Sent: Sunday, April 09, 2006 12:32 AM
Subject: why do you hate restauranteurs so much
lance - I read the articles mentioning your issue in both the SF Chronicle and the Press Democrat this week and feel you have no real understanding for the restaurant industry. Did you know that the national restaurant average profit margin is less than 4%? Did you know that restaurants depend on 1/3 of their sales to come from beverages to make that small margin? Did you know that in the wine country the mark up most restuarants make is around 2.5 x the wholesale price, while in other areas nationwide it is up to 5 x (to make that narrow margin). Did you know that outside the wine country, restaurants rarely are faced with this issue (maybe once a month), versus up to 50% a night in the wine country? As a winemaker for many years, I'd think you would have befriended some restauranteurs who were supporting your efforts, well enough to know it is a labor of love & passion of long hours, nights & holidays working, not condusive to family life with little financial gain. Your wine county restaurants are mom & pop shops whose only goal is to do what they love, that is make good food and to give their guests a good time.
Why do you have some vision that restauranteurs are lining their pockets?
Here is what corkage is about: the time to taste and buy wines, the wine inventory on the shelf, the wine glasses, the dishwasher chemicals, the dishwasher, the servers, the benefits for those staff people, the table, chairs & linen at the restaurant, the rent, the electricity, the workman's comp, I could go on. You can drink the bottle in the safeway parking lot for free with no chair, glasses, or server. Why should it be free in a restaurant? Would you bring a hunk of beef to a restaurant? When you judge a restaurant for it's pricing, you have no idea what they truely paid for it because pricing depends on quantity purchased; so places like costco or beverages & more usually buy the same bottle for less. Furthermore, wines from Northern California are not cheap, because the wineries have the same issues of land pricing, labor cost, workman's comp...
If a restaurant seeks to support the local economy by buying locally, their wines will not be cheap. Why are you blaming them for a problem much larger than them?
In an interview on NPR, Alice Waters discussed how much folks are willing to pay on a regular basis for cell phones, cable service, IPODS, internet service, and how little they were willing to spend on what they put into their own bodies.
If you are shaking your head at me now, just look at how many local restaurants have closed since 2001; in Sonoma County to name a few...
Tastings, Popina, 707, Lolo's, Mixx (sold), Lisa Hemenway's, Feast, Felix & Louise, and the list goes on. Since 2001 the dollars the average american spends in a restaurant have remained steady. Have the costs remained steady? Absolutely not. Why do you hold restauranteurs in so much contempt?
All of your effort seems funny to come from a winemaker. If you want restaurants to exist to help expose people to your wines and to sell them, then support them. Don't expect to get everything for nothing.
Restaurants don't ask winemakers to give them the wine for free; they buy it. It is a circle. We should support each other.
Thank you for taking the time to write this letter. I apologize if the publicity for the WinePAL program has led you to believe that we hate restaurants or that we are ignorant of the realities of business. Evidently, I have not done a good job explaining the mission of the Wine Patrol.
If you have not already done so, please go to our website and view the WinePAL material. Nowhere do we insist that restaurants change their pricing policies. We simply ask that they take the time to search out thrilling wines that are excellent values that can be offered to those of us on budgets at prices we can afford. There are dozens of wonderful wines wholesaling for $8-$12 that can sell on wine lists for under $30 and still give the restaurant their full markup.
In the next month the Wine Patrol will be convening a professional tasting panel that will seek out these very wines. We plan to publish a list of our favorites on the website as an aid to restaurants. Then restaurants can try the recommended wines for themselves and if they like them, they can add them to their lists.
We also do not have a problem with corkage, so long as it is reasonable, say $10 per bottle. We do feel that if we purchase a bottle from the list, then corkage for one bottle should be waived as a courtesy.
We at the Wine Patrol love fine dining. We enjoy sampling the chef's art. We appreciate the ambiance, the service and the show. We think good wine enhances the dining experience. Restaurants can mark up their wines as they like, we simply ask for a few treasures dotted through the list that we can afford.
Restaurants that work with us will get our WinePAL certification. We hope to provide direct links to their websites from our own. We hope to send Wine Patrol deputies to their restaurants so they can do MORE business, not less.
The bottom line is that we are trying to inform restaurants that they have turned off a large segment of their customer base. We think we are offering a viable way to get them back.