Screw This: The Corkage Fee Debate

February 25, 2015


Cork Fee

I had one of those evenings recently. Again.

Our hotel’s “friendly” restaurant refused (quite rudely, actually) my girlfriend and I the option (paid or unpaid) of bringing two bottles from our personal stash to dinner.

The city was Frankfurt.

The time – Sunday evening.

The restaurant – empty.

The bottles – Giorgio Scarzello Langhe Nebbiolo 1997 (read the tasting note here) and Paolo Scavino Barolo Bric del Fiasc 1988.


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After a quick search on the Internet, we settled for a small Italian place a short drive from the hotel called Trattoria I Siciliani.

To make the story short, they let us bring our wine; we were happy to share a glass of each with the fella who showed the most interest in the wines (turned out to be the owner – Matteo); the table next to us was later filled by a nice group from Piemonte; by the end of the night everybody was talking to each other and having a great time.

Adding the insult to the injury – as the bill for our perfectly homey and delicious dinner came, Matteo, not only didn’t charge a corkage fee, but instead – offered us a discount!! Talk about karma. Touched and grateful, we politely refused, nonetheless.

While similar situations have happened to me before, that night, perhaps, had the perfect combination of events which highlight the silliness and obtuseness of smirking at offering a corkage fee

I pondered on what could be the motivation for a restaurant to avoid the corkage free option. It ended up in a complex matrix of customer motivation and restaurant risk options with around 15 various scenarios. Way too bulky and cumbersome.

Below are my attempts to simplify the key arguments that restaurants may voice against the BYOB / corkage fee, followed by my rebuttals.

Corkage Fee table


The bottom line (again, simplified): if you ain’t McDonalds or NOMA get off your high horse and get on with the program!!!

For the fairness of the argument – I urge all the BottleDocket readers, particularly restaurant owners, to voice your thoughts on the corkage fee issue and/or point out any arguments against the corkage fee that I’ve missed.

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