Drive Profits with Glassware

Choosing Unique Glassware can Increase Sales

Today’s drinkers are looking for more than beer in a generic shaker sleeve or six ounces of wine served in an eight-ounce footed goblet. Many are looking for interesting and unusual cocktails, premium whiskies, or craft beers served in appropriate and authentic glasses.
An emerging trend among consumers is to judge your offerings on a complex set of criteria. Local sourcing for beer, wine and spirits, authentic cocktail recipes, correct service, and proper glassware are becoming as important as pricing in some markets, and you can take advantage of this with a little work.

The Right Glass, the Right Drink

Standard well drinks and domestic draught sales are unlikely to be influenced by fancy glassware. The marginal contributions from them are also not high enough to justify a specialty glass. However, if you want to promote a premium or ultra-premium drink, it should be presented in premium glassware.
Wine glasses with huge bowls cradling A-list wines are sexy. Heavy old-fashioned glasses with a thick base and angular shape coddling an ice cube and a shot of single malt Scotch are sexy. A sleek Belgian ale with a dense rocky head floating above a branded beer snifter is sexy.  A bold, intense cocktail from your special menu, still swirling from the shaker in a tall, delicate cocktail glass… you get the idea: the right glass gives the right look, and it sells.
For these premium and ultra-premium drinks, you’ll need to do the same math as you do for any promotion: determine the cost of the glass for the drink you’re promoting and estimate an ROI by dividing that cost by the number of drinks you can expect to serve during the lifetime of that glass. The figure you get will be the amount you’ll need to add to your drink cost to maintain margin.
As with any promotion, you’ll also need to track sales and compare them to previous sales. You can do an incentivized promotion with your wait staff and bartenders. They know which customers will be receptive to the added value, and will be eager to help sell the premium drinks with proper motivation. As nice as it is to have your pub’s name associated with good glassware choices, the bottom line is that the program has to drive increased sales and profits.

Science and Myth in Tasting

There are some glassware manufacturers that claim their products enhance the flavour and aroma of specific beverages. One wine glass company sells dozens of different glasses intended for single varietals or styles of wine. The claim is that the shape of the bulb and the configuration of the rim enhances particular aromas and delivers flavours to precise areas of the palate.
This is a powerful idea, conjuring up the idea of turning rare or desirable wines into an ultimate experience by choosing the right glass. Sadly, it was debunked more than a decade ago, and any reasonably-sized wine glass with enough room to swirl the vintage inside will do as well as any other.
However, the idea persists, and beer drinkers share a version of it, with specialty glasses available for different styles of beer, particularly traditional European beers. From the iconic Guinness to unusual ales like Lambics, fruit beers, Kolsch, and German wheat beers, each has specialized and unique glasses to ‘bring out their character’.
As disappointing as the debunking may be to wine connoisseurs and beer enthusiasts, this doesn’t mean that a specialty glass won’t enhance the experience. Your job is to manage a profitable pub that attracts new customers and brings back repeat business by giving your patrons an enjoyable, satisfying experience. Using a specific wine glass for a varietal you’re promoting, or keeping the ‘right’ glass for a popular beer does that, with the science being less important than the guest’s perception of their experience.

Choosing your Glassware

Once you’ve determined the beverages you’re going to promote, it’s actually very simple to source appropriate specialty glassware. Your supplier will not only have a catalogue filled with ideas, your sales representative will work with you to choose the most cost-effective examples for your pub, and may even be able to help with product knowledge for you and your staff.
You can start with a moderate selection of new glasses for each section of your menu: one or two wine glasses, a specialty whisky tasting glass, and a craft beer glass will dramatically change the presentation for your premium offerings.
Beverage companies may also be able to help: specialty branded glassware programs may be available from beer companies, which not only give you the ‘right’ glass, but also increase customer awareness of those specialty brands.
Tracking your sales and profits is crucial here: if wine sales increase significantly but beer sales lag, you’ll need to adjust the focus of your glassware program. Keep in mind that margins are not equal to marginal contribution: the extra money spent on a Scottish dram glass can be easy to justify if it sells even just a few more shots of your most expensive single-malt whisky.
Be sure that your staff and bartenders track breakage separately from your other glassware as well, or you won’t be able to calculate the true success of your program.

Beware of the Tax Man

Correctly tracking costs and ROI in specialty glassware isn’t the only thing you need to pay attention to. Using the right glass can ensure you’re not giving away free alcohol–and can possibly keep you from running afoul of the tax man.
Many establishments used standard American shot glasses, which, while labelled ‘one ounce’ actually contain 29.6ml of fluid. The standard Canadian shot glass is 28ml, nearly 6% less. If your establishment uses the American standard shot, you are giving away 6% of your product. If you purchase $20,000 in liquor per month, that’s nearly $15,000 per year coming off of your bottom line.
There is also the potential for a tax liability. Taxation is based on the volume of alcohol your establishment purchases. With a US shot glass your yield is 25.33 shots per 750ml bottle. Taxes are calculated at 26.8 shots per bottle, and if an audit shows a discrepancy in your numbers, you will be required to pay the difference. Over a long enough period of time, that can be a crippling number. Ensuring your shot glasses are a Canadian standard 28ml could save you a significant amount in the long and short term.