Devon Segel’s grandfather wanted to know which Philadelphia-area restaurants would let him bring his own bottle of wine. So she started a website.
It’s called GoBYO – for Bring Your Own. And, as someone who has had more than his share of run-ins with restaurants about wine pricing, corkage fees, and similar items, the Wine Curmudgeon applauds the effort. BYOB, as the term is also known, is one of the most frustrating parts of restaurant wine. Is it legal where you live? Do restaurants allow you to do it? Is the corkage fee -– the price a restaurant charges you when you bring your own bottle -- reasonable?
More on Segel’s effort (and she is not related to me, by the way) after the jump:
The site covers 10 major metro markets: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, New York, San Francisco, southeast Florida, and Washington, D.C. Segel’s group updates the listing annually, mailing questionnaires to the respective restaurants. She asks for corkage policies, including fees, and the usual sort of restaurant-information -- phone numbers, menus, price ranges, hours, and the like. There are also restaurant ratings, links to restaurant websites and reviews. (In this, her company runs a restaurant listing site called DiningInfo.)
In addition, GoBYO rates restaurants for wine friendliness on a scale of 1 to 5, based on whether it has a wine list, whether the wine list is viewable on the web, the number of wines offered by the glass, whether the restaurant permits BYOB, any restrictions to BYOB, and the corkage fee. Segel says she made an effort to make the wine friendliness rating objective, given how subjective most wine ratings are.
Does GoBYO work? Mostly. I ran through the Dallas listings, since I live here, and they seemed complete and accurate (given the time lag, of course). Site visitors can send updates for new restaurants and closings, which Segel says helps makes the listings more current. And sadly, what my look through the Dallas section told me was that the city is as unfriendly to BYOB as I always thought it was. Most restaurants that charge $25 or more for a corkage fee -– and there were plenty of them –- should be ashamed of itself. They should just put a line on the menu that says they're trying to gouge the customer and be done with it.
My only criticism, and I’m not even sure it’s that, is with the wine-friendly ratings. Are the site’s criteria enough? Several restaurants in Dallas that got a high wine-friendly rating are not really great wine restaurants –- a mostly takeout pizza place, a Cajun place where they wouldn’t know wine if I poured it on them, and several chain places with a $25 corkage fee. It would probably help the ratings to include some kind of wine knowledge assessment, even if it’s only by the size of the wine list.
Does GoBYO have a future? That’s a little less clear. Segel is marketing the site as a reaction to the recession, which seems a little short-sighted. When the recession ends, we’ll still need this kind of information. My hope is that she pushes it as a reaction to the continuing battle between those of us who care about wine and the majority of U.S. restaurants, which don’t. That’s the battle that needs to be fought – and won.