A case study and responses to BYOB in London

BYOB at the EWBC 2009

When I put out my little post asking why there wasn’t more BYOB in London, little did I know what a reaction I’d get! I seemed to have tapped into a wellspring of  discontent with the state of restaurant winelists and the ridiculously high markups that it seems many restaurants enforce.

The response was incredible. Both via comments on my blog and via people tweeting me. Many people commented that if restaurants allowed BYOB that they would be more inclined to go out. Coincidentally, the day after I posted that questions, I came across an article in the Wall Street Journal detailing how restaurants in San Francisco are now doing away with the corkage fee altogether in an effort to attract customers (and it looks like it’s working).

My Aussie readers were incredulous that London establishments did not allow BYOB, it being almost universal in Australia. The wine trade weighed in as well, commenting that perhaps restaurants had gotten too greedy. Many don’t seem to have realized that we no longer live in the boom years of the last century and should change their policies accordingly.

I also got plenty of recommendations for restaurants that I had neglected to add to the list. Check out the comment section of the BYOB post to view the recommendations.

I also heard back from various restaurants and one in particular (Kitchen W8) wrote to me with their experience of BYOB in London. I’m publishing it here because I think it really does show that not only customers but also restaurants can benefit greatly from a BYOB policy.

What Kitchen W8 wrote about their BYOB experiment in Nov. 09:

BYO returns in January 2010  

We had a phenomenal success with our BYO offer in November.

All manner of interesting wines were brought in, with many an intriguing story attached  to the bottles drunk. There was a fair amount of bottle sharing amongst different tables and very generous tastes being offered to both our staff and other customers. Of course, there was a large element of pride involved. In short, it was a delight. Our favourite story involved two separate tables who, quite independently, brought in bottles of Ducru Beaucaillou. One from the 70′s and the other from the 90′s. Each table tasted the other vintage and at the end nobody could reach a decision as to which was the better.

It seemed such a well received idea that we are all for bringing it back for 2010. We know that we all have wines that are deemed to be too good to drink at home and too expensive to be drunk in restaurants, so this is the perfect occasion. Join us on Sunday evenings and bring your special bottle with you. There is no charge for this. If you haven’t got one just begging to be drunk ask the expert opinions of three great local wine merchants and get them to make recommendations….

What a great story. Now if we could just get more restaurants to follow Kitchen W8′s example. In case you missed it the first time around, you can find comprehensive listings of London BYOB on Wine-pages, London Eating and Square Meal. And The Gourmet Traveler was inspired by my question to call around and compile a list, read her post here on more who do and don’t do BYOB in London.

8 Comments

  1. HI, there is a superbe restaurant right in the heart of london that just started doing bring your own wine, cozy palce delicious moroccan cuisine and that’s 2 minutes walk from goodge street it is called la menara on clevland street, they do charge a small corckage fee wich is about £2, worth a try.

  2. BYOB in Spain is not a concept that even exists. Even most Muslim run restaurnts have wine except with some very rare exceptions. I have never heard of it there at all. It may happen in places with big ex-pat communities but even then not much.

    • I think this is a fairly North American concept. I remember visiting Montreal and going to a street that was lined with restaurants devoted solely to BYOB. I had a lot of fun on that trip, going to the liquor store every nite and making my pick for that evenings consumption. Apparently, it does exist in Paris (Miss Vicky Wine did a post on that) but other then that, I don’t think it’s really something done on this side of the pond.

  3. You know this is interesting, i will do the same study in Paris to see the difference!

    • I’d be very interested to see if you have BYOB in Paris. It doesn’t seem to exist in Continental Europe. Will await your report! :-)

  4. The BYOB concept in London is something I have been battling with since I moved back nearly a year ago.

    Whilst working in Lincolnshire for an Independent Wine shop I made good contacts at restaurants to who generously allowed me to pay corkage or not pay anything at all.

    I find the biggest concern for London restaurants is to keep competitive prices which results in them clawing back profit on their drinks lists.

    I support BYOB because as mentioned above, some people have drinks in their collection they consider too good just to drink at home and want to take it to a restaurant to enjoy it. I just find that not all good restaurants support a great wine list or don’t hold the type of wine I would rather drink.

    • Very true! Oftentimes people would like to bring their own wine because a particular wine has sentimental value or was given as a gift for a special occasion or as you pointed out, the restaurant just might not have the kind of wine you prefer. If restaurants in San Francisco are now jumping on the no corkage fee bandwagon, I don’t see why restaurants in London can’t at the very least offer reasonable corkage fees. Thanks for stopping by!

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