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Dear Dr. Vinny,
I live in Houston and a fantastic new steak house just opened, but my wife and I can't stand their wine list: It's marked up beyond normalcy, often five times over retail, and features almost no wines in the "sweet spot" for us of $50 to $100.
We're both young professionals that are doing well in our careers, but feeling ripped off always stings, and we would go there every weekend if they got their wine list dialed in. I've also heard four separate peers complain about their wine list and prices, of which all are regulars at other fine dining restaurants in Houston. My question is, if you owned a restaurant, would you want someone to tell you that your reputation in town is of fantastic food but a horrible wine selection and pricing, or should I mind my own and go elsewhere?
—Ryan R., Houston
If it were me, I’d absolutely want to know if there was an adjustment I could make to my restaurant to keep more customers! I think it’s commendable that you’re thinking about talking to them with some productive suggestions. It’s not unusual for new restaurants to make tweaks to their menu or other details based on customer feedback.
I’d still approach the conversation carefully so that you’ll feel comfortable about returning. Be clear about your expectations of the conversation, and keep it simple. I’d repeat what you wrote to me—including how you can see yourself being regular customers and being clear you’re looking for wines in the $50 to $100 range. I’d steer away from asking or implying—even jokingly—about getting something for free, which I think restaurant management can be sensitive to and can set off alarm bells.
You don’t mention if the restaurant offers a corkage charge for bringing your own bottle of wine, but that might be another suggestion you can make.
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