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Is It Smart to Order Wine by the Glass?

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The thing is, you may only want one glass of wine, but are you getting ripped off when you order it? After all, buying in bulk seems like the smarter idea. We certainly save money when we buy our oatmeal and cashews out of bins.

But is that how it works with restaurant wine?

Well, let’s start by looking at how restaurants price wine.

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If you are worried about the mark-up on wine, then rest assured: the mark-up is huge, whether wine is priced by the glass or the bottle. A bottle of wine is probably priced at four to five times higher than its wholesale cost. The restaurant, after all, needs to make a profit.

Guess what? The food is marked up too.

Now, that’s settled. So, let’s look at the by-the-glass pricing specifically.

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A restaurant can get four glasses of wine per bottle, but they might try to squeeze five. If they decide to split a mid-priced bottle, say $40, into five glasses, they are looking at charging customers $8 for each glass.

That sounds a little cheap, though. Customers may get turned off by what they think is a low quality glass of wine. They may even think the food must be low quality. So, if the restaurant charges $10 for each glass just to make it more attractive and in line with the rest of the menu, then that $40 bottle now brings in $50.

And that same bottle probably cost them about $10 wholesale. Definitely a big mark-up.

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Restaurants may also employ the opposite technique, though, on a pricy bottle. Maybe they got a great deal from an obscure winery or region, or they want to serve something fancy for holiday time. So they take a wine normally priced high and serve it by the glass at less than optimal price to encourage orders. It’s market research for them. Something to think about…

Also, don’t worry about the freshness if you’re at a decent place that seems to turn their bottles frequently. A good server won’t bring you a glass of stale wine, and if it does happen, then politely send it back. This is pretty much the only good reason to send back wine, by the way.

At any rate, the whole reason for paying a bunch of money to eat at a restaurant is to enjoy the entire experience. Otherwise, you’d cook at home and drink out of a box. Order what you like, whether it’s a glass or a bottle, and don’t worry about the rest.

As long as it’s not too expensive, anyway.