BYO – music to any Aussie restaurant-goer’s ears!

(02 /09 /2015)

The ability to bring your own wine, beer or whatever tipple you fancy is, for many, what determines where you eat out that night.  But is BYO a thing of the past?  Do many restaurants continue to offer it as an option or do they require you to purchase off their own drinks list?  And what impact does this have on customers?  As a big believer in BYO myself, I was curious to see whether things have changed and the impact these changes have had on both business and consumer.

Now I have to admit, it’s been a little while since I dined out at a BYO restaurant – these days I’m more likely to be at a relaxed BBQ with family and friends where BYO is expected rather than getting dressed up and heading out to eat.  But in the not-so-distant past, I really loved BYO restaurants.  An inexpensive meal, combined with whatever I wanted to drink – usually a lovely cheap red – paying a small corkage fee and I’d be enjoying myself without feeling I’d been “ripped off”!

My initial thoughts were that there weren’t too many places offering BYO – a quick Google search of BYO restaurants in Brisbane and I was pleasantly surprised.  There are still plenty of smaller eateries in funky food destinations such as West End that are unlicensed and offer BYO.  But the numbers of venues offering BYO have certainly dwindled over the past decade and even now, restaurants that were BYO just last year are now licensed and no longer allowing patrons to bring their own booze.  In fact, I was talking to a group of mums recently who’d rocked up their regular restaurant with their stash of wine only to be told they were no longer allowing BYO.

Why you may ask?  My gut says it’s all to do with money!  Not surprisingly, venues can make much more money from a set wine list than they can from BYO.  Sure, customers are charged a corkage fee which can range from the modest to the hideously expensive but that fee will not cover the costs of providing glassware, cleaning glassware and providing staff to serve the alcohol.  But basically, a bigger profit can be made from making customers purchase wine and other alcoholic beverages at an inflated price.  A bottle of Grange might cost you $1000 at the bottle shop (such a bargain!) but you can be guaranteed that price will double in a restaurant!

So what impact does stopping BYO have on patrons and businesses?  Firstly, BYO is attractive and can put bums on seats…stopping people from bringing their own booze can have a negative impact on customer numbers which in turn could affect overall profits.  Customer recommendations may also be less, particularly from a venue that once offered BYO, and this in turn could affect business.  From the customer’s perspective, being forced to purchase alcohol at inflated restaurant prices can really impact on the experience and may discourage repeat business.

What do you think?  Should restaurants offer BYO or should customers simply understand that times have changed?  Do you offer BYO or if you don’t, what do you say to customers that ask if you will bend the rules just for them?

I’d love to hear your stories and whether you think BYO is a thing of the past or still very much part of the Aussie dining experience.

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