Photo: Flickr / ldandersen
Since restaurants reap such high revenue percentages from alcohol sales (restaurant wines are marked up to 300% from the retail price according to WineEnthusiast.com), one might think that going to a “Bring Your Own Bottle” eatery saves money.Even with steep corkage fees—as much as $25 at some big city restaurants—it seems safe to assume that diners would save money by bringing their own bottle instead of purchasing grossly marked-up wines at restaurants.
But when it comes to our wallets, we don’t want to bank on speculation. To find out if you actually save money by dining at BYOB restaurants, we compared BYOBs with similar liquor-selling eateries in New York, Chicago, and San Francisco. The conclusion: Don’t assume you will save big by bringing your own bottle.
For consistency, we compared popular restaurants in the same neighbourhood with similar cuisines and similar average price points. Then, we examined how much people actually spent at these restaurants based on our data here at Bundle. By comparing the restaurants’ typical costs, we were able to see whether seeking out a BYOB is worth it in New York, Chicago and San Francisco.
On New York’s Upper East Side, Ottomanelli’s Café 86 serves moderately priced Italian favourites and doesn’t charge a corkage fee. With most people spending $30, Ottomanelli’s Café 86 is a tough BYOB to beat. For comparison, we scouted out another popular Upper East Side Italian restaurant that sells alcohol. Zucchero E Pomodori has a typical check of $46. At first glance, one would think that you would save $16 by going to Ottomanelli’s, but if you bring a $16 bottle of wine to dinner, any assumed savings are gone.
The difference is even less marked at the two restaurants we compared in Chicago. Chicago’s BYOB restaurant Tango Sur in the city’s Lakeview neighbourhood serves steak and South American cuisine, and has no corkage fee; people typically spend $61. In comparison, Las Tablas, another popular South American restaurant in Chicago’s Lakeview area, boasts a full bar and people typically spend $62.
In San Francisco, we targeted two similar Indian restaurants in the city’s Inner Sunset neighbourhood. Naan-N-Curry is a BYOB with no corkage fee; people typically spend $22. Nearby Curry Village offers beer and wine to diners. Curry Village’s typical cost is $26—only $4 more than the BYOB.
Despite assumptions that BYOBs save money, scouting out a “bring your own” restaurant in some of the country’s most popular eating out cities might not save you big bucks. But if you’ve been saving up a reserve bottle for a special occasion, it may be worth it to call the restaurant and inquire about their corkage charge.
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