BYOB is popular in the US and in Australia and totally discouraged in France. I just read in Decanter.com that England is not very keen on the system either. But two Bristish entrepreneurs are trying to beat the system by creating the Bring your Own Bottle Club in partnership with Nicolas. The system is astute: for a yearly fee of £75 or £100, consumers pay little or no corkage charges at participating restaurants.
For the restaurants, the advantages are obvious: they get more clients and can expect to sell at least a bottle of Champagne. What are the advantages for the consumers? First, consumers are aware of the fact that restaurants make a lot of margin on their wine list, sometimes even an indecent one. But second, why should they choose among wines they might not like or want to try when their cellar is full of wines they would like to share with their friends while not worry about cooking? In the US, most restaurants, even expensive ones, are ready to suppress the corkage fees to get customers. They even encourage their clients to have large parties and bring many bottles. They know people will eat a lot more if they don’t have to pay for the wine and will usually leave a (very) large tip. Those happy consumers will also talk to their friends, who are mostly wine lovers and give the restaurant a good reputation. And this reputation will go around on the Web, the Facebook pages and be tweeted and retweeted. Some restaurants go even further in this strategy: they host tastings based on a theme (Rosé wines, Roussane and Marsanne wines,etc.). The wines are brought by the customers who are served a sample of the main dishes of the restaurant as a buffet for a minimal fee. The restaurant gets known by many people who might not otherwise heard of it.
Of course, the British Wine Club is a first step towards a more “liberal” way of bringing wine lovers to restaurants. The next step is for restaurants to understand that a bottle of wine cannot be anymore half of the final bill. The crisis brought out a new way of consuming wine: at home with your friends around a nice dinner. It will take more than a new wine club to bring back wine lovers to restaurants. Consumers have the right to expect new and more friendly ways of doing business for the restaurant industry.