You’ve been following the glass market for food service a long time. How has it evolved? What glassware trends did you see in 2014?
When I started in this business Libbey Glass ruled. They were the standard, and a distant second was Anchor Hocking, and to a lesser extent there was Indiana Glass. The standard wine glass was a #3764 8.5 oz red and # 3769 6.5 oz white. They were short, heavy, and had a green hue. Add a bead at the rim for added durability. Wine was poured close to the top of the glass. There was little “experience.” Wow, have things changed! Cardinal (Arc) entered the scene and changed the world of glass, especially for us in New York. Richard Raphael hit the streets and taught us how to sell glasses: how to sell glasses so restaurateurs could sell wine. Sell wine and increase profits. Sell wine that paired with food. And Cardinal allowed us to get those glasses easily to our customers.
How are glassware manufacturers responding to the needs you outline for them?
The glory days of Wall Street followed behind closely: Martinis with lunch, and port for dessert. Champagne to celebrate the deal! The importance of the executive dining room for business entertainment, with budgets that allowed us to look at some of the retail outlets. Wall Street had the money to push us forward forcing us to look for the next best and finest product. To see clear glasses with thin stems and more sophisticated shapes that enhanced the wine experience, and the scotch experience, and now the tequila experience. The sparkly item on the table was a clean clear stemmed glass with an elegant sheered rim instead of the heavy cut or seemingly cut glass. The manufacturers responded with different types of glasses, different shapes, glasses that enhance every type of beverage, new and different styles to enhance table settings and interiors. Glasses began to be chosen by designers and not foodies. At least now, designers are foodies. And what looks good also works well.
How does the glassware needed for $100 plus bottle of wine differ from what is required for a $30 bottle? Look?, Feel?, Texture?, Balance?
Glass is glass, and it does break more easily than other tabletop items: we needed to conquer durability. Enter heat-treated rims, then the fully tempered glasses (Cardinal), then non-leaded crystal, and even titanium coated (Bauscher) with chip warranties. And stemless for a lower and sleeker, but all clean lines to let the spirits shine thru. Or whatever beverage as in specialty soda, juices, and smoothies. All helping establishment’s bottom line. While that green hued glass still has its place, most of us appreciate something more sophisticated: larger or specific shape.
We live in the age of the designer cocktail. What impact has that had on what your customer is looking for in a glass?
What is appropriate for a simple wine by the glass is not appropriate for an expensive vintage wine. We have learned to expect a well-balanced larger glass for our better wines. We look for a glass that we can swirl and feels good in our hands. One that has a nice thin rim that feels smooth and luxurious on our lips and mouth. Some of us are even insulted if we are served our chosen spirits in what we think is an inappropriate glass. In business, we want these sales, and will keep some “special” glasses in-house to accommodate these customers. And then there are some that will serve “special” wines by the glass in a “special” glass just to create buzz and envy. Adding all the time to sales and the bottom line.
Lest we forget all the specialty glasses: Shooters for liquor and soup tasting. Smaller beer tasting glasses never looked better than on a wooden board with chalkboards so you can identify the selections. We should not forget that may establishments are infusing their own vodkas and making their own bitters for signature drinks that are worthy of a larger ticket, and therefore a more noticeable glass. Glass manufacturers keep introducing us to new and timely items that reflect our new tastes and needs. With the advent of designer beers, we see ‘Nucleated” glasses that enhance the head. Now we are back to the rustic look of Mason Jars and the always in style pub glasses. We crest them for advertisement and for pour lines, or just to look nice.
There must be an enormous amount of breakage. How does that impact a restaurant/club’s bottom line? How do you design and “spec” with breakage in mind?
The “same old thing” is improved (clearer and more durable) and reintroduced. So where are we now: at plastic. Clear, well weighted, and durable. Perfect for the restaurateur who expands their dining room season and serve outside. Great for the caterers who worry about children breaking glasses. Perfect for around pools. These are not my father’s 2 piece styrene snap together wine glasses. These actually look and feel good. Seems like every day someone comes out with a new one: that can be crested. That is PBA free, that is stocked locally. And look and feel almost the same as the new clear glassware.