Dining out in Phuket

BYO Wine and other alcohol

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It pays to ask if you can bring your own wine if you have your own cellar or a guest brings a special bottle. The approach of the restaurant or hotel can vary greatly. Local restaurants serving largely Thai local customers will allow you to BYO wine but often not beers –free

Restaurants serving largely Farang customers will mostly charge a “corkage” fee from anywhere from 100 to 1,000 baht- so ask before you are surprised. Restaurants serving Farangs can make upto 40-80 of their profit from selling wines as they can mark-up wines 2-300% and hence keep their cost of food low. So if you don’t buy wine from them then they make no money from having you as a customer

There are many variations and some restaurants even try to be balanced in that if you buy at least one bottle from them, then there is no corkage charged on the wines you subsequently open that you have brought with you.

The key is to balance the trade-off between BYO and corkage charge. A good rule is don’t bring your own cheap bottles of wine under say 1,000 baht- buy it from the restaurant. Now if you have a very expensive wine then paying corkage and avoiding the 200+% mark-up makes sense

But- as with Asia there are always the exceptions so if you are a regular the corkage charge may be reduced or totally waived- ask, ask, and ask- it can save money and prevent arguments

Water- the new Profit Centre

Water wave

A growing trend world-wide as people reduce their consumption of alcohol, is to offer “premium” water whether still or sparkling. Sometimes soda water can be a cheaper option. The other day 3 of us were charged at a 5 star hotel 1800++ baht for 5 bottles of water. Beer would have been cheaper. In Thailand you can’t drink tap water

Perhaps a reason you should drink water or take a taxi if you are drinking in Phuket. Travelling with open alcohol in a car is a major offence that takes you straight to jail as does being over the limit of 0.05%. (Some say it is really a zero alcohol level)   After a night spent in a local jail it is then before the courts and what follows can be a longer term in jail or a very expensive fine. A taxi fare of 1,000 to 1,500 baht for the night can be a much cheaper option

The Service Charge and Tips

AK4305 Still life of a nearly empty tip jar

Some do and some don’t and if they do it normally is 10% and if they do some owners keep it for themselves and some share it with their staff.

So if you have had good service and want to ensure it goes to the staff, leave cash even though you charge the lunch or dinner cost to a credit card

The minimum wage is 300 baht (US$10) per day. A tip of say 50-100 baht is perfectly acceptable in many local to average restaurants. A tip of 100 baht is only US$3 so minimal to most foreigners but it can be significant for the staff. Many workers rely on tips to survive and cover their cost of food and rent- more importantly to send money to their families

At a top restaurant a tip of 5-10% is more appropriate although if a service charge is included then a tip of 500-1,000 baht might be more appropriate. Staff usually pool the tips and share equally

Getting the Bill at the end of the dinner

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For Farangs “Check Bin” is the simplified way to ask for the bill. Don’t be surprised if the bill gets presented to your female partner to check it (many bills are in Thai so it can make sense for a Thai local to check. The wife often manages the finances anyway so your Thai lady partner is seen as the gate-keeper for the household finances. It still annoys me as someone who pays the bill, but welcome to the delights of Thailand

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