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Restaurant Service on Wine - Part 3

Page 3


Reordering Wine:
At several points in the meal the sommelier or waiter should check with the host to see if additional wine is needed. This can either be more of the same wine or perhaps a different wine for comparison or for a another course in the meal. If more wine is ordered, the routine of ordering, verifying the selection, dealing with the cork and tasting the wine will be repeated as it was with the first wine. If you reorder the same wine (same selection and vintage) it would be appropriate for the next bottle to be poured in the same glasses that the guests are currently using, but it is necessary for the wine host to be brought a new glass for the evaluation tasting. The most important time to consider a reorder of the primary wine for the night is just before the main course is served. If the bottle is empty and the glasses are low another bottle may be in order. Do be aware of the waiter that wants to keep filling the glasses of those who have obviously stopped drinking or who already have enough wine to complete the meal. The goal is to possibly force the purchase of an additional bottle in order to meet the needs of the guests who are consuming the wine in greater quantity. Fortunately this type of waiter is rare and especially so in restaurants where you are known.

Beverages (including wines) are a key part of a restaurant’s profit structure. Some people are surprised (even shocked and upset) when they see wine prices (both glass and bottle) that are much higher than they pay at retail; but, these same people don’t stop to compare the cost of coffee, coke or food and the comparative price for those items at retail. They have inventory carrying costs, glassware (and breakage) expenses, wait staff, kitchen staff and location overheads that have to be covered. Restaurant customer count is limited by the number of seats and the limited times of the day that they are patronized. Restaurant and retail settings are two different worlds and the profit structures must be totally different in order for each to survive. Some restaurants use low wine (or spirits) prices as a promotional tool in order to improve traffic flow while others may use a sliding profit structure that charges a greater percentage on lower priced wines and less on higher priced wines. The philosophy behind the sliding scale is that any wine sold needs to cover certain fixed costs (glassware, dishwashing, server time, seating space, etc) regardless of the cost of the bottle. Once these costs are covered, more expensive bottles can still produce higher actual profits and still be relatively more affordable to the customer. Each restaurant has its own philosophy on the place of wine in the dining experience and in the profit structure. You’ll find some you like and others you do not. Rather than complaining about the decisions made by an establishment with which you disagree, just give your business to the ones you prefer.

Some restaurants will allow customers to bring in their own bottles of wine with a fixed charge to cover service (glassware, wait staff and kitchen help, etc.). This practice is called ‘corkage’. Understand that this is the exception rather than the norm. Local laws (especially in the United States) often prohibit this practice and violations could result in fines to the restaurant or even loss of their liquor license. When they are offered, corkage fees vary by restaurant. Usually the range will be between $10-$25 depending on the wines and/or the cost of the restaurant. Some restaurants that do not want to actually tell their customers "No" will set high corkage fees as a way to discourage customers from bringing their own wine Corkage is usually allowed when a customer (often a known good customer) has a special bottle or two that is not available on the wine list. It is not allowed as a way to dodge buying wines from the wine list so bringing your own bottle of a wine that is available on the list or bringing everyday bottles is unacceptable. Corkage is also offered in some restaurants that do not have a license to sell alcohol. Some of these restaurants have relationships with a nearby wine retailer where you can select a bottle for dinner.


Restaurant Services Page 1 Restaurant Services Page 2