While reading the Spring 2007 issue of Quarterly Review of Wines, I read a short article about Legal Sea Foods and their new policy on wine. In essence, if you order a bottle of wine, they "guarantee" you won't find it for a lower price in any other restaurant. This policy is not listed on their website and the article does not state if anything happens if you do find a cheaper wine elsewhere. The article listed several wines found at Legal that were at a low markup, including even a couple that were at the same price as retail.
I have not yet been to Legal Seafoods to check on their wine prices but I plan to do so soon. And if it is accurate, I hope that other restaurants decide to follow their lead. We all know that wine prices at restaurants can be quite excessive, two to three times the usual retail. And sometimes even more. Do they need these excessive mark-ups? Definitely not! First, restaurants are generally not paying retail for their wine. So the markup on their cost is even higher than you think. Second, sure there are costs for wine storage and such, but not sufficient for the mark-ups. Restaurants could sell much more wine if they were more reasonable priced.
If you know the retail prices of some common wines, you can gauge how much a restaurant marks up their wines. This can help you identify restaurants that are trying to gouge you, and others who are far more reasonable.