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Between a Corkage and a Hard Place

Between a Corkage and a Hard Place

Dear Good Somm Bad Somm,

I have a lot of guests bring in their own wine lately and our corkage fee is only $35.  Corkage wine has been hard on my team because it is a drain on decanters, glassware and labor while creating very little revenue.  Is there anything I can do to curb the amount of corkage wine being brought into our restaurant?

Yours truly,
Between a Cork and a Hard Place

Good Somm:

Dear Between a Cork and a Hard Place,

Well, Between a Cork and a Hard Place, there is actually NOTHING you can do about it.  "Corkage" wine, for those not aware, is the term used to describe wine bottles brought to the restaurant by the guest and the nominal fee charged in order to service those bottles.  The idea is that we allow guests to bring in a bottle or two or three of their own wine with the hope that they will become repeat clients.  

Yes, it is true that wine sales and service will suffer.  Also, with the rising cost of food and labor, the restaurant can actually suffer also, so hopefully guests will order a second bottle or cocktails, etc...

But, for the sake of customer service, there's really not much you can do.  So just buck-up and and remember:  we are all humble servants in this business and the customer is always our guest for whom it is our privilege to serve.

Sincerely,  
Good Somm

Bad Somm:

Dear Between a Cork and a Hard Place,

I'm with you 100% mon frere:  Corkage and people who bring corkage are a super pain in the ass.  They are mostly cheap, amateur collectors with a wine-bag full of Silver Oak or William-Selyem Pinot Noir... Snorrrr...  They'll expect you to be impressed and make a big deal but don't be fooled:  they ain't ballers. 

In fact, I'd rather sell a $40 bottle to someone who is actually respectful enough to purchase wine at our restaurant than dick-around with some yahoo's bottle from CostCo. 

But there are a few things you may consider when it comes to dissuading guests from bringing wine to your restaurant.

For instance:  When presented with the corkage bottle, always offer to decant the wine...  Bring the bottle to your wine table and decant only 2/3's of the bottle and pour the remaining 1/3 into your personal glass.  If it's a good or moderately interesting wine, drink it with your other Somms and send a taste back to the Chef!  (Maybe you'll get a snack later?)  If it's a bad wine, give it to a line cook.  They'll drink anything.

The practice of "shorting" the wine may increase the chance of the guest ordering a second bottle from your list! 

It is also common that the guest will invite you to "taste" their wine and will expect you to waive their corkage fee in return for the sip of their personal "gem".  When they offer you a taste, pretend you are honored, tell them you'll be right back with a glass and never return.

And, by the way, why WOULD you offer me a taste of your wine?  Would you bring your own pizza to a restaurant and send a slice back to the Chef?  No.  Would you bring your own martini shaker to the club and stir up a Negroni for the bartender??  No. 

So, why on earth do you think, after tasting and buying wine all week, publishing a wine list, training a staff, counting inventory and working service would you expect me to be excited about your oaked-up Cabernet?!

Just a reminder, some guests will feel slighted if you don't fawn all over them and pretend you give a damn about their "special bottle"; some may even turn to social media to attack you on Yelp!  In this case, be sure to track down his personal information in your Open Table Database, build a profile on Grinder using his phone number as the contact and a shot of his wine label as the profile pic.

Yours, 
Bad Somm

Guys, we got some hate mail on this one!  Just a quick reminder:  we're mostly joking.  Sorry!

Having Second Thoughts

Having Second Thoughts

Deep in the Heart of Texsom

Deep in the Heart of Texsom