Saturday, August 23, 2014

The 8 Ps and Qs of BYOB Etiquette

It’s up to the patrons to reciprocate that courtesy by following some basic manners when participating in the BYOB practice.
    Have you carefully stored a special bottle of wine for an anniversary or birthday? And are you planning on popping its cork at your favorite dining spot? If you are, please do the restaurant a favor by minding your Ps and Qs while you BYOB.

    Most diners, myself among them, feel that the customer is usually right. If I want to eat my dessert first and appetizer last, that’s my business. The restaurant’s business is to serve me what I order, in any order I wish. But when it comes to bringing in a bottle of wine or champagne, the restaurant gets to call the shots as they are under no obligation to do so, and the laws vary wildly from place to place. 

    Generally, the restaurants in states, counties, provinces, or countries where it is legal, will usually allow their patrons to bring their own wine into a restaurant as a courtesy. And it’s up to the patrons to reciprocate that courtesy by following some basic manners when participating in the BYOB practice. The following is a list of etiquette to keep in mind: 

  1. Call ahead of time to check with the manager regarding bringing your own bottle, or check online. Some restaurants may not allow BYOB, or may not have a license to serve alcohol of any kind, or may not have a permit to sell their own, but can serve you yours. This gets very tricky, so if you are traveling, always check ahead of time.
  2. Don’t cause a scene or make a fuss if the restaurant doesn’t allow you to bring your own wine, even if their local ordinances allow the practice. Different insurance companies will advise establishments of possible liabilities and restaurants will take these in to consideration when making policies regarding alcohol, so if you’ve made a reservation and would like to go back to this particular restaurant, keep the reservation.
  3. Ask  about any corkage fees so that there are no surprises when you are handed the bill. Fees in upscale restaurants can go as high as $25.00 or more, per bottle, and will vary from restaurant to restaurant. Some restaurants charge nothing at all. Fees can sometimes change with the time of day and with the day of the week with slower and less busy hours offering the best rates. Ask when you call ahead, to find out if this is a policy that they practice. 
  4. Ask if the particular bottle of wine you would like to bring is already on the restaurant’s wine list. If it is something the establishment normally offers, then don't bring it or choose another wine to bring. It would be extremely gauche to bring something they offer just as it would be to bring your own burger to Mc Donald’s to enjoy, along with their fries and a shake. 
    BYOB if your wine is somehow unique. Don't BYOB just to pinch pennies.
  5. Don’t BYOB simply to save money. BYOB because because you have a special bottle that you’ve always wanted to open, or maybe you have a bottle from your birth year and it you are celebrating your birthday, or you have a bottle that’s more interesting than anything the restaurant offers. BYOB if your wine is somehow unique. If you think the restaurant charges excessive markups on wine, skip that restaurant. 
  6. Tip well, especially if you have made special requests regarding your bottle/s. This might include asking the staff to have the bottle uncorked prior to your arrival to allow time for your Cabernet to breathe, or keeping your White Burgundy chilled to a specific temperature an hour before serving.
  7. Don’t be snobbish if the restaurant’s Cellar Master, Sommelier or Wine Steward wants to chat with you about your wine. If you thought it was special enough to bring in to drink, it will probably arouse curiosity or possibly be a conversation starter. The most gracious of patrons will offer him, or her, a taste.
  8. This shouldn't need to be said, but I have to repeat it often: Please follow all basic dining etiquette while you dine out, especially if you have made special requests of an establishment. It is simply good manners!

Compiled by contributor Maura Graber, who has been teaching etiquette to children, teens and adults, and training new etiquette instructors, for nearly a quarter of a century, as founder and director of The RSVP Institute of Etiquette.  She is also a writer, has been featured in countless newspapers, magazines and television shows and was an on-air contributor to PBS in Southern California for 15 years. 

Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J. Graber, is also the Site Editor for Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia