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Some BYO rules

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07 Jun 2012

Bringing your own wine to a restaurant is a very popular thing to do in South Africa, particularly in the Western Cape. Whether you want to enjoy a special wine with good food and good friends or to save a bit of money on the bill, plenty of people head out to restaurants on a Saturday night, bottle in hand.

So here are some rules worth bearing in mind...

1.    Check the BYO policy before you book. BYO is not a right. If a restaurant chooses not to let you bring your own wine, that is up to them. So it makes sense to make sure that they will allow you to BYO before you arrive. A quick phone call will tell you whether it’s okay, how much they charge (sometimes it’s not worth your while), whether there are any restrictions as to how many bottles you can bring and any other policies which you should know before you turn up. It’s rather annoying to drag a bottle around with you all evening and not be allowed to open it!

2.    Don’t take something already on the wine list. Even when I DO want to save money, I don’t want to be thought a cheapskate. So if I BYO, I try and take something that the restaurant doesn't stock – a lot of restaurants have their winelist online so you can check it beforehand. That way, I can drink the wine I wanted, without being unduly cheap.

3.    Try and spend money in other ways. Restaurants are there to make money and if you BYO, that can cut their takings severely as well as reduce the income for their staff. It’s a nice gesture to perhaps start off with a glass of fizz or a G&T, maybe consider a port or liqueur after dinner and round your meal off with a coffee. It just says that you appreciate them, and means they are more likely to accommodate your BYO with good grace.

4.    Tip as if you ordered the wine. The waiter has looked after you all night, poured your wine, fetched you extra ice, brought you fresh glasses – it’s not really fair that he should do all that for a measly 3 or 4 rand. If he’d sold you a bottle of wine, he could have been hoping for perhaps R15 or R20 – or more – as a tip, so again, it’s a nice gesture to tip accordingly and ensure smiling, happy service.

5.    Take a good bottle! Okay, maybe this is a personal thing, but as an ex-restaurateur I must tell you that anyone who turned up in my restaurant with a bottle of R25 wine would immediately be branded cheapskate and viewed accordingly. Put it this way – you’re going out of your way to enjoy food you wouldn’t normally cook at home, so why waste it by pairing it with wine you’d normally drink at home? Make it special and make sure your wine matches the quality of the food.

What do you think? Do you follow the BYO ‘rules’ or not? Do you think restaurants are lucky to have your business under any terms or is BYO just totally cheap in your view and something you’d never do?

Tell us what you think! Please email us at with your thoughts.


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