Monday, March 23, 2009

Insane wine list markups

Last weekend was the Lush 1 yr Anniversary. We celebrated at Morton’s Steakhouse and it was lovely. They do a good job with making special occasions feel special - they print out a personalized menu and take a picture and put it in a paper frame, etc… The food was great (although very expensive!), they cooked my steak perfectly, the service was great, and the ambiance was good for an anniversary. We had a great time.

However, their wine list is SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO overpriced. Really, a bottle I know for a fact is $27 retail they have on their list for $88. Wow.

Typically yes, we all know that restaurants mark up their liquor. That is a large source of profit for them and its not that I oppose to it any more than I oppose a can of soda costing 75 cents when it really costs less than 30 cents or paying $5 for a $3 item at a gas station - it’s a convenience factor. Its convenient for me to go into a restaurant and have a number of wines to choose from that I don’t need to go find. HOWEVER, I do oppose such an unreasonable markup. Most places would charge around $55-65 for that $27 bottle. The kicker is that Morton’s also doesn’t really decrease the markup percentage as the wine gets more expensive – a $90-105 bottle of Far Niente Cabernet is on their list for $261. I’ve worked in the restaurant business and typically while a $30 bottle might be marked up 50-120%, a $100 bottle is usually marked up 30-60%, particularly if the wine is readily available and usually the percentage markup would level out at around 30-40%, maybe less. (this doesn’t apply to a cellared wine, which could be marked up a significant amount from original retail, which is expected)

I feel this markup takes advantage of two groups…one, is the special occasion group. You go to a nice place and you want to order a nice bottle and you end up paying out the arse for it. The other is the business group – you’re taking a client out to dinner on the company tab and you want to impress, so you order a well known bottle, which is marked up 200% but what can you do? You want to impress! Of course, being in the "special occasion" group and thus having to actually PAY for our own wine, we were slightly unhappy with this knowledge.

So what did the Lush’s do? Well, we were already splurging on dinner and certainly weren’t going to pay that markup! I requested they fax us their wine list – their 11 page wine list – and searched for a bottle that wasn’t on their list. This is difficult, because most read to drink and readily available wines are on their list already and I certainly didn’t want to bring something that is on their list. They were very heavy on California Cabs and light on Bordeauxs, but most readily available Bordeaux are 2005 and I didn’t want to drink a young Bordeaux.

In the end, we purchased a $90 bottle of Viader cab sauv/cab franc blend and paid their $25 corkage fee. We had them decant it immediately upon being seated and enjoyed a pre-dinner martini (extra dirty, of course!) while it opened up. The wine was fantastic, of course and of course we offered our server a sip. I didn’t give them a chance to offer a decanter – after she asked if we wanted her to open it now or if we wanted a drink, I said both, please open it and decant it now and I’ll have a martini. I’m not sure if she would’ve offered the decanter – probably not - but she brought it promptly and we never had to pour our own wine, so overall I was happy with the wine service.

We might pick up a bottle of Bordeaux and save it for our 5 year anniversary and go back then. We’ll see. In the meantime, consider this a Wine Public Service Announcement - bring your own wine to Morton's!! (and consider getting a copy of the wine list prior to going out!)

1 comment:

Claire said...

First of all, happy anniversary!

Secondly, I'm not surprised one bit. It IS Morton's, after all. Not that that makes it ok...

And thirdly, I can only imagine that the Viader rocked. I love Delia's wines!