What's a fair price for a glass/bottle of wine in a restaurant?
This question showed up as a comment to one of my posts. I'll give you my opinion, with the caveat that I'm not a restauranteur trying to make a living.
By the bottle:
Most restaurants will let you bring in your own bottle of wine (as long as it's not one on their list) and charge you a fixed (i.e. independent of the cost of the bottle itself) corkage fee. If that's so, a rational pricing mechanism would say that bottles on their list should be priced at suggested retail + corkage. In that case, they are making the retail markup on the wine, plus a once-per-seating corkage fee. Note that suggested retail is not what you pay at Safeway when buying with your Club card - it's what you would expect to pay at the winery (IMHO).
Of course, wine and spirits are a profit center (and thus defray costs of people who don't drink with their meals), so I think you're unlikely to see a completely rational price for restaurant wine. Plus, a good list is worth something in itself -- I expect to pay something for access to wines and vintages not in my local wine shop.
For myself, I think a 2x markup from wholesale is a very fair price to see in a restaurant for a wine which you can actually buy today. More than 3x gets my dander up. Note that wholesale price is typically 67% of retail (or retail is a 50% markup from wholesale), a "fair" price for the $25 bottle of wine I bought at the winery is $35 (2.1 times the $16.67 wholesale price). 3x wholesale is $50.
Note: for rare wines, well-kept, I think a restaurant should charge what the market will bear. People buying these at a restaurant aren't worried about "fair."
By the glass:
For purposes of analysis, consider that a 750ml bottle contains almost exactly 5 five-ounce servings of wine.
If the wine being served by the glass is also available on the wine list (I can't imagine it wouldn't be), then I would expect to see a price which is 1/5th the price of the bottle (in a perfect world, where wines never spoil) . And indeed, if it's a place that serves a lot of wine by the glass (so there isn't much spoilage), that seems "fair."
I'm willing to pay more if the by-the-glass wines are treated well once they've been opened, raising the likelihood that what I'm drinking will be tasty. I can also see charging a bit more for wines which are less likely to be consumed, where the wine is offered by the glass for people who like to try something new (e.g. Petite Sirah by the glass).
Bottom line: It would be great if restaurants were more transparent about how they price wine. As someone who almost always buys wine when dining out, this information would make me feel better about the restaurant (just as I like knowing that Costco limits its markup to 15 percent or less). Most restaurants probably don't want the hassle of dealing with people who don't like their explanation, though.
So, now it's your turn to opine on what's "fair." Please leave a comment.