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The Importance of Glassware is Crystal-Clear
Glassware is one of the first things guests see on the table, and the virtual cup that holds restaurants most profitable offerings. When it comes to glassware, the importance of restaurateurs selecting the right pieces for their operations can't be overestimated.
"We consider everything imaginable when we look at glassware, from the shape to the weight, size and color," says Rick Fierro, owner of Piscos, a popular Latin American restaurant in Denver. "It's one of the most important things we have in the restaurant."
One of the first aspects Fierro considers is how a glass makes a specialty cocktail or wine pour look to his customers. "The glass has to look full," he says.
The restaurant's existing mixed-drink recipes and wine-pour specifications should fit nicely into the glasses. "Are we going to have to make the drink too strong or weak just to fit the glass? That's a big question we look at when choosing what glasses to buy," says Fierro.
Many operators pick glassware for its presentation value, so manufacturers focus on the look and feel of their products, as well as taking profit per serving into consideration.
For instance, manufacturers may vary the cup and alter the thickness of a tumbler's sham (its thick, solid base) to accommodate different drink sizes and increase customers' perceived value An 8-oz. highball glass with a thick sham may appear to be the same size as a 10-oz. highball glass with a thin sham. Even though the drink it houses contains less alcohol, the 8-oz. glass may project a higher value from the weight and look that are created by the thicker sham, while at the same time increasing an operation’s profit per drink.
Wine glasses are another category where construction affects customer perception. Glasses with rounded, “beaded” rims are most popular for their durability, but wine connoisseurs and the upscale operations that cater to them prefer a beadless rim that is as thin as possible. The thinner the rim, the less it interferes with the intricacies of swirling and sipping wines.
Even the most delicate glass, however, has to be able to stand up to a stint at the dishwashing station.
One manufacturer addresses this challenge with a polished, beadless edge designed for upscale operations. The company begins with a standard beaded-edge wine glass, and then utilizes a secondary process that removes the bead with laser or standard grinding. The edge is then fire-polished to toughen the rim. Operators should note, however, that in spite of techniques used to strengthen the pieces, beadless glasses usually cannot hold up to dishwashers.
The secondary process adds cost to the glass, and the company also offers a minimum-bead product as an in-between, cost-effective option. To reduce expensive breakage, operators typically buy a mix of glasses: beaded for standard service and house wines, and sheer rim for more exclusive products.
The ear-splitting crash of a glass smashing against the floor results in not just a momentary silence in the dining room, but also restaurant profits being swept into the garbage.
Most glassware breaks for one of two reasons, the first of which is thermal shock from extreme temperature variations, such as when a chilled glass is pulled from a freezer and filled with steaming hot liquid. The other and more prevalent reason is mechanical shock, otherwise known as old-fashioned dropping, banging, smashing and whatever else the waitstaff and diners manage to do to glasses.
The entire glass can break, but the rim is the most vulnerable area, and the place where manufacturers focus much of their attention with innovative construction methods. For example, a thermal process performed on the rim and top part of pressed-glass tumblers and stemware can improve their resistance to breakage. A secondary heating and rapid cooling process, performed on the top part of the glass only, keeps products cost-effective while reducing breakage.
Some manufacturers temper the whole glass to strengthen it rather than just the top. Proponents of tempering and other thermal treatments disagree over which method is better, but tempered glass is thought to shatter with greater force when it does break, resulting in smaller pieces that travel farther.
Operators like Piscos' Fierro appreciate the debate and consideration put into constructing the products. "We look for durability in glassware, and how it breaks," says he. "We know we are going to break some glasses, so how they break or shatter is important."
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