Choosing the Right Glassware for Your Restaurant Concept

“Glasses are usually the first thing we touch in a restaurant, and they stay on the table for the duration of the meal,” notes New York–based restaurant consultant Alison Price Becker of Alison Eighteen. “They become not only a part of service, but a part of the table’s ‘dress.’”

That’s why it’s crucial to choose the right glassware for your restaurant. Here are four important factors to

consider:

1. Match the style to your concept. Glassware is a key element in making your concept work, giving diners a clue about what to expect from their meal and overall experience. Select glasses that complement your restaurant dinnerware, flatware and overall concept. “Why use stemware if you’re using paper napkins?” Becker posits. Don’t go too fancy if your concept is low key or too informal if your concept is high end. And don’t be afraid to think outside the box; mason jars are a fun way to bring a more casual concept to life than ordinary glasses.

2. Assess durability and quality. “It’s extremely important to have an understanding of the brand’s durability,” says Alice Christner, co-owner of Christner’s Prime Steak & Lobster in Orlando, FL. “Many restaurateurs will be influenced by what’s trending or the style of the glass, but these factors don’t contribute to the longevity. Invest in quality glassware — it will save money in the long run and offer the guests a higher-quality experience.” Choose the highest-quality, longest-lasting glassware your budget allows.

3. Take a test drink. Before you buy, use the glass to see how it feels in your hand and on your mouth — and to make sure it doesn’t dribble or drip. “Have you ever tried those cool-looking square glasses?” Becker asks slyly. “Just lovely when your cranberry juice drips onto those fab white jeans. Doesn't matter what the concept is, now you have an unhappy customer.” Repeated comp’ed meals and dry-cleaning bills can make a stylish choice a costly one as well.

4. Imagine the tablescape. Restaurateurs often overlook how the glassware interacts with everything else on the table. What looks fantastic in the showroom may look bad or not function well on a crowded table. “If your tables are small, you don't want to use huge glasses. They will inevitably be bumped and go crashing,” Becker notes.

Now that you know what to look for, let’s talk about the kinds of glasses you should get.

“You can put almost any drink in a single old fashioned glass if you are going for a minimalist approach,” says Michelle Ruocco, bar manager at The Bent Brick restaurant in Portland, OR. Most eateries need more than one option, however, and Ruocco suggests purchasing these glasses at a minimum:

  • Single and double old fashioned glasses
  • Martini glasses or coupes, which also function as champagne glasses
  • Collins glasses
  • One-size-fits-all wineglasses
  • Mugs

Of course, some establishments break with tradition and get creative. Some of these trends include:

  • Cold soups in single or double old fashioned glasses, complete with straws
  • Candles floating in wine glasses instead of votive holders
  • Drinks and spreads served in canning or jelly jars
  • Stylish vases in lieu of water pitchers
  • Desserts like puddings and mousses offered in large-bowled wine glasses

These are just a few of the trends on display right now — there are even more ideas out there. “Looking for pictures and resources online is crucial,” Becker says. “Research restaurants in other areas of the country for fresh ideas. Find restaurants of similar style and be creative.”

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