The concept of Bring Your Own Bottle restaurants now been formally established in London with the creation of the BYO Wine Club.
BYOB is ubiquitous in Australian restaurants, popular in the US, but up to now has been generally discouraged in the UK, with restaurants tending to levy prohibitive ‘corkage’ charges if you bring your own wine.
BYO Wine Club is the brainchild of Khadine and Christopher Rose, in partnership with UK high street chain Nicolas.
It operates on a simple premise: members pay an annual fee (£75, rising to £100 in the autumn) and pay little or no corkage charges at participating restaurants.
These range from informal neighbourhood eateries to Michelin-starred venues, such as Arbutus, Aubergine, Club Gascon, L’Oranger, and Tom Aikens.
Membership also includes a newsletter featuring restaurant news, advice from sommeliers, home delivery of high-end groceries, and special dinners at selected restaurants. Other benefits are planned as membership grows.
‘It all started when we were planning a special anniversary dinner around 1976 Chateau Talbot,’ said Khadine Rose.
‘I called round to a dozen restaurants, and they either wanted to charge £40-to-45 a bottle, or turned us down.
‘Clearly, here was a business opportunity if I could find people – restaurants, that is, as the consumer benefit’s obvious for wine lovers – to think outside the box.’
She added that the recession and business downturn undoubtedly helped open the door. ‘We’re now getting inquiries from restaurants, and will keep adding more. It’s rolling on.’
Written by Brian St Pierre