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No thanks, the Wine List Won’t be Necessary Tonight

On-premise wine retailers should take notice of the changing tides headed their way. In the near future, the economy on all levels will start to reflect the high fuel prices everywhere including what shows up on your plate at local restaurants. As this happens, it will become necessary for some consumers to decide if they are fortunate enough to enjoy wine with their dinner or will they have water and wait until they get home to have some wine.

Wine Markups Recently I have been surprised with how often a new question regarding a wine choice is being repeated. It goes something like this “Marc, I need your help. Myself and a group of friends are going to dinner and we are meeting at my house first. I need a wine for us to consume before we go.” There is apparently a trend of no longer even purchasing wine by the glass at a restaurant much less bottles at the ridiculously high mark-ups most restaurants are charging these

days not to mention the $20-$35 corkage fees. You might think I am referring to recent college grads who are still paying back college loans but that would not be the case. Most often the group mentioned involves professionals from one of the big two employers in Hillsboro and Beaverton and these folks are closer …to retirement than they are a fifth year anniversary with their employer.

The really challenging part of that question is how to recommend a wine without cuisine, but it is clear folks are willing to pay $15- $25 a bottle before they go to dinner. Additionally they usually seek another bottle for when they return, rather than give into the urge to consume on-premise at 300% mark-ups. With this scenario becoming more prevalent and the dollars disappearing faster than they can print them hopefully on-premise wine retailers will take a second look at their pricing structure. It would only make sense. Off premise wine retailers are hovering around a 25-30% mark-up from wholesale prices considerably less for volume. Does the fact that you provide seats and glasses dictate one should be allowed to recoup 270% more profit? Seems like a fair question, if anyone wants to answer it please leave comments.

On the same subject, but from a different viewpoint, I got pretty excited the other day when someone recommended a restaurant in my neighborhood that I had not tried yet. Having been the third time someone referenced this place while also mentioning the phrase, “really good food” I thought it time we try them out.

As usual, I go home and look up the restaurant to see if they have a web site and they did. Not a very good one but a website nonetheless. It showed the menu and a wine list with prices by the glass and bottle prices. This is where I got excited; many of the wines listed were marked up only 40-50% above retail per bottle. The wine by the glass menu did not make much sense as they had a wine listed at $13.50 per bottle and $6.50 a glass while another wine listed at $6.00 a glass and was $17 a bottle. No rhyme or reason to the pricing structure here. It got even more confusing once we arrived. Since the name Mad Greek Deli had the word deli in it I should not have been surprised that you ordered from a counter. I have been in many restaurants where you order from a counter. After viewing the wine list on the website, ordering from the counter came as quite a surprise.

After ordering our Gyros and picking a wine, we were advised that they now add a corkage charge to the bottle prices. I mentioned that I had just been on their website (as of 3-16-08) and the wine list prices did not mention a corkage fee added to the bottle price. I was then informed by the owner they were in the process of changing the website. Pulling those prices from the website takes a minute, changing the menu maybe three minutes; do you not have three minutes to invest in your customers’ satisfaction?

Next I inquired how much is the corkage? The owner replied, “It depends on the bottle”, now I am in new territory. I have paid corkage fees all over this country and many others but I have not experienced a sliding scale fee. So I picked up a $13 bottle of wine and was told that bottle would have a $7 corkage fee. Regardless of the inconsistencies in the beverage prices the food was good; well most of it. I was curiously looking for three columns of rotating roasting meats in the kitchen; to my dismay, there were none. The menu gave a choice of gyros (beef, lamb or chicken) Mad Greek Deli uses a pre-made packaged product for its gyros, for the life of me I do not know why. If anyone has the business to support freshly made gyros it’s these guys. The Greek fries were out-standing, Greek salad another winner, how they get the Pita bread that fluffy is a mystery but the Gyros were not fresh, not good, nor plentiful as the weight on mine probably came in at less than 1.5oz. I wish the Mad Greek Deli a lot of luck, as the economy changes it might be good to develop some consistency in pricing and quality.

Wines only marked up 75% over retail might be an idea that would keep folks coming. Freshly roasted gyros meat might be another. The standard I hold for comparison of quality when it comes to gyros would be those served at Chicago’s Greektown Gyros at 239 S. Halstead; a 24hour place I fell in love with when I was Chef di Parti at the Renaissance Hotel on Wacker Drive back in 1993. With 43 good reviews on Yelp I’d say they are still going strong selling fresh Gyros 24 hours a day for only $3.50. If you are in the windy city, treat yourself and you can stop in anytime. With the money you save on lunch you might be able to afford to buy some wine at dinner.

This post was written by:

- who has written 385 posts on Enobytes Wine Online.

Marc has over twenty years experience in the food & wine industry and is committed to celebrating hospitality with pride. He is a wine blogger contributor to OregonLive.com (Wine Bytes) and has also appeared on Portland's "Vine Time" on News Radio 750 KXL and on California's Central Coast "From the Growing of the Grape to the Glass" on KUHL-AM 1410. He is also the author of A History of Pacific Northwest Cuisine: Mastodons to Molecular Gastronomy. Follow Marc on twitter @macdaddy_m

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