Bad form, or totally reasonable?

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Re: Bad form, or totally reasonable?

Postby Bob Parsons Alberta » Tue Jan 02, 2007 11:18 am

Oliver, it is my experience in this business that many Brits are probably the worst tippers out there!!!

Visitors from Australia should realise that when visiting N America it is customary to leave a tip. I have had many a discussion with servers as to why no tip was included!!!
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Re: Bad form, or totally reasonable?

Postby Harry Cantrell » Tue Jan 02, 2007 1:01 pm

Bernie, sorry, I read your initial post, saw Bob R agree, then somehow read every Bob R post and mentally put in you name. Sorry for the mix-up.
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Re: Bad form, or totally reasonable?

Postby Ian Sutton » Tue Jan 02, 2007 5:10 pm

Bob Ross wrote:
2. Offer a taste of the wine to the owner or sommelier.

Quite a difference between our attitudes, but this one I've always thought was good (we even used to do it in one restaurant when ordering off their list, but the waiter always enjoyed a glass and we enjoyed his opinion on the wine).

The tipping regimes can be worlds apart - In UK 10% is considered fair, but many people don't bother at all. For me 10-15% means I thought the service was excellent; 5% means it was (just) acceptable and zero for unacceptable (although the old 1p tip is the ultimate - but I've yet to do it).

In Oz and NZ, I've been told off by locals for overtipping - and I'm sure if I came to US, then I'd have irate bellhops, chambermaids, barstaff and waitstaff swearing at my meanness.

My favourite story was from a waitress I knew, who didn't get a tip from a rather self-centred and arrogantcouple. After the meal, the couple went down to the putting green outside and (ahem) 'did the deed' on the grass. Anyway, the staff noticed this, but also after they left, noticed something shining on the grass. They went down, and as well as some loose change, found about £60 in notes, which was duly shared out amongst the staff and was the best tip they ever had!

regards

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Re: Omaha

Postby Ian Sutton » Tue Jan 02, 2007 5:13 pm

JeffB wrote:It was the Paxton Chop House, downtown at around 14th and Farnam. Just opened about 2-3 months ago. The owner of the local wine store recommended them because they had an above average wine list in addition to great food.

Aha - that's why the wine was on their list ... same supplier :lol:
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Re: Bad form, or totally reasonable?

Postby Sam Platt » Tue Jan 02, 2007 10:00 pm

Ian Sutton wrote:The tipping regimes can be worlds apart - In UK 10% is considered fair, but many people don't bother at all. For me 10-15% means I thought the service was excellent; 5% means it was (just) acceptable and zero for unacceptable (although the old 1p tip is the ultimate - but I've yet to do it).


Ian,

When I'm in the UK I tip a standard 10%, which seems to be well accepted. I did have an unusual experience the last time I was in Liverpool. I ate at a Portugese style chicken place at which you placed your order at a counter. You were then seated and your food was brought out to you. At the end of the meal I left my tip which came to about £1.80. I had made it about a block from the restaurant when I heard someone shouting "Sir" (more like "Suh") after me. The young waitress trotted up to me, said "No gratuity allowed Sir", and returned my £1.80. I wanted her to keep it just for effort in flagging me down.
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Re: Bad form, or totally reasonable?

Postby Lou Kessler » Tue Jan 02, 2007 10:27 pm

Bob Ross wrote:"That makes sense, and maybe that's the problem with not having their policy spelled out somewhere for newbs like me to read. Like I said, I am new to this whole notion of corkage, and my first understanding of it was simply, "if you pay a surcharge, you can bring your own wine". But based on some of the comments that you guys have made it sounds more like it should be phrased "if we don't offer the wine and you wish to bring it, we will allow it with a small surcharge"."

Jeff, it's tough to generalize because local custom and local laws impact corkage policies. I totally agree with Cynthia; I always phone ahead if I plan to bring wine to a restaurant. Managment is almost invariably willing, even eager, to describe their corkage policy.

Conceptually, it's best to compare wine with food: you don't have the right to bring your own steak to a steak house no matter how beautifully aged it is; a restaurant might permit you to do so in special circumstances, but you would certainly call ahead to discuss your reasons and what the conditions the restaurant might impose. The same principle applies to wine.

Here's a small sample of how corkage varies from place to place.

In some places it's unlawful to BYOB, sometimes because the restaurant is in a dry jurisdiction, and sometimes because it's simply unlawful in a licensed restaurant in the jurisdiction.

In this area of northern New Jersey, there are many BYOB restaurants -- it is very expensive and difficult get licenses, there are many unlicensed restaurants, and a very large number of restaurants encourage patrons to BYOB. [Even here though, a good number of unlicensed restaurant refuse to permit BYOB, usually for insurance reasons.] As a result, licensed restaurants almost invariably permit BYOB -- they may have a stated corkage policy, but almost invariably waive the corkage.

As a matter of courtesy, we've come up with the following checklist when taking wine to a licensed restaurant in this area:

1. Call ahead, discuss their list and pricing, and if we want to bring our own, give our reasons for our decision and discuss the restaurant's corkage policy.

2. Offer a taste of the wine to the owner or sommelier.

3. Bring only wines that are more expensive than the cheapest wine on their list -- sommeliers are usually complimented if you bring better wines. [One White Plains restaurants established their corkage charge equal to the cheapest wine on their list. :-)]

4. *Usually, buy a bottle from the list -- usually a sparkler or a dessert wine, or both.

In Manhattan, BYOB is generally not permitted at all. It's essential to call ahead and make arrangements. If permitted, the corkage runs around $20 to $30 a bottle, but I've seen $50 and even $75 at posh joints. Montrachet is a restaurant with a great wine list, a no BYOB policy, EXCEPT for Monday nights -- a very successful innovation for the restaurant on what used to be one of its slowest nights. And there are a few, vanishingly few, restaurants that encourage BYOB. Sommeliers sometimes tell you BYOB is illegal in NYC -- that's not true, but you cannot insist that be permitted to BYOB either. It's up to the restaurant, and you have no recourse if the restaurant refuses. (Except walk out, I suppose.)

I'm not sure what the current customs are in Napa -- a couple of years ago, one restaurant waived corkage if you brought a Napa wine; at the French Laundry, corkage was $75, and only if the wine wasn't on the list -- it was essential to call in advance and make arrangements, since the French Laundry has a very good list.

My impression is that restaurants in San Francisco and in Los Angeles are quite open to BYOB even if they have good lists of their own, and that corkage is rarely charged.

I did a Google search of corkage in Omaha restaurants -- $10 to $20 seems quite common -- a pretty wine friendly town based on that superficial search. I can understand why you thought "if you pay a surcharge, you can bring your own wine" -- many of the Omaha restaurant websites put almost exactly that way. There are many cities that are much less friendly to BYOB. :(

***

Restaurant markups on wine, and tipping policies on BYOB, when permited, are vast subjects, and I'll pass on those fascinating subjects. For this post at least. :)

Welcome to WLDG -- You posed some excellent, thought provoking questions.

Regards, Bob


Most restaurants in Los Angeles and San Francisco do allow corkage but almost all charge for it'
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Re: Bad form, or totally reasonable?

Postby Bob Ross » Tue Jan 02, 2007 11:34 pm

"My impression is that restaurants in San Francisco and in Los Angeles are quite open to BYOB even if they have good lists of their own, and that corkage is rarely charged."

Thanks, Lou. My very limited personal experience was different, and a couple of other Easterns reported the same experience. But I bow to your much greater experience. Thanks for correcting me.

Happy New Year to both BL and you.

Regards, Bo b
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Re: Bad form, or totally reasonable?

Postby Maria Samms » Wed Jan 03, 2007 8:13 pm

I have a question for you all...my favorite French Bistro, which also has a nice wine bar, has started a BYOB on Tues nights with no corkage fee.

Bob Ross wrote:
2. Offer a taste of the wine to the owner or sommelier.


I really liked Bob's checklist. If I brought a really nice bottle of wine on a Tues night, would it be appropriate to offer a taste? And to whom? The restaurant is owned by a husband/wife...the husband is the chef. When I am served wine it is by the waiter. So I am not quite sure if the owner is the sommelier or if they have a sommelier. Do I offer the owner a taste, the waiter a taste, ask if there is a sommelier, offer the wine barman a taste?
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Re: Bad form, or totally reasonable?

Postby Bob Henrick » Wed Jan 03, 2007 8:20 pm

Maria, if you know that the owner is the chef on that particular night (and if you don't, ask) then why not send him a few ounces (2-3). I bet he appreciates it and comes out to say thanks. This lets you meet him if you haven't already, and more important, it lets him meet you, his customer.
Last edited by Bob Henrick on Wed Jan 03, 2007 8:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Bad form, or totally reasonable?

Postby Jenise » Wed Jan 03, 2007 8:31 pm

I'm not adding anything not already said, but perhaps just adding weight to others' suggestions: Call first. You can never be accused of bad form if you call first and they say 'yes', whether your wine's on their list or not. Then, consider also buying something from their list. Since we're usually packing red, we usually order something sparkling or white as an aperitif.
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Re: Bad form, or totally reasonable?

Postby Ian Sutton » Thu Jan 04, 2007 6:27 pm

Sam Platt wrote:
Ian Sutton wrote:The tipping regimes can be worlds apart - In UK 10% is considered fair, but many people don't bother at all. For me 10-15% means I thought the service was excellent; 5% means it was (just) acceptable and zero for unacceptable (although the old 1p tip is the ultimate - but I've yet to do it).


Ian,

When I'm in the UK I tip a standard 10%, which seems to be well accepted. I did have an unusual experience the last time I was in Liverpool. I ate at a Portugese style chicken place at which you placed your order at a counter. You were then seated and your food was brought out to you. At the end of the meal I left my tip which came to about £1.80. I had made it about a block from the restaurant when I heard someone shouting "Sir" (more like "Suh") after me. The young waitress trotted up to me, said "No gratuity allowed Sir", and returned my £1.80. I wanted her to keep it just for effort in flagging me down.


Sam
When were you in Liverpool last? I worked there (and Horsham, south of London Gatwick) for 18 months up until late spring this year. I used to stay in the Radisson Hotel not far from the Docks. A city on the up (but compared to the 1980's it only had one direction it could go in :lol: ). Good folk to work with as well and a fantastic boss (I've had a decent run of these which is nice).
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Re: Bad form, or totally reasonable?

Postby wrcstl » Thu Jan 04, 2007 7:07 pm

Bob Ross wrote:"My question is, I have been told that it's somewhat bad form to take in a bottle of wine that the establishment offers on its own wine list. But given the huge savings in doing so, I am obviously compelled to do this again."

A couple of thoughts, Jeff. First, the restaurant management has a poorly conceived corkage policy in my opinion. Most restaurants that permit BYOB will not permit BYOB of wines that are on their list, unless you make special arrangments beforehand. At restaurants that enforce that policy -- you may be in the position of being forced to buy a wine off their list or going without wine at the meal.

It's worth mentioning that diners don't have the right to BYOB in a licensed restaurant -- it's up to management to decide whether to permit BYOB and on their own corkage policy.

I would expect to pay corkage of at least $50 in the circumstances you mention, if the restaurant would permit your bottle to be opened at all.

Regards, Bob


Bob,
I couldn't dissagree more. Generally speaking this is not an issue since I bring wines that are far older than is on most wine list. To say a restaurant should charge $50 IPO the normal $20 does not make any sense. Why would they do that, particularly if it is not a stated policy (which I have never seen). Assume I take an '90 Margaux and the wine list has the '90 Latour for $1200. That is OK and since I paid $75 on release I enjoy my dinner and wine. If instead they have the '90 Margaux then it costs me $50. I have two problems and this assumes a customer does not abuse the situation and bring a bottle of Yellow Tail. 1) Their mark up is ridiculous like most restaurants and if they want to inforce that type of policy fine, but I will spend $20 for a couple of glasses of wine by the glass and then never go back. 2) This is a service industry and they would seem to benefit by not punishing me for something I did not know before I got to the restaurant and try to make my experience enjoyable. Being a wine collector, and I guess cheap, my opinion must be jaded but mark ups that exist in most restaurants are ridiculious. If this discussion was about wine that is marked up double their cost then I would be on the restaurant's side but it is not. We have some restaurants with excellent selections at good prices, usually less expensive but well chosen bottles, and I will almost always buy a bottle. When I see 4X cost mark ups then I loose any sypathy for the restaurant. Sorry for the rant and know I have blabbed all around the subject but until a restaurant starts looking at a wine as something to compliment food IPO alcohol I will only go to BYO or restaurants with a well thought out and properly priced wine list.
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Re: Bad form, or totally reasonable?

Postby JC (NC) » Thu Jan 04, 2007 8:22 pm

Jeff,
I grew up in Lincoln, about 50 miles from Omaha, and I'm mildly shocked that Omaha restaurants have $200+ bottles on their wine lists. I love it when restaurants cap markup on wines to 150% of retail (about $112 on your $75 bottle) but so often they hurt their wine sales by charging double or more retail. And you are correct that they pay less than retail when they purchase the wine. (I would not expect them to hold to 150% retail with a rare wine that they cannot restock on their list, etc. If they have a 20-year old Bordeaux first growth that they have cellared for years or bought at a premium at auction, then I think a larger markup is reasonable.) I do think it would be tacky to bring a wine that you know is on their wine list for future visits. Bring something they don't carry or choose something from their list that is more reasonably priced than the example you give. You might even let the restaurant owner/manager know that you find their markups on wine exaggerated and would order more wine from the list if the prices were not so inflated.
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Re: Bad form, or totally reasonable?

Postby Bob Ross » Thu Jan 04, 2007 9:06 pm

Walt, a couple of folks have taken me to task on my post, and I'm re-thinking several points. I'll post a more comprehensive reply in due course -- thanks for the feedback.

On this point, however, I'm baffled, frankly: "I will only go to BYO or restaurants with a well thought out and properly priced wine list."

Would you really boycott a restaurant with great food, great service, great ambience, reasonably prices for food ... and an over-priced wine, beer and drinks list?

Regards, Bob
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Re: Bad form, or totally reasonable?

Postby wrcstl » Thu Jan 04, 2007 11:51 pm

Bob Ross wrote:
Would you really boycott a restaurant with great food, great service, great ambience, reasonably prices for food ... and an over-priced wine, beer and drinks list?

Regards, Bob


Bob,

First not really talking about beer and a drink list, just wine. Not only will I, I have and will continue to. To me food and wine are one in the same and I cannot think of enjoying a good meal without good wine. Luckily most good restaurants in St Louis are $15 BYOs and some have well thought out wine lists. If you have neither, regardless of your food, I will not go. Would you go to a restaurant that has really great wine at affordable prices and bad food?
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Re: Bad form, or totally reasonable?

Postby ClarkDGigHbr » Fri Jan 05, 2007 12:15 am

Bob Ross wrote:Walt, a couple of folks have taken me to task on my post, and I'm re-thinking several points. I'll post a more comprehensive reply in due course -- thanks for the feedback.

On this point, however, I'm baffled, frankly: "I will only go to BYO or restaurants with a well thought out and properly priced wine list."

Would you really boycott a restaurant with great food, great service, great ambience, reasonably prices for food ... and an over-priced wine, beer and drinks list?

Regards, Bob


I'm baffled, too. I have yet found a restaurant with all those great qualities ... and an over-priced wine list. However, if I do and decide it is appropriate to return, I will refuse to purchase wine from their cellar. Furthermore, I will continue to remind them why. After all, a good restaurant would want to get feedback about my dining experience: food, atmosphere and service are great; your wine prices suck, however.
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Re: Bad form, or totally reasonable?

Postby James Roscoe » Fri Jan 05, 2007 12:38 am

Bob Parsons Alberta. wrote:Oliver, it is my experience in this business that many Brits are probably the worst tippers out there!!!

Visitors from Australia should realise that when visiting N America it is customary to leave a tip. I have had many a discussion with servers as to why no tip was included!!!


Bob,
Watch out who you are calling bad tippers. My daughter is a waitress in Charleston, SC and when she hears Canadian accents she knows it's a bad table. Canadians (and we are talking about Quebecers and Ontarians) have a reputation as the worst tippers along the east coast.
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Re: Bad form, or totally reasonable?

Postby Bob Parsons Alberta » Fri Jan 05, 2007 2:45 am

Hi James, I cannot speak for the east of Canada so my apologies if I upset anyone. The staff I am associated with at the Grills here in Edmonton are usually doing very nicely!
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Re: Bad form, or totally reasonable?

Postby Bob Ross » Fri Jan 05, 2007 11:22 am

Thanks, Walt.

You're helping me think through this issue in a new way. It seems our positions are informed by at least two important drivers: the wine/dining culture we live in and how important wine is as part of the overall dining experience.

I've never been in a wine/dining culture where corkage is as common and as reasonable as that in St. Louis. And, factors other than wine are as important, often much more important, in my personal dining experiences.

I'll revert in more detail in due course. In the meantime, thanks for the insight.

Regards, Bob

PS: "Would you go to a restaurant that has really great wine at affordable prices and bad food?"

Absolutely. Park and Orchard is an excellent example in New Jersey -- enormous wine list, prices marked up about 150% of original cost, very heavy in Burgundy, a mecca for older Burgundies at reasonable cost held in exemplary cellars. Food: extremely variable. People who eat there often can parse their way through the thicket -- alone, really, since service sucks. I can't get anyone to go with me there because of the food -- just wine geeks eager to explore the wine list. I even go alone when I'm batching it. Or for the superb tastings. http://www.parkandorchard.com/events.html

In NYC, BYOB is very rare -- and the food is marginal at some of the BYOB places. Some people refuse to go to offlines in the City for just that reason. No names policy here -- I want to treasure the few BYOBs available; being a picky eater is a small price to pay for enjoying some great wines and good companionship. B.
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Re: Bad form, or totally reasonable?

Postby Bob Ross » Fri Jan 05, 2007 11:49 am

"I have yet found a restaurant with all those great qualities ... and an over-priced wine list."

Thanks for the feedback, Clark. Many people think that many of the top New York City restaurants fit that description. As I mentioned to Walt, I'm re-thinking this over-all issue, and I'll give an example of how I personally approach the issue.

A key point, though, is what constitutes "over-priced". More anon.

Regards, Bob
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Re: Bad form, or totally reasonable?

Postby wrcstl » Fri Jan 05, 2007 11:55 am

Bob Ross wrote:Thanks, Walt.

It seems our positions are informed by at least two important drivers: the wine/dining culture we live in and how important wine is as part of the overall dining experience.

Regards, Bob



Bob,
I agree, many outside of a wine culture, and our generation, think only of restaurants as a place to eat and judge primarily on the quality of food and service. I think of going to a restaurant as a dining experience that must, in most cases, include decent wine. There are so many choices out there that you can afford to be selective. BYO is a big plus to St. Louis but really not part of the main issue. My problem is restaurants that take wholesale X 4 or retail X 3 and allow a local distributor to make their wine list. I believe this to be the rule rather than the exception. There are certainly nice exceptions to this rule and I tend to support them.

Got a kick out of your Park and Orchard example. I would tend to try it but as much as I like a good wine deal I also think a restaurant should have good food. It should be a total experience, more like what you find outside of the major cities in France and Italy.

Three things influence my choices of restaurants:
1) We cook as a hobby so you better be good for us to spend $100 per couple. Anyone can grill a steak
2) As a wine collector I understand wine and get as upset with poor selections and overpriced wine as poor food
3) BYO in St. Louis, just consider myself lucky here. MO is a very conservative state but for some reason is quite liberal related to serving and shipping of wine. Hard to look at a $150 bottle of wine on a list that you bought for $25 four years ago and are allowed to bring something similar for $12 corkage.

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Re: Bad form, or totally reasonable?

Postby JC (NC) » Fri Jan 05, 2007 12:05 pm

A restaurant in Raleigh is sponsoring an "Open that bottle night" dinner January 31st. Bring a special wine from home and share with others at the dinner. I'm excited about the prospect. Now to decide which wine to bring.
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Re: Bad form, or totally reasonable?

Postby wrcstl » Fri Jan 05, 2007 12:18 pm

JC (NC) wrote:A restaurant in Raleigh is sponsoring an "Open that bottle night" dinner January 31st. Bring a special wine from home and share with others at the dinner. I'm excited about the prospect. Now to decide which wine to bring.


JC,
This sounds like the kind of thing I would enjoy attending. Fayetteville is a pretty long drive from Raleigh isn't it? All of my wife's family is in NC and love the state but next to your friends to the immediate south, one of the states most difficult for a wine collectors, at least I thought so.
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Re: Bad form, or totally reasonable?

Postby JC (NC) » Fri Jan 05, 2007 12:33 pm

It is about a 90-minute drive for me from Fayetteville to Raleigh but I usually make the trip once or twice a month. On collecting, things have improved in the last few years with the ability to order directly from wineries if they are willing to register and pay a licensing fee to the state. I have ordered from Biale, Williams Selyem, Saintsbury, Loring Wine Company, Argyle, Cristom, etc. And Raleigh has a number of wine shops that I visit now and then. Mainly I purchase from Carolina Wine Company which has a temperature-controlled warehouse and will store the wines for up to six months. It helps that the owner of CWC is a fan of red and white Burgundies. The selection of Burgundies is better than some other areas although they carry an increasing number of Italian, Australian and other wines (spotty on California and Oregon wines but some nice Cabernet Sauvignons and Pinot Noirs and Zinfandels).
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