Glassware is packaging, and the right package can make your beverage program more profitable.
By Mike Sherer
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.
Cozymel’s Maya Rita
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.
HOPS’ branded beer pints
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 lambic ales. Sour ales are served in wine glasses. Belgian ales and other high alcohol brews are served in more traditional footed goblets.