Walk in to just about any restaurant, be it your local casual spot or a more upscale dining establishment, and most of the wines that you’ll find by the glass (BTG) will range from around $9 to more than $15. While the offerings will certainly reflect the spirit and cuisine of the establishment, the common rule of thumb is that many restaurant beverage programs adhere to is: the wholesale price of the bottle equals retail price by the glass. Now this sounds a bit simplistic and quite a markup considering most places will get 4-5 glasses per bottle, but it’s a critical revenue stream for restaurant. On average, 70% of wine sales are from by the glass offerings.
For a restaurant, there is an inherent risk in offering a bottle of wine by the glass. If only one glass is ordered during dinner, then there are four glasses left in the bottle and most likely will be sent back to the kitchen to cook with, for shift drinks for the staff (if they allow it), or maybe stretched into the next service if the quality of the wine is holding up. Or maybe it’s easy to pour a glass at the end of the night for a regular guest who tips well and for that reason the wine never finds it on to a check. BTG is essential to a great dining establishment, but it’s also an opportunity for loss, spoilage, and even theft.
So considering the critical avenue of BTG offerings, back to some numbers. A wholesale price of $12 bottle of wine will result in a 5 ounce glass price of… wait for it… $12. Easy math. With 25 ounce per bottle, that means that bottle will sell for $60. (For full disclosure, there are some states where you can get a BTG price on a wine that is less than the regular wholesale price, but like everything in business, it’s complicated)
Taking that $60 and walk into a retail store. Generally speaking, a fair retail mark-up is about 50% of wholesale so that wine you enjoyed in the restaurant would cost about $20 in a retail shop. Break that down into 5 glasses and you get that same wine for less than $4 a glass at home. This means that your $4 glass at home can give you three times the value that you can get in the restaurant. If you want a $12 glass of wine at home, that leaves you with the ability to buy a $60 bottle of wine retail. Either way, you're drinking better.
I mean, what if you could enjoy at home a $12 Sauvignon Blanc with some grilled oysters, then a $12 Cabernet Sauvignon with a filet mignon, but get three times the quality of wine than what you’d get in a restaurant? Or just have a great glass of $12 Pinot Noir because it’s Tuesday? Doesn’t that sound like a more delicious (and economically sound) way to drink better wine?