For years, the corkage fee has been a point of contention between restaurant owners and their patrons.
While your guests want the option of bringing their own wine, you, understandably, don’t want to miss out on the profits of selling from your own wine list.
In this article, we look at why charge corkage and what’s too much. We’ll take a look at what your patrons are willing to pay and how much you should charge.
First, let’s define the term corkage.
Corkage is the fee that restaurants charge customers who bring their own wine to a restaurant.
Your restaurant might charge a corkage fee to help cover your service, lost revenue from not selling your own wine and the risks of patrons breaking your wine glasses. (tweet this)
If you sell wine, you know that it’s highly profitable for your restaurant, and it’s not unreasonable to charge a corkage fee to make up for lost profits if you’re going to allow diners to bring their own.
Typically, corkage fees range between $10-40 per bottle. Sometimes restaurants don’t charge a fee and even encourage diners to bring wine, while others charge $100 per bottle.
According to one expert, corkage fees depend on where you live.
If you want to completely discourage your patrons from bringing their own wine, then charge a high corkage fee to encourage customers to buy your wine. (tweet this)
You’ll find that some restaurants waive corkage fees under certain circumstances.
For example, you might waive one corkage fee if your patrons buy one bottle of wine from you.
You also might consider a $0 corkage fee evening. One evening per month or week, let patrons bring their own wine for free, and on the rest of the nights, only sell your own.
Consider one restaurant that waives its corkage fee on “Wine Wednesdays.”
Another restaurant waives corkage fees on American wines and charges it for all others.
Another instance where you might waive the corkage fee is if a customer brings in a very special bottle of wine and shares it with you.
Now let’s look at why your customer might want to bring their own wine in the first place.
You’ll find there are several reasons your guests might want to bring their own wine.
First, the customer doesn’t want to pay your mark up on the wine and brings his own to save money.
If he can buy the same wine you sell for $30 less and pay your $15 corkage fee, he still comes out on the positive side.
Second, your customer might want to bring his own wine because your wine selection is grim.
If your restaurant doesn’t offer a respectable wine list, then you can bet your wine-loving patrons don’t want to drink from it. If you want to encourage people to drink your wine, you have to offer drinkable wine.
Finally, your guests might want to bring their own wine for a special occasion. For example, if it’s a birthday, wedding proposal or anniversary, and your customer has been saving a fine wine for the event, he might choose to bring it to dinner.
In this instance, go ahead and charge the corkage fee with a smile and be flattered that the patrons chose your restaurant for their special occasion.
Many wine aficionados bristle at the thought of paying for wine at a restaurant. They would rather spend less and bring their own in to your restaurant.
Yet, if you’ve gone to the trouble of hiring a sommelier, and you’ve invested time and money into your wine list, you probably aren’t a fan of customers bringing in their own wine.
We’re going to leave you with some tips on how to avoid problems with the corkage fee so you can make the most of the your own wine list and patrons who want to bring their own:
In some states corkage fees are not allowed by state law. The reasons mostly focus on whether the establishment has an alcohol license. If the establishment does not there is no alcohol permitted at all even if patrons bring their own.
Finally, it is fair of you to charge a corkage fee because when patrons bring their own wine, you are losing a sale. Consider charging a corkage fee similar to the profit you are losing on an average bottle of wine.
This amount differs depending on the wine, so do your best to be equitable.
Now that you know how to solve the problem with the corkage fee and how much to charge, you’re well on your way to finding a happy medium.
At Restaurant Engine, not only do we create great, responsive websites, but we’ll make sure your wine list shines. Ready to take the plunge and create a website with an online menu, wine list, blog and beautiful photos? Get your free website consultation today!