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Glass Act.

Glassware is packaging, and the right package can make your beverage program more profitable.

You know what it's like to dress to the nines for a night on the town - when you look good, you feel like a million bucks. You might say it's just a matter of packaging. For your beverage programs, glassware can be the Armani tux or Versace dress that packages things just right. Every beverage you serve comes in a glass, mug or cup of some kind. The kind of glass you use, however, can add tremendously to the visual appeal of the drink.

Many operators have turned to specialty glassware to help merchandise signature drinks they feature on their beverage menus. Special glassware draws attention and can lead to impulse sales. It also says that the drink inside the glass is special, which often means it can command a higher margin.

"Our philosophy is to create signature products, or 'heroes,' for each of our concepts," said Patrick Droesch, director of beverage for Brinker International, Dallas, which operates eight different casual theme chains. "We sit down and say, 'How do we showcase the best thing we have?' We want people to know what our signature drinks are, and that they deliver when they get to the table."

While specialty glassware showcases featured drinks, the rest of your glassware should present beverages well, too. All your glassware should merchandise the beverage, complement your decor and say something about your operation. Any time you consider adding or changing glassware, keep in mind what a particular glass is supposed to do. How will it be used, and for what types of beverages? Four key factors to consider are style, shape, size and durability.


There are a few schools of thought regarding style. There are those who maintain that there is a correct style of glass for every beverage. It's true that consumers often associate specific drinks with a particular style of glassware -- classic cocktails in a stemmed Martini glass, cognac in a baloon snifter, single malt Scotch in a rocks glass, mixed cocktails in a highball.

Many glasses, in fact, are named after the drinks they contain. Collins, Hurricanes and pilsners all have their own specialty glass. The pilsner glass, for example, was invented to show off the light color and clarity of pilsner beer, first brewed in Pilsen, Bohemia in 1842. Before that, ales, which were typically dark and cloudy with yeast, were served in everything from mugs and tankards to goat horns and the chalices of kings.

Pike Place Pub in Seattle serves its 30 specialty imported beers in 21 different styles of glassware. A yeasty wheat beer is served in a translucent "swirl" glass so you can see the color, but not the cloudiness of the beer. Orval Belgian ale is served in a wide goblet so when the beer is poured, the carbonation and aroma of the beer is released more readily.

For most operations, however, it would be nearly impossible to maintain an inventory of glasses if every beverage had its own glassware. Most operations have to make do with around a dozen or more styles, meaning some glasses have to do double and triple duty. In those cases, it can pay to be creative. Many operations, for example, will use a glass-handled beer mug for other drinks like Bloody Marys and coffee drinks.

Other operators use unexpected styles to merchandise the more unusual drinks on the menu. Chili's signature "Margarita Presidente" is served in a hand-blown Martini glass. The glass is similar in style to the more traditional coupette, but different enough to attract a lot of attention. Another Brinker concept, On The Border, uses an 18-ounce pilsner style glass for signature Margaritas.

At Hops Grill & Bar, a chain based in Tampa, Fla., a number of classic cocktails are served in champagne flutes. The chain's version of a Mudslide, using hand-dipped ice cream, is served this way, for example.

Hudson Club, Chicago, known mostly for its 100+ wines by-the-glass, uses champagne flutes to serve Belgian iambic ales. Sour ales are served in wine glasses. Belgian ales and other high alcohol brews are served in more traditional footed goblets.


Shape not only has an effect on the visual presentation of a drink, but often has practical implications, too. Hops Grill & Bar, for example, changed its wine glasses recently. "We now use fishbowl style wine glasses as opposed to the narrow style of the "90s," said Billy Shipley, beverage coordinator for the chain. "The glass releases the aroma of the wine better."

Side Street, Memphis, has specialized in Martinis ever since it opened four years ago, and still does a booming business. Because it has so many different types of Martinis, six different Martini glasses are kept on hand, including one with a Z-shaped stem and another with a beaded stem. "The prettier the glass, the more expensive the drink," explained general manager Harlan Detlesky. House wine, for example, is served in a standard wine glass, but estate bottled wines are served in a different shaped, more expensive glass.

Hudson Club features 100 wines by the glass, which can be ordered in "flights" of four. The operation picked a particular 8-ounce wine glass for its teardrop shape. The shape makes it easier for bartenders to mark a 1-1/2ounce tasting portion. The restaurant also designed and patented a carrier for the glasses, so servers can carry several flights at once.

The restaurant also features flights of single malt Scotch. These are served in 5-ounce snifters because the shape of the glass allows customers to "nose" a small tasting portion better.

Champps Entertainment, Inc., based in Denver, chose the glassware it uses primarily on the basis of shape. "We have tended to use standard glassware," said Tim Johnson, director of purchasing and beverage, "but the shape of the glass is very important to us. The ounces are at the :op of the glass, which is important because it looks good when you serve it. We also picked the glassware we use because it's stackable. We don't use a lot of stemware, and tack glasses so we don't obscure the view across the bar."


Size can have an impact both on visual appeal and value perception. Since many consumers aren't drinking as much, they tend to want one drink that will really knock their socks off.

The hand-blown Margarita glass Cozymel's uses for its signature Margaritas is even larger than the version used at its sister chain Chili's. The Margaritas are brought to the table in a matching hand-blown pitcher.

"Big seems to be a trend that has worked," Droesch said. "Customers are drinking less, but better. They want one drink in an impactful glass. But the drink really has to deliver -- they'll remember where they saw the cool glass."

At Hudson Club, bottled wines are served in 12-ounce glasses, instead of the 8-ounce glass used for flights, so customers can "play" with the wine. Reserve wines are served in special Bordeaux glasses.

"More is more with classic cocktails again," said Hops' Shipley. "People are looking for larger 5- and 6-ounce cocktails with big garnish." That means a presentation in a larger glass. Hops uses an over-sized Martini glass and serves cocktails in a frozen, mini-carafe it calls a "sidecar."

Size can also distinguish promotional drinks from what's usually on the menu. Old Chicago Restaurants, Denver, sometimes uses a 25-ounce beer glass for special promotions instead of its standard 10-ounce mug and 16-ounce pint glass.

But bigger is not always better. Champps is discontinuing a 32-ounce mug for beer because of concerns about moderation and product quality. Instead, it plans to offer a 22-ounce mug in addition to its standard size.

Hops also had a 25-ounce mug with the chain's logo at one time, but dropped it. "The beer would get warm," Shipley said. "We were sacrificing quality, so we dropped it even though it was good advertising."


Durability will likely have a big influence in the glassware you choose.

"The specialty glassware we use is not very durable," said Bruce Raymond, general manager of Pike Place Pub. "It breaks easily. Fortunately, it is supplied by the brewers. If it weren't for our specialty imports, I might just go with a Gibralter rocks glass and a pint glass for beer." For its own Pike ales, the pub uses either a straight-sided pint glass or a curved Imperial pint (18-oz) glass.

Champps uses the most durable, heat-treated glassware it can find to stand up to the high volume behind the bar and the thermal shock of going from the heat of washing to cold when filled with ice or put in the cooler.

"Our bar is quite extensive," said Stefanie Gerkin, general manager at Hudson Club, "but we also do very high volume. We can't have really high-end glassware, but we do use the correct glassware for every beverage, and use glassware that does help merchandise our products."

Glassware has to be durable, not only to keep costs down, but also to help keep the bar running efficiently. Glasses that break easily are going to cost the operation a lot of time in clean-up, especially if they break in or near ice bins.

Today's glassware is usually as functional as it is fun, fortunately. Take time to evaluate your beverage program from a packaging standpoint. With a little time and effort, your operation can truly be a glass act.


Glassware is fragile, no matter how well made, Glassmaking techniques such as tempering make glassware more durable, but glass can still break from mechanical or thermal shock. Teach your staff to use a little TLC when handling glassware to help reduce your replacement costs.

* Pick up glasses one at a time, never in bouquets.

* Use a divider when stacking glasses; don't stack glasses on top of each other.

* Use a plastic ice scoop, not a glass, to fill glasses with ice.

* Dump ice from dirty glasses and let them stand for five minutes before washing in hot water.

* Pre-heat glasses used for hot drinks with hot water.

* Separate glasses on drainboards and in overhead racks; avoid glass-to-glass contact.

* Use glassracks when washing glasses in an automatic washer.
COPYRIGHT 2001 Bev-AL Communications, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Sherer, Mike
Date:Apr 1, 2001
Next Article:ONE-TWO PUNCH.

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