My restaurant concept idea - any backers?

Discussion in 'UK Wine Forum' started by Tom Cannavan, Sep 12, 2018.

  1. Tom Cannavan

    Tom Cannavan Administrator

    Just an idle thought as I arrange BYO with one of my Glasgow favourites (Cail Bruich) which they are always happy to oblige with.

    Would this work: a high-end restaurant that does not sell wine. Great food, proper quality glassware, knowledgeable waiting staff.

    Rules: at least one bottle of wine must be brought by every party booking (no 'water only' tables); First bottle corkage £25, subsequent bottles £20. Minimum spend on food per person: £30.

    Restaurant has no need for wine storage, stock control, ordering, printing and updating wine lists, etc. Surely a considerable saving in costs?

    Why not?
     
  2. I had what I thought an even better idea a while back, a wine centred restaurant that offers a properly ordered luncheon or dinner with no choice except by prearrangement and a set price paid by everyone with no extra corkage charge no matter how many or few bottles consumed, which would mean that water only tables would have no incentive, and pretty much wine self service apart from the provision of unlimited glassware.
     
  3. There are several long standing restaurants running on the no or minimal corkage fee in HK and they clearly cater for or are targeted at wine lovers. Very often they are private kitchen type affairs.

    I don't see any reason why this would not be even more successful in London, given the vastly superior high street wine retail offering in London vs. HK.
     
  4. the principle is sound Tom, but the numbers would need to be different I suspect.
     
  5. I would modify it slightly. There would be house wine - maybe just one white and one red - in order that those who didn't bring any (or enough) wouldn't go thirsty....

    However, I am reliably informed that the number of people who care enough about wine to make this work is tiny. Even in London.

    I also wonder how supper clubs have been doing? I keep meaning to try them out.
     
    Bill Marks likes this.
  6. My idea was that the restaurant would also have, of necessity, to be tiny.

    I haven't ventured to a 'supper club' having felt that I am probably too old and anyway not an ideal customer. As a cantankerous old git the reference to the evening meal as 'supper' already raises my hackles.
     
  7. I would support financially any such initiative but obviously the cost per bottle and/or total cost per person would need to be adjusted depending on the location . Your figures Tom may be fine outside London but suspect would need to be significantly higher if in prime London location.
    Such a restaurant would ideally be situated close to a good wine merchant.
     
    Tom Cannavan likes this.
  8. The interesting question, to which I fear the answer is yes, is whether a London location for such a venture would need to be prime. Although I suppose all London is now prime except for those bits which aren't!
     
    Alex Lake likes this.
  9. Tom Cannavan

    Tom Cannavan Administrator

    Yes Chris and Keith, you are probably right on the figures. Though I was assuming that even in London (outside of Michelin * places) making a £25 gross margin on every first bottle and £20 on subsequent bottles might average out much the same as the margins they actually make - I was assuming the mark-up on the cheapest four or five wines on their list would be £25 or less and that would be where the majority of customers buy. Food spend would have to be adjusted up in London it's true, maybe more like £50 pp minimum. Then there are those cost savings on not running a cellar and wine list....
     
  10. Too prescriptive, I think, making an already small customer base (cf Alex's comment) even smaller. You'd think there would be a way to make something similar work in London but actually, aren't we already reasonably well catered for?
     
  11. Tom Cannavan

    Tom Cannavan Administrator

    Phil, well there is life outside of London I've heard :)

    Actually I think that's missing the point a bit: having to make a special arrangement to BYO, or being asked exorbitant prices, or in some cases being 'tolerated' rather than welcomed to bring a bottle are all things we face, even in London, and this idea is really that the whole ethos of BYO is changed: restaurants that openly advertise and welcome everyone to BYO have always tended to be the cheap and cheerful 'cafe by day, restaurant by night' places, or ethnic restaurants charging a couple of quid to let you bring a bottle to have with your curry. I think the concept of a high end place that is only BYO does not currently exist. Clearly it would become the focus for not only wine lovers, but for wine clubs and groups like ours.
     
  12. You don’t enter the restaurant business to make money. It’s a passion or you are mad.

    Let me know when it opens. Willing customer !
     
  13. I don’t know what is the percentage of the population that actively seeks out restaurants with corkage, but i’d be surprised if it actually was more than, say, 5pc. That part of the population you can address with a well thought through corkage policy.

    Why you’d actively discourage the 95pc of the population that does NOT want to bring their own wine to a restaurant is unclear to me. Targeting micro niches works well online (this forum is a good example of this) but less well in the bricks and mortar world of retailing and restaurants.
     
  14. Tom Cannavan

    Tom Cannavan Administrator

    David - I'm going to be a silent partner, not actually doing any work :)

    Thomas - not sure that 95% of the population 'does NOT want to bring their own wine to a restaurant', rather that restaurants as proposed do not exist, and quality places with an open BYO policy are few and far between. There is a stigma to BYO among some people on both sides of the industry: restaurants who think customers who want BYO are all cheapos looking only to save money, and diners who think BYO is naff, with people who turn up at Le Gavroche with a Budgen's bag containing a bottle of Campo Viejo. I'm sure that stigma creates a problem too.
     
  15. To be honest Campo Viejo is probably better than a lot of the filth that gets served in some restaurants for £40, Tom
     
  16. I'm not sure that the costs of running a wine list and stocking a cellar are so very high, so the raison d'etre is fairly flimsy. You may find that high quality stemware is much more expensive to buy, maintain and store than you might expect?
    Perhaps the real big idea here is a brand that positively encourages BYO and wine-appreciation.
    There may be another benefit which is the licensing. I'm not sure how it works, but startup restaurants often seem to have a period before their license is established where they seem to be able to allow people to BYO booze.
    There may also be a marketing angle (particularly if done as a pop-up) where wine merchants would tell their customers about it.

    Maybe an even more cut-down version of this would be that you send a kitchen person and a waitron along to someone's house for the evening. Not sure of the economics of this.
     
    Ian Black likes this.
  17. I remember going to a restaurant in St Emilion run by a woman who's brother owned the off licence next door. She didn't list wine and you went next door to by any wine you wanted. I don't remember a corkage fee but it was in the 80s so i'm a bit hazy.

    A similar idea was a wine bar in Venice (again years ago so the name escapes me) which was basically an off licence with tables. They served boards of fish, cheese, cured meats etc. If you bought your wine there it was a minimal charge to drink it on the premises with dinner. The other feature was that if you drank, say, half the bottle then changed your mind you could put this behind the bar and buy a second bottle. You were refunded for the undrunk wine and the opened bottles behind the bar were then available to others without the corkage charge. Looking back the logistics of this must have been a nightmare but it was great for the punter.
     
  18. There is a place in HK called "Another Place"
    It is in one of the warehouse districts of HK.
    Michelin star chef, storage facility for wine, great wine list, zero corkage, fantastic and knowledgeable wine service.

    One of my go to places for wine dinners in HK.
    It's always full and i think such a place would do well in many locations around the world.
     
  19. Does this not already exist in a lot of the "wine shops" were you pay £10 over retail to drink in the place itself.... and they also make food?

    I'm off to Humble Grape tonight - seems like the exact same thing?
     
    Thom Blach likes this.
  20. Alex. I think the cost of buying and storing wine for often many years should not be underestimated. Also the cost of sommeliers etc etc Think this concept could work as it is different !! Very important I think to stand out from the crowd . And I agree with Tom that far more than 5% of the restaurant frequenting public would welcome BYO
     
    Thom Blach likes this.
  21. Humble Grape is downmarket in food terms Paul. The idea is very fine food
     
  22. I would speak to the likes of the owners of Lorne or Bruce Poole who are very wine friendly and get their perspective.

    25 years ago I was invited into the cellar at L’ortolan , Shinfield (JBR two stars) by the the superb Somm Jerome to see
    All the wine (£50,000 worth).

    My first question, was where is it all !? Very small inventory despite having a great list. As Keith says to store and age such wine is massive as I’m sure the likes of Gavroche would confirm.

    Location is key, but even Galvin made a success of Baker st , only to recently succumb.
     
  23. I imagine it wouldn't take long for us to draw up a list of ten prosperous London neighbourhoods that lack a decent wine-suitable restaurant.
     
  24. The problem you'll have is that you'll have to make all your money on the food - will people be willing to pay what you'd have to charge?
     
  25. In terms of of Competition

    This is probably a good time to (re)draw up a list of what is currently out there that is BYO friendly.

    Personally I still can’t get past Chez Bruce. Stunning value lunch menu, superb staff, Bruce almost always resident, great Somms etc etc
     
    Mark Crann and Mark Carrington like this.

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