After 7 years in the hospitality industry, I don’t think I have come across anything quite as controversial as corkage. It’s one of those hoary old chestnuts which really rubs everyone up the wrong way – check out the reviews for Chandani restaurant if you don’t believe me! So here is my take on a few issues which have come to fore recently:
1. They only let us bring one bottle per table. A restaurateur has a legal obligation to control the liquor drunk on his premises – something which is clearly impossible if we are all furtively chugging wine under the table. But what is acceptable – 1 bottle per couple, one bottle per four people? What if there are five of you, can you drink half a bottle and pay half the corkage? What about people who bring half-drunk bottles out to dinner (yes, it does happen!!) – should they also pay half-price? Restaurants need to make a rule – whatever that is – and stick to it. If customers don’t like it, they know what they can do….
2. If I can bring wine, why can’t I bring beer and tequila? Why can’t you just stay at home and have a party? This is somebody’s business and they need to pay the bills. If we all start kicking the s**t out of the system, the system will stop. Simple.
3. Restaurants rip us off on their wine prices anyway. Yes - restaurateurs go to Pick n Pay, bring home the booze in the boot of their cars and then triple the price for no noticeable reason – right? If that is really what they do – and good indicators would be a wine list with little choice, wines coming from only two or three producers, no vintages and misspelt names – then yes, you should bring your own. Serve the restaurant owner right for being so lazy. BUT – if the restaurant owner has put thought, time, effort and energy into selecting the correct wines to suit his food and ambience, has chosen nice glassware in which to serve them, has got his fridges turned to the correct temperature and has taught his waiting staff well, then maybe you should see what he has come up with before you reach automatically for the cool bag.
4. It’s okay to BYO if it’s a really good wine. Fair enough. However – what constitutes a good wine? I have seen people turn up at restaurants clutching Chateau Libertas, Two Oceans, Arniston Bay – all great gluggers, but not exactly ‘really good wines’. If you have something special and desperately want to open it at a restaurant, then phone in advance and check if it is okay – I have never heard of anyone who did this being refused.
5. It’s only you cheapskates in the Cape who BYO – no-one does it up in Joburg. Well, good for you. The Cape has access to a lot more wine than the rest of the country and the pressure on restaurateurs to offer good wine lists is justifiably more intense. And if they don’t – see point 3!!
6. I can’t afford to eat out and drink out as well so I BYO. There is a lot more to a restaurant than just food – décor, ambience, atmosphere and, of course, drinks. Rather than miss out on the whole experience, perhaps just go out less often, but go the whole nine yards when you do. Go big, or stay home!
At the end of the day all problems with corkage can be solved very simply by your feet – if you don’t like the restaurant’s policy, whatever it may be, then find another restaurant! So what’s your do’s and don’ts with corkage? Bring it on!