Breaking the Cycle: Reducing Glassware Costs

If the sound of breaking glasses affects you like fingernails on a chalkboard, then take measures to protect your investment. Outfitting the bar with glassware can cost you a tremendous amount of money over the course of a typical year. Glassware is fragile, expensive and capable of decimating the bottom line.

Reducing glassware costs is a sizable task, but the pay-off is remarkable. The strategy begins during the initial selection process. How many types of glasses will you need to adequately meet the dynamics of your operation? How many bar service glasses (e.g. rocks, highball, bucket, beverage, beer, wine) will you need to stock? How many house specialty glasses? What types? What sizes? A detailed shopping list is essential.

Establish budgetary constraints. There is a wide range of costs and knowing how much you can spend in advance is important. Keep in mind that the purchase price is just the beginning — replacement costs are ongoing.

Consider also the impact glassware has on establishing image. Choose styles that conform to the operation’s image and concept. There are bars that serve drinks in Mason jars and do so with flair and panache, while other concepts scream out for stemware and big snifters. Glassware’s ability to enhance the appeal of any beverage is unrivaled and the sole reason that paper cups haven’t caught on in nightclubs and bars.

Versatility is a primary consideration. The more types of drinks that can be suitably presented in each style of glass, the more valuable it becomes to the operation. The fewer types of glasses carried allow more of each to be stocked. While unfeasible, carrying one type of glass behind the bar is the epitome of utility.

The glasses you select must be durable enough to withstand the rigors of commercial use. Obtain a sample of each glass and roll up your sleeves. Wash each vigorously in the bar’s three-sinks or dishwasher. Put it through the same paces it will be subjected to during Friday Happy Hour. Consider also the “breakage rate factor” — the less frequently a glass is used, the less important durability becomes as a selection factor. For instance, it is frequently more important that white wines glasses be stalwart and hardy than it is for red wine bowls.

Several factors affect the durability of glass, the most significant being heat-tempering, a process whereby molten glass is cooled rapidly making it more durable and shock resistant. While more expensive than other types of glass, heat-tempered glassware has a considerably longer useful life and is therefore very cost-effective.

Expensive stemware is usually produced as one piece. The rest are made in two pieces with the stem epoxied to the base of the glass. In most cases, the compound glass is more durable than its counterpart since the epoxy is stronger than the glass itself.

Finally, elicit reasonable assurances from your distributor that the lines of glassware you’re investing in will be available from the manufacturer for the foreseeable future. Discontinuation of a primary line of glassware is definitely deep-pocket news. Practically speaking, the worth of the remaining stock is relegated to salvage value and the entire process starts anew.


Illegal use of the hands

While losses through breakage are inevitable, there are substantive measures you can implement that will greatly increase your glassware’s chances of survival. Glasses stocked behind the bar should be returned to the bar for cleaning. Sending glasses to the kitchen for washing is tantamount to signing their death warrant. Without direct supervision, breakage in the dish room is exorbitant.      

Incidental contact—glass against glass—is a significant cause of breakage. The staff should be instructed to never carry an excessive number of glasses at once, either stacked in their hand, pyramided or in a “bouquet.” Limits should also be set on how many glasses can be carried on a service tray. Glasses should never be placed in bus tubs with dinnerware or flatware. Consider providing your bartenders with plastic or Lexan ice scoops instead of ones made of die-cast metal. The number of chipped rims should drop accordingly.         

A leading cause of breakage, thermal shock is caused by subjecting glass to a sudden change in temperature. Bartenders should pre-heat glasses with warm water before pouring in hot coffee of tea. Glasses right out of the glasswasher should be allowed to cool prior to use. The same is true about dumping the ice out of a glass and then plunging it into steamy hot water.        

Despite the obvious temptations, don’t stack glasses on top of one another — a leading cause of breakage. Rotating the stock on a regular basis will lessen the chances of glasses sticking to the shelf matting. The resulting tug on the matting often is enough to topple other glasses off the shelf. Hanging glass racks are notorious for causing breakage through frequent glass-to-glass contact or vibration shock caused by shimmy.     

Not all of the depletion in the ranks can be attributed to breakage. Some of your glasses walk out the doors in pockets, purses and backpacks. Prime targets of opportunity are monogrammed shot glasses and small, house specialty glasses. Choice catches also include snifters, cordials and sherry glasses. Of course, all of your glassware are targets and your doors, both front and back, are suspect. Truth is your employees likely walk out with glasses. In some cases it’s inadvertent, so a tactfully worded reminder posted by the back door is appropriate and advisable.

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