Why BYO wine needs to go

It's time to give BYO the heave-ho, says Andrew Leonedas.
It's time to give BYO the heave-ho, says Andrew Leonedas. Photo: Simon Schluter

COMMENT

You know that dear old friend who you let crash on the couch for a few days? Do you remember how those few days turned into months then years? Then you probably remember also wishing that, having well and truly outstayed their welcome, they should hit the road.

The same can be said of that restaurant phenomenon, native to Australia, bring your own (BYO) wine. Now is the right time to say, "Farewell old friend".

BYO was all the rage when introduced in the 1970s, a wonderful opportunity for unlicensed restaurants and cafes to allow guests to enjoy wine with their meals. It coincided with a boom in the local wine industry.

It was an era when an archaic liquor licensing system prevailed and beer was the alcoholic drink of choice. Wine was not the widely accepted social tipple it is today.

Back then, allowing people to bring their own wine to restaurants served as an important agent for change in our drinking culture. Today, however, with more liberal and accessible licensing laws, as a concept, BYO is effectively obsolete.

The BYO concept is like that nagging hangover that just won't go away.

Consider the scenario of taking your own parts to a mechanic or taking your own hairdresser to the barber shop and using their chair and utensils. You just wouldn't do it.

Surprisingly, some restaurants and cafes still allow it today, despite holding a liquor licence. This represents poor business practice. The mere idea of an eatery denying itself the opportunity to gain additional revenue from patrons from the sale of liquor defies all business logic. In an age when restaurants struggle with shrinking profit margins, the chance for add-on sales in the form of beverages should never be lost.

An additional spend of say, $20 to $50 a head on liquor can make a huge difference to the success or otherwise of any establishment.

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It takes little effort to put together a modest bar or cellar. A small investment in space, refrigeration, glassware and a few utensils is all it takes. This, and the cost of stock, soon pays for itself.

I've heard some operators say they know little about wine or liquor so it is easier to let patrons bring what they want and charge a small corkage fee. My response is to question why they are in the business of food and beverage service in the first place.

Wine and liquor education and staff training is easily accessible these days and an invaluable investment in any hospitality business. This translates into better customer service and better sales, thus making everyone happy.

The BYO concept is like that nagging hangover that just won't go away. Perhaps it's time to treat it like a broken-down thoroughbred. As much as it has served us well, the kindest thing would be to put up the hessian screen and humanely euthanise the old warhorse. A swift bullet to the head should put that hangover to rest.

Andrew Leonedas is the owner of Carlton Yacht Club Bar, Melbourne.