Australian Restaurants: BYO and Doggy Bags

When you move to a different country, you expect to see different things, different cultures and a different way of life. That’s why you moved, so things would be different.

But sometimes you see something different in the new country which you very quickly take for granted, so much so that you think it’s always been like that, when it hasn’t.

Yesterday, Mrs BobinOz and I, along with Elizabeth, went to a restaurant to celebrate our wedding anniversary. Just before we left, Mrs BobinOz said “I think it might be BYO, we’d better take the cool bag just in case.”

On the way over I asked her if we’d had BYO in the UK because, all of a sudden, I realised I couldn’t remember ever having been to one there.

“No.” said Mrs BobinOz.


No prizes for guessing that BYO stands for “bring your own” and having done a quick search, I see in other countries it’s more commonly called “BYOB” standing for “bring your own booze” “bring your own beer” “bring your own bottle” or “bring your own bucket”.

Now I like a good beer, but I can assure you I have never drunk out of a bucket!

Anyway, turns out our restaurant for the evening…

Restaurant… was a BYO…

BYOBasically, it means you can bring your own beer, booze, bottle or bucket and drink it on the premises. The restaurant will open your bottle of wine for you, if that’s what you have, and provide glasses for your drink from in return for “corkage”.

That’s a normally small nominal fee for providing the glasses and the service that goes with it.

So we took our cool bag with some drinks…

Drinks… and instead of paying $6 or $7 for a bottle of beer or a glass of wine, we took our own and paid just $1.50 each for corkage.

So the full cost of our drinks in this restaurant was:

  • Three glasses of wine, approximately $9, based on drinking three quarters of a $12 bottle of wine.
  • Three cans of beer, (375 mL) at a cost of $1.50 each, total $4.50.
  • Two charges for corkage at $1.50 each, total $3.
  • Our total drinks cost = $16.50.

If we had been buying the drinks from the bar, we would have probably paid $21 for three glasses of wine and $18 for three glasses of beer, total $39.

BYO saved us around $22.50.

That’s not the only advantage either; clearly you can take your favourite wines and beers with you. No need to choose from a list of wines you’ve never heard of, or settle for a beer you wouldn’t normally drink.

Most BYO’s don’t have a bar, but some do, giving you the choice of buying your drink on the premises or bringing your own. Best of both worlds.

According to Queensland’s Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulations, a liquor licence is not required to run a BYO restaurant but operators may need to apply for a permit from their local government authority.

Doggy bag

Here’s another thing that wasn’t commonly done in UK restaurants when I was last there; taking away what you don’t eat. We’ve all heard of doggy bags, but that’s where all the remains are slopped into one bag to give to Rover as a treat when you get home.

But here they will pack what’s left of each individual dish into a separate takeaway container for reheating later. This was particularly handy as we had to buy an adult portion of butter chicken for Elizabeth, so the half she didn’t eat she can have as a meal another day.

I believe they’ve been doing this sort of thing in the USA for years, and they’ve certainly been doing it here in Australia for a while. But I never much came across it in the UK, but another quick search tells me that’s changing.

There is a stigma attached to asking to take your scraps home, some people find it embarrassing to do so. But a new initiative called “Too Good To Waste” is trying to overcome that and is being supported by, for example, Giles Coren, restaurant critic for The Times and top chef Antony Worrall Thompson.

Obvious benefits of the campaign are to reduce wastage and also to encourage people not to over eat simply because they don’t want to waste the food.

How about that? Doggy bags now in fashion in the UK. Makes me wonder, have any BYO’s sprung up over there yet?

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{ 24 comments… add one }
  • Jayden Taylor February 24, 2017, 11:02 pm |

    This article has very nicely elaborated about the BYO restaurants. The option to bring your own wine is a very attractive way to invite more visitors to the restaurant. Many people have their preference for wine so the BYO feature in the restaurant’s enable customers to enjoy the meal with their favorite wines. In this content, the reasons for the popularity of BYO restaurants are very nice described. Reading this article has been a very enriching experience as I get to acquire a lot of knowledge about the BYO restaurants.

    • BobinOz February 27, 2017, 9:35 pm |

      Thank you Jayden, I’m glad you enjoyed the article.

  • Scott March 12, 2013, 6:56 am |

    Bob – first, thank you much for your website. I’m from the U.S. and my wife and I are going to be moving to Brisbane shortly for a job I received there (BTW – I should post this on your “How to Immigrate” – but I got laid off from my job here in the U.S., posted my resume on just to see what would happen, and 48 hours later had a job offer in hand) – anyway, we’re trying to figure out the culture before we get there.
    “Doggy bags” are very common here in the U.S., and specifically, I remember one high end restaurant in Denver that, due to economic pressures of the recession, would actually give you a “heat at home” meal with every dinner you purchased at the restaurant. Other places would offer “half portions with take home” where the plate they served was half the meal and the other half was neatly boxed up in a take out bag.
    BYO, however, is actually illegal in most places here. I’m actually really glad to see it’s commonplace in Australia. Restaurants never seem to have the right beer to go with what I want to eat, and if they do, it’s twice as much as I want to spend on it.
    Can you point me to some of your articles about pubs in Oz? I’ve read that the corner dive bar I’m used to here in the States doesn’t exist there and all of the pubs are actually very large bars.

  • Brad August 17, 2012, 5:38 am |

    Yet again your commentary of the mundane things in life make me smile. Well done Bob.

    Also, I’m an Australian who has been living in London for the past 6 years and about to head back down under. Your blog has been really useful to get me and my British wife up to date on all the changes – quite a lot it seems. Thank you

    • BobinOz August 17, 2012, 3:21 pm |

      Thanks Brad, glad you enjoyed it. May I be one of the first to welcome you back home, I hope your wife takes to this place as well as Mrs BobinOz has. If she does, you’ll be here for good.


  • JohannaLala August 16, 2012, 7:10 pm |

    It is interesting insight into human nature…and culturally how these things are perceived. In the UK it has become a little more common (and by that, I mean it might be witness about once a year!) to have a doggy bag, but this undertaking is usually reserved for those who are not so reserved, the minority of Brits who don’t care how others react and students. Personally, if it’s a decent pizza I can’t manage in one sitting, that definitely becomes lunch the next day :o)

    • BobinOz August 17, 2012, 3:20 pm |

      I didn’t realise I hadn’t put the link in, but if you care to Google “Too Good To Waste’ you will see how trendy and cool their doggy bags look. I think taking your leftovers home could soon become cool and trendy in the UK.

  • Pierr August 15, 2012, 8:40 pm |

    Taking away what you can not eat is a well accepted behavior in China, especial in big cities such as Shanghai,where people consider it is a virtue while wasting is considered to be a shame.However, in small cities, same behavior may be considered as stingy so they are less likely do it. Interesting.

    • BobinOz August 16, 2012, 12:29 am |

      How interesting and how very strange too. The campaign I mentioned in the post is aimed at top-class restaurants and is being taken up and supported by people who can technically “afford” to waste food. I suspect they to see it as being virtuous just like those you mention in Shanghai.

      Yet, it appears, those who can least afford to waste food see it as stingy or shameful to take their left overs home.

      It’s an interesting statement about human nature, is it?

  • JohannaLala August 15, 2012, 8:16 pm |

    I think I’ve had too much coffee…I didn’t even notice ‘greed’ instead of ‘greedy’. Time to take a few deep breaths *heehee*. Okay, enough posting for now. Ahem.

    • BobinOz August 16, 2012, 12:23 am |


      You need to go to Nottingham AND Tooting/Earlsfield, see Naomi’s comment at the top. She’s found a few there too. Anyway, as for those typos, I think you should have LESS coffee, and maybe slowed down a bit 🙂

      What you really need is a good long relax on nice hot sunny Australian beach. When are you coming back?



      • JohannaLala August 16, 2012, 12:36 am |

        Aah Bob, even though my family emigrated from UK to Perth when I was 3 months old, and then dragged kicking and screaming when I was 11 back to UK, I’m an Auz through and through. I returned for extended holiday in 2005 and then again in 2006, it was home still. Now that I am free to return, the facts/bureaucracy and lack of foresight to obtain citizenship/dual nationality was overlooked – there weren’t the restrictions or such tight requirements back then. I’m tearing my heart out trying to find a way back – I’ve got a nephew in Exmouth WA and that’s a slim possibility, but come April 2013 I’m…er….turning a certain age and it may be too late then. Wish me luck (actually wish me a miracle!) and if not, I’ll take your advice for a long holiday on an Aussie beach as soon as I can :o)

        • JohannaLala August 16, 2012, 12:37 am |

          Oh, and less coffee – yea ;o)

        • BobinOz August 16, 2012, 5:57 pm |

          Oh, I do feel for you. Struggling to find a way to return “home” must be so frustrating. I hope you find a way in, but it sounds as though you might be in a hurry to do that. It’s hard enough getting in here when you are the right age, it’s much harder when you’re not.

          Good luck, I hope things turn out well. And less coffee equals no typo’s. Does that make me a Doctor?

          • JohannaLala August 16, 2012, 7:06 pm |

            Haha, thanks Bob….I mean Doc Bob, not to sure about that diagnosis, I think maybe it’s just plain ole rubbish typing!! ‘Auzzie Doc Bob’….hmm, sounds like some kinda footie move. “Awh yeah, lookadim gow! His expertise at throwin’ in the AuzzieDocBob move really gives him the advaaaantage.” See? No amount of coffee could take credit for my peculiar imagination!! I really do need that chillax on the beach, huh ;o)

            • BobinOz August 17, 2012, 3:15 pm |

              Take 8 cups of coffee daily, you’ll be right.


  • JohannaLala August 15, 2012, 8:15 pm |

    Aah, I just read Sean’s posting after my little rant…seems I should visit Nottingham for a little respite! Good to know some at least can give their customers a little freedom on the pocket *yaaay for you guys*

  • JohannaLala August 15, 2012, 8:12 pm |

    Because I’m a little OCD about typos… I meant ‘…way TOO greed…’. Phew, glad I got that sorted Xo)

  • JohannaLala August 15, 2012, 8:11 pm |

    This is fantastic…and just great example of some wonderful Auzzie attitudes. It would be absolutely unHEARD of here in the UK. The massive profit mark-up on drinks is what makes them the most money and way to greed to ever imagine introducing such a diner-friendly option.

    Once again, my deeply loved and childhood country ROCKS IT!! Makes me more homesick than ever. Anyone want to adopt me?

  • Sean August 14, 2012, 5:32 am |

    I know of at least two in Nottingham (one Indian, one Chinese) and there are numerous Indian restaurants in Bradford that do them.
    They are though very much out of the ordinary, but significantly cuts the cost of a meal!

    • BobinOz August 15, 2012, 3:42 pm |

      Yes, it does make eating out cheaper, drinks always do take up a large portion of the bill; well they do for me and Mrs BobinOz 🙂 Anyway, sounds like BYO’s are beginning to take off in the UK.

  • naomi August 6, 2012, 8:52 pm |

    I love the BYO system! We have 3 that I know of here in Tooting/Earlsfield area in London, I was really surprised to find them here ’cause I thought it was just an Aussie thing! They are Indian, Thai and Korean restaurants, I don’t think you’d find any expensive French or Modern European restaurants doing this! Looking forward to taking advantage of the BYOs in Australia when we get there, we are leaving on Sunday 🙂

    • BobinOz August 8, 2012, 1:50 pm |

      BYO in the UK, wonderful! Doesn’t sound like it’s very widespread yet though Naomi, but hopefully it will catch on. Not that it will affect you much after Sunday 🙂

      Welcome to Australia!

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