Restaurant-Goers Bring Their Own Wine

Michelin-rated restaurants allow their customers to bring their own bottles.

ByABC News
June 22, 2010, 12:06 PM

LONDON, June 24, 2010 -- The term BYOB is synonymous with backyard cookouts and casual dinner parties. But in London, it can now be found in 3-star dining rooms.

Several of the best restaurants in the city, including some that are Michelin-rated, have opened their doors and lending their corkscrews to a new type of clientele: wine connoisseurs on a budget.

Wine mark-ups in London restaurants are quite high. A bottle, which can be purchased from a wine store at $75, can cost upwards of $225 at a restaurant. With BYO offerings, restaurant-goers can enjoy food crafted by celebrity chefs while saving money on wine.

"BYO (Bring Your Own) is about people who are serious food and wine lovers but who recognize that they can't go to a restaurant where the food costs £50 (about $75) a person and afford a bottle of wine," said wine writer Tom Cannavan.

Cannavan, who publishes, said the BYO movement in upscale restaurants is, in part, triggered by the current recession. Restaurants are increasingly interested in the BYO concept, an effort to lure Londoners who are tending to forgo meals out for those purchased in supermarkets, he said.

"For us, it's about bringing people into our restaurant," said Will Smith, the owner of restaurants Arbutus and Wild Honey. "Generally, a restaurant thrives on word of mouth and being consistent. It's about building a relationship with their guests."

A bottle of wine costs an average of $40 to $75 at Arbutus. At Wild Honey, that average ranges from $60 to $120. With BYO Wine Club membership, guests can enjoy a bottle of a similar quality for a corkage fee of around $20 for still wine and $30 for sparkling wine.

The corkage fee, Smith explained, is "to get some sort of revenue through the door."

The BYO movement is not completely new to the United Kingdom, as several curry houses or inexpensive restaurants lacking liquor licenses often offered the service.

"Traditionally in this country, BYO has always been about attracting people who want to eat and drink on the cheap," said Cannavan.