurance premiums are through the roof, and they've probably had to have their employees attend insurance-company mandated alcohol classes. These all cost the restaurant a great deal of money, as I can personally attest to.

                                                      I get that sometimes a business has to spend money to make money -- they probably had a large number of guests request that they add a bar, so they figured out that the long term benefit will outweigh the additional yearly costs. I think it was wise of this particular restaurant to continue to allow BYOB so as not to alienate previous customers who liked that particular policy, but I don't think that a subtle hint that the restaurant would prefer that you order from the list is out of line.

                                                      My second point - and please forgive me if this sounds judgmental, as that is not my intent - four bottles of wine for four people over dinner may seem a bit much. Even at home I have two levels of glassware. One is for a meal where the food is the centerpiece and the wine is the accompaniment, perhaps a half-bottle per person. The other is for a meal when friends are gathering to drink wine, in which case the amount of alcohol is more like what you and your friends supplied. That's when the cheaper glasses come out. I don't think I'm the first one to notice that people can get a bit, um, clumsier when they've had more to drink.

                                                      So add another vote for the owner. Sorry, Deluca. Next time buy the first bottle from the restaurant and you'll get the right glassware. Problem solved.

                                                      7 Replies
                                                      1. re: chefbeth
                                                        Striver Jun 3, 2010 10:12 AM

                                                        Not if Deluca goes to Shaogo's Hartford place (see above) and orders an $85 bottle.

                                                        As for not alienating regular customers, seems to me that the restaurant in question (per the OP) has done precisely that. A subtle hint would be a two bottle corkage limit, for example - not shoddier treatment.

                                                        1. re: Striver
                                                          invinotheresverde Jun 3, 2010 10:21 AM

                                                          Does the restaurant really have to spell out good guest behavior and bad guest behavior? A two bottle limit wouldn't be a subtle hint, it'd be a rule. A subtle hint was the glassware spiel.

                                                          Also, I agree with chefbeth exactly. She made every point I tried to, only better. It boils down to the restaurant wanting business, but not being taken for granted. Corkage is a priviledge, not a right, and with priviledge comes responsibility.

                                                          1. re: invinotheresverde
                                                            Striver Jun 3, 2010 10:56 AM

                                                            Totally disagree. Corkage is neither a "privilege" nor a "right": it's a business decision.

                                                            Some restaurants allow it, some don't, some allow it within certain parameters - and it's about the restaurant owner making a business decision and setting the rules as he/she sees fit (or most profitable). The only obligation for the restaurant is to tet the customer clearly know what the rules are at the earliest possible opportunity (customer making reservation: "Do you allow corkage?" Restaurant: "Yes. We charge a fee of $25 per bottle with a two bottle limit; the fee is waived if you purchase a bottle from our list" - or "No, we have a fine wine program here, which we hope you'll enjoy" - or whatever. The customer's "obligation" is to accept the rules, whatever they are, or dine elsewhere.

                                                            1. re: Striver
                                                              invinotheresverde Jun 3, 2010 11:31 AM

                                                              The business is in a transitional stage. They're probably trying to figure out exactly what their rules will be WRT corkage.

                                                              I stand by the fact that corkage is a priviledge. Many restaurants that can legally offer it don't. Yes, it's a business decision, but it there's definitely appropriate etiquette that goes along with it, and I don't think bringing four bottles for four people, and not purchasing anything off the list is good etiquette. Just look up all the threads here if you disagree.

                                                              1. re: Striver
                                                                shaogo Jun 3, 2010 11:38 AM

                                                                Corkage is a privilege. Any business with a restaurant license and/or public assembly license (Certificate of Occupancy) is a public restaurant. Management has the right to prohibit customers from bringing *any* alcohol inside whether or not the restaurant has a liquor license. This applies to the world of ultra-fine wines as equally as it applies to the hobo who has a flask with his coffee at the diner at 8:00 in the morning.

                                                                1. re: Striver
                                                                  jfood Jun 3, 2010 11:52 AM

                                                                  You've actually answered your own question, that it is a privilege that is granted by the restaurant (by the use of the business decision tool)to the customer.

                                                                  But as Invino stated there are limitation that do require disclosure and agreement (i.e. limitations and fees) and those that do not require complete disclosure and agreement (i.e. the type of glasses, public drunkeness).

                                                                  The latter falls into the same category as other social contract items. For example, tipping is not agreed to upon the making of a reservation (except with the buffoon in NC recently) but it is part of the social norms of dining.

                                                                  Does bringing 4 bottles for 4 people, expecting 16 potential glasses, full wine service from the staff, etc. qualify as the social norm? People her have agreed and disagreed, and the OP has left the discussion. Jfood is curious about the level of tip the OP left as well. With four bottle, did s/he leave 15-20% of the corkage or 15-20% of the average price of the bottle on the wine list. If the OP brought 4 bottles and the restaurant charges corkage with a 2 bottle limit, isn't the staff subsidizing the 4 bottles?

                                                                  Lots of little nuances to a simple question.

                                                              2. re: Striver
                                                                shaogo Jun 3, 2010 10:34 AM

                                                                Just to clarify in case... it's not *my* restaurant I'm talking about; it's another owner/location.

                                                                At my place, sadly, we're not up to Reidel standards. All the wine's drunk from Arcoroc restaurant ware. Not bad, but not crystal, either.

                                                            2. s
                                                              soupkitten Jun 3, 2010 11:26 AM

                                                              if the op brought in 4 different bottles, did s/he also really expect to use a total of 16 house-owned differently shaped fine wine glasses, at the same time, at one table? for byob? while customers who were actually ordering and paying for wine from the list were out of luck for good wine glasses? i don't think that's how it's supposed to work.

                                                              perhaps the op should have brought her/his own glassware in addition to the potables, if the glassware is so important-- ah, it would be a big deal, though, if one of the op's glasses was broken in the course of the evening-- whereas the restaurant should just absorb the "cost of doing business" and give the op access to the 16 nicest wine glasses in the house. . .

                                                              3 Replies
                                                              1. re: soupkitten
                                                                Striver Jun 3, 2010 02:06 PM

                                                                I can see I'm up against the pro-owners here - and I do not disagree that bringing 4 bottles is "bad form" when a restaurant offers its own reasonable selection.

                                                                That said, the restaurant fixes the fee, and could just as well charge $25 per bottle corkage (or more - and some restaurants which chose to allow corkage do) to cover their glass costs, etc. It could also limit corkage to 1 or 2 bottles and/or require a bottle purchase for each bottle brought, etc. There are lots of ways to handle this.

                                                                This restaurant charged a low fee and allowed an apparently unlimited number of outside bottles to be brought in: that's their decision, and there's nothing here that indicates that the OP violated the restaurant's policy. That should make them the equal of any other customer - unless the restaurant explicity notes in a polite and timely manner that better glassware is reserved for wine purchasers only.

                                                                As is often the case, I'd say this was yet another instance of inappropriate behavior by both the restaurant (which made the customer feel chintzy) and the OP (who should have some understanding of the customs and mores surrounding BYO at a restaurant which also sells wine - particularly a chowhound) - but I fault the restaurant more in this case since they made the rules.

                                                                And I promise this is my last word on this thread. :)

                                                                1. re: Striver
                                                                  s
                                                                  soupkitten Jun 3, 2010 08:17 PM

                                                                  just for sake of argument, perhaps there are other customers of the establishment who appreciate that "This restaurant charged a low fee and allowed an apparently unlimited number of outside bottles to be brought in," as you put it. if i am not mistaken, many folks choose to byob in order to keep their dining check totals lower. perhaps the majority of the establishment's byob-oriented customers would prefer cheaper glassware and lower corkage/no limit to the alternative of higher end glassware and corresponding higher corkage, with bottle limits. the restaurant seems to be making an effort to cater to people's budget concerns during a recession, offering a no-frills corkage option. yet there is always a customer who orders no-frills and then complains that the first-class seats look better.

                                                                  1. re: soupkitten
                                                                    EWSflash Jun 3, 2010 09:01 PM

                                                                    And some of them decide that the restaurant owes them a mortgage payment or something because of some real or imagined slight.

                                                                    This does not refer to the OP, but it happens that sometimes people think that everybody owes them something. My pet name for it is white trash syndrome, although its occurrence crosses racial and socioeconomic lines.

                                                              2. PattiCakes Jun 4, 2010 01:53 PM

                                                                I think there is something missing here that people outside of PA may not be aware of. PA "blue laws" and liquor control laws are archaic. Liquor licenses are very limited, hard to come by and (sometimes) politically tinged. Thus the proliferation of BYOBs in and around Philadelphia.

                                                                Many restos in this area get their start as a BYOB. Many make theire mark as a BYOB and opt to stay that way. Some, like Alba, pursue a liquor license and make the switch. Making that switch isn't always easy, though, especially if they have developed a following as a BYOB. Some opt to do what Alba did -- get the liquor license, offer bar service, but have the option on certain days/nights for their faithful following (many of which probably helped build their business' reputation) the option of continuing to bring their own bottles.

                                                                If that's the case, the corkage fee should pay for the privilege of being able to BYOB, including the courtesy of good glassware. If the owners really don't want people to BYOB, then have the balls to cut the practice of allowing it. Don't allow it then make those who BYOB feel like second class diners. It's not good business.

                                                                BTW, it is very uncommon in PA for a resto to have a liquor license AND allow BYOB. If a place is not BYOB, it would not be polite, or permissable to bring your own unless there were a special arrangement such as the one described. BYO is limited to wine -- many bring their own beer in lieu of or in addition to wine.

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