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The Cost & Benefit of Buying Wine at Restaurants

As a wine collector, you might have seen bottles you own on the menu at fine dining establishments. You might have also noticed that the price-per-bottle is higher than you paid for it. So, why should you pay more to drink the same wine at a restaurant instead of at home?

The honest answer is sometimes, you don’t. At the same time, there are good reasons that restaurant wine markups exist. Today’s blog gets into some of those reasons.

Restaurants See Very Little Profit from Wine Markups

While the price of a wine bottle might seem much too high for something you could buy yourself, the restaurant sees very little of that money. Typically, restaurants pocket less than 10% of a bottle’s price in profit—so if a bottle sells for $120, they make just about $12 in profit. Why so little? Most markup goes toward storage, rent, and staffing for wine service, as well as losses incurred by wine that’s opened that doesn’t get fully sold.

By contrast, when you buy a bottle from a wine merchant, you’re only paying the retailer and the producer.

You Can Get Wine You Might Not Otherwise Be Able to Buy

Part of what makes the dining experience special is access to food and wine you wouldn’t be able to procure yourself. Most home cooks can’t source dry-aged beef or Japanese A5 wagyu; similarly, sommeliers will have access to wines most collectors can’t find. If you see wine that you own on a menu, enjoy the fact that you have similar taste to a professional restauranteur and choose something else on the wine list.

You’re Getting Much More Than the Wine

When we eat out, there’s an understanding that we’re not just paying for the food itself. If we were, there’d be no reason to pay for pasta or steak that we could make at home. What we’re actually paying for is the experience, expertise, and labor that went into preparing our food.

The same applies to wine. Creating a wine list, pairing the wine with the menu, and storing the wine all require equipment, labor, and hard-won expertise. Drinking wine at a restaurant is about more than the wine—it’s a curated experience.

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