The Tasting Panel magazine

January / February 2018

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Page 74 of 124

74  /  the tasting panel  /  january/february 2018 WHAT TO DO T here are few things more perplexing than the idea of going to a restaurant and bringing your own food and drink. Why not just stay home? But the lure of being served with gracious hospitality in a lovely restaurant where one doesn't have to clean up the mess of a meal is a powerful incentive to dine out. So, assuming bringing food to a restaurant is unacceptable—unless you have a very restric- tive diet—which genius first proposed bringing their own bottle of wine while dining out? According to Los Angeles restaurateur Piero Selvaggio of Valentino and his legendary wine cellar, the present incarnation of corkage started in earnest more than a decade ago, when he called it a "social phenomenon" and "one of those new fashions" that put a squeeze on his restaurant's bottom line. One of the best sommeliers and wine directors I know is the great Peter Birmingham, whose tutorial concerning corkage vis à vis a restaurant's bottom line is instructive: "Corkage has a trickle-down effect. When there are nine bottles of corkage to one bottle that's pur- chased, it influences negotiations for salaries." In other words, restaurants calculate compen- sation based on how much wine employees sell. If the customer brings in their own wine, then that must affect the wine steward's income. Despite these drawbacks, corkage is a fact of life in the hospitality industry. In fact, it's so ingrained that directors must come up with tactics that at least somewhat level the playing field so they can sell enough wine to meet their ROI: For example, for every bottle a customer brings in for corkage, their corkage fee could be waived if they buy a bottle from the wine list. This way, wine is still being sold off the wine list and the customer is happy to avoid paying that fee. Surprisingly, at Valentino, Selvaggio says patrons inquire about corkage more often than any other topic. With that being said, it's often difficult to track down a restaurant's formal corkage policy. To help quell that frustration, I launched an online directory on that lists restaurants' corkage policies for wine, beer, and spirits. Its goal is to provide a time-saving resource for both restaurant employees fielding calls and customers searching for corkage fees: Customers know in advance what the corkage policy is, making a wine director's life a little easier. And that's a good thing to know before "popping the question." THE PROS AND CONS OF "BYOB" IN THE MODERN CULINARY ERA by Judi Laing A Perspective on CORKAGE

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