10 Tips for BYO in restaurants

Taking your own wine to a restaurant? Our wine editor shares some simple etiquette.

 
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The foodie website, Eater recently shared 10 tips from sommeliers about taking your own wine to braais or picnics, but are there any different rules if you want to take your own wine to restaurants? I think so, so here are my Top 10 Tips for BYO to restaurants and bars.

1. Ring ahead
Not everywhere allows you to BYO and it saves much unpleasantness if you check beforehand. Also check if there is a limit to how many bottles you can bring – some restaurants restrict it to 1 bottle per 4 people. And check on the corkage fee – some places charge up to R100 which may not make your BYO worthwhile.

2. Check your wine against the wine list
Many restaurants won’t allow you to bring your own wine if the same bottle is already on the wine list – and anyway, the point behind BYO should be to enjoy something special and unusual with your meal, not just to save money.

3. Chill whites and pinks
Otherwise you could be waiting some time for your first glass of wine when you get to the restaurant!

4. Consider dropping off beforehand
This is really part of the point above but it’s also nice not to have to trail into a restaurant with bottles clinking. Plus it gives the restaurant an opportunity to earn their corkage fee and serve it to you nicely as well.

5. Check for faults first
If you’re going to BYO, it can be worth opening your bottle and checking it’s okay before putting the cork back in and heading for the restaurant. Otherwise, you run the risk of negating the whole point of BYO in the first place!

6. Check the menu
Make sure you know what kind of food the restaurant is serving if you don’t want to end up taking big, bold red wines to a sushi restaurant.

7. Be prepared to order off the list as well
This is something I would highly recommend and something I always do on the very rare occasions when I BYO. It shows a bit of willing give-and-take with the restaurant which is always appreciated by both waiters and owners. Even a couple of glasses of fizz beforehand and a dessert wine afterwards can make everything feel a bit friendlier.

8. Take something decent
If a restaurant has put time and thought into their food and their wine list, then taking something that costs R30 is insulting and makes you look cheap as well.

9. Tip on the wine you bring
The corkage fee goes to the restaurant to cover use of glasses, ice etc but the waiter gets nothing out of the deal. Adding R20 or so to the tip isn’t going to break the bank but does ensure that you don’t become ‘the cheapskate table no waiters want to serve’ when you return for your next visit.

10. Don’t argue with the restaurant’s policy
BYO isn’t a right, it’s something that is carefully built into a restaurant’s business model –if it is even there at all. If a restaurant doesn’t allow it, or charges what you consider to be a high corkage fee or restricts the number of bottles you can bring – then you should look to eat elsewhere rather than trying to change their policy.



- Cathy Marston

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