It is a common complaint that some restaurants charge outrageous prices for wine. You will find places charging three, four or even five times the usual retail price of a wine. Who wants to pay $30-$50 for a wine at a restaurant that you can buy at a local store for $10? I have heard all of the arguments put forth by these restaurants and though I would agree to the validity of a certain markup, some markups are absolutely unnecessary, bordering on larceny.
Sake prices at restaurants can be equally as appalling, and much less attention is given to this issue. One Boston area Japanese restaurant sold a common sake brand, a 300ml bottle which commonly retails for $8, for $32. That is a four times markup from retail! We know that restaurants pay wholesale so the true markup is even higher. What possible justification exists for such a drastic markup? There isn’t one. It is often the least expensive sakes that have the greatest markup and that make little sense.
If you wish to find the best deals on wine at a restaurant, there are many wine articles which recommend that consumers should choose the less common wines on the wine list. Because those wines are not as popular as the other, better known brands, their mark up may be lower. This lower price is intended to encourage patrons to take a risk on those wines, as they probably would rarely order them if the mark up was as high as the other wines on the list. That is a logical conclusion and getting people to broaden their interests is a worthy goal. Unfortunately, too many restaurants fail to do the same thing with the sakes on their list.
Sake is still a very niche beverage, unfamiliar to many, and needs much more promotion. The average consumer knows very little about sake. They are much less likely to order it at a restaurant, especially if it is expensive. If they are going to try something new, they are far more likely to do so if they are offered an apparent bargain. Logic dictates that restaurants should offer a much lower markup on their less expensive sakes, in order to entice people to take a chance, to try to garner new sake drinkers. Despite the lower markup, the increased amount of sales should provide even more profit than far fewer sales at a much higher price.
If someone is already a sake lover, they will probably know the usual retail prices of the sakes on a restaurant list. They are very unlikely to order a sake where the price is outrageously overpriced, and such prices will give those sake lovers a more negative view of the restaurant. If the mark up on a restaurant’s sakes are lower and more reasonable, then customers might be more apt to order sake, and maybe even more than one bottle. In addition, the benefits to the restaurant could continue even when the customers go home. Satisfied customers are more prone to recommend such a restaurant to family and friends.
There are multiple reasons why restaurants should have a more reasonable markup for sake, to encourage new sake drinkers as well as to please existing sake lovers. Will any restaurant actually listen? If they do, I will give them my support.