Something peculiar is going on in the restaurant industry: Wine bottle prices are at an all-time high, even at establishments that many would consider casual, more affordable options. While we can’t pinpoint exactly why this is happening, we’re pretty sure it has something to do with financial institutions giving easy-access loans to new restaurants, in turn pressuring said restaurants to price hike in order to repay said loans.

It’s mind boggling that payment processors like Toast are offering up to $300,000 in loans, but it leads us to think that these post-pandemic lump sums of money are more predatory than they are practical. The price markups could be indicative of restaurants attempting to inflate costs in a place where the customer is least likely to notice: the bottle list.

The phenomenon seems to be riding shotgun with the pervasiveness of high-low concept restaurants and other casual establishments where $25 pizzas share a menu with $90-plus bottles of wine. It’s a tried-and-true rule that alcohol sales offset poor food margins, but are people actually willing to turn a blind eye and pay outrageous prices for drinks when everything else on the menu is in line with a casual, lower-spending atmosphere?

On this episode of the “VinePair Podcast,” Adam, Joanna, and Zach ponder if rising restaurant wine prices are due to a raft of new loans that have targeted restaurants of late, offering quick infusions of cash in exchange for a cut of all credit card transactions. Do operators think that guests are less likely to notice price hikes when it comes to booze? Tune in for more.

Joanna is drinking: Martinez Cocktail
Zach is drinking: Golden State Cider Dry & Mighty
Adam is drinking: Paper Plane at The Bowery Hotel

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