What are Honor-System Wine Bars?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 07 October 2019
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Honor-system wine bars are wine bars which operate on the honor system, allowing their patrons to decide how much they owe, and pay accordingly. The first such bars were opened in Berlin by a businessman named Jürgen Stumpf, and they turned out to be successful enough for Stumpf to open more, encouraging the spread of the system to other regions as well. In theory, of course, the honor system could also be used for beers, in regions where beer is a more popular tipple than wine.

When patron's enter honor-system wine bars, they pay a set fee to rent a glass, and then they may sample as many wines as they feel like. At the end of the night, the patrons pay on the basis of how much they think the wine is worth, and how much they owe. The success of such bars indicates that the honor system is highly effective, perhaps because people often end up paying more on the honor system in social environments, because they feel pressured by the collective group.


In addition to serving wines, such establishments serve food, which may or may not be offered on the honor system, depending on the owner's choice. Stumpf's bars offer a range of foods, many with a natural or healthy slant, as this type of cuisine is popular in Germany, making them pleasant places to dine with friends and drink a few glasses of wine. Stumpf also established bars with radically different feels in his pilot program, ensuring that they would appeal to a wide range of people.

The concept of honor-system wine bars might seem crazy to incredulous readers, but by allowing consumers more freedom, they may generate more revenue. Not only will people be inclined to drink more wines, but they may be encouraged to frequent the wine bar on a regular basis, becoming dedicated customers. The system also encourages people to sample wines, learning more about various wines and developing their own tastes.

In interviews, Stumpf has said that his honor-system wine bars are very profitable, and that he has been pleased by the success of his venture. Many news outlets around the world have covered the topic, more as an object of novelty, and honor-system wine bars have also been written up in travel guides. Should you find yourself in Berlin, they are well worth a visit.


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