Should We Talk to a Restaurant Owner About Their Expensive Wine List?

SommelierDining out can be expensive. While we don’t begrudge a restaurant owner from making a reasonable profit — because we understand that running a restaurant also is an expensive proposition — I think that many of us would dine out more often if the final tab weren’t quite so high.

Which leads us to today’s Wine FAQ…

QUESTION: My husband and I love to dine out — I guess you could call us “aspiring foodies” — but we can’t afford to pay more for a bottle of wine than our two meals cost combined at one of our favorite restaurants. Is it appropriate to talk to a restaurant owner about her wine list?

ANSWER: So I’m guessing you did not eat one of the 26 Fleur Burgers sold last year at Fleur restaurant inside the Mandalay Bay resort in Las Vegas. The Fleur Burger is made with Wagyu beef, foie gras and truffle… is served with a bottle of 1995 Chateau Petrus… and goes for $5,000.

That’s an extreme example of how much you can spend on wine at a restaurant, but it makes the point. And there are plenty of restaurants that charge well over $100 for several bottles on their wine lists.

So, should you talk to the restaurateur in question about her wine list? You’re the customer, which means it’s absolutely appropriate. The conversation need not be confrontational. Simply tell the owner that you’d be much more likely to order a bottle of wine if there were some selections that were priced lower.

Restaurants are known for marking up their wine prices, but point out that a lower profit margin on a few bottles is better than no profit at all if you end up drinking just water instead of wine. A good restaurant operator will want to know what her customers think, and an even better one will take steps to make improvements based on customer input.

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Posted in Wine FAQ
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