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A delicious meal and a great wine but does your glassware live up to the image your restaurant wants to portray?

Sadly, too many hospitality venues forget that any drink – whether it’s iced water, soft drink, spirit, cocktail or wine – tastes and looks much better when it’s presented in an attractive, clean, quality glass that is both a pleasure to hold and drink from.

One major tabletop supplier to the industry who prefers to remain anonymous says that she is amazed by the number of top restaurants which sport the best cutlery, china, linen and other table accoutrements but opt for inferior quality glassware, simply because of cost. The contrast is immediately obvious and disappointing to the guests who are prepared to pay for a memorable dining experience difficult to replicate at home.

“So why do so many restaurants fail to take advantage of this psychological edge? Surely this is a supreme opportunity to make a personal statement – we’re innovative, trendy, intimate, elegant, we’re different from our competitors and prepared to go that that extra mile, whatever?” she asks.

Most hospitality operators would agree that quality glasses and stemware contribute considerably to the overall dining experience but that cost has to be factored in.

Scott Witt, managing director of Cellarit, a specialist on-line supplier of old and rare wines believes that glassware is so important, that he is now about to stock beautiful Riedel crystal ware for his wine buff customers who include leading restaurants and caterers.

“We sell glorious wines Grange, Henschke, Cristal champagnes for special occasions so it makes sense to have glasses that seem to bring out the best in the wine.”

To Witt, this means delicate, fine Riedel crystal stemware in classically simple bowl shape and size appropriate to the wine. He has used Riedel stemware himself for years so now that he is about to supply glasses to trade and retail customers, believes he should stay with what he believes will only enhance his superb wines.

“I can’t emphasise just how important the right glass is. I have a good friend who enjoys trying out different restaurants, always ordering a bottle of excellent and often fairly expensive wine. Unless this is served in a quality glass, he tracks down the manager, complains and assures him/her he won’t be back. More customers should do this. After all, top restaurants charge a fairly high corkage fee so it shouldn’t be too much to expect a lovely glass,” says Witt.

Riedel, which describes itself as the ‘wineglass company’ markets directly to wine merchants. It admits that while a glass cannot alter a fine wine or spirit, it can and does dramatically alter the drinker’s perception of the wine. The company supplies glasses and decanters to suit every wine in a wide range of price categories. At the top of the range are exquisite mouth-blown 24 per cent lead crystal glasses as well as machine-blown crystal and potash glasses, each matched to a specific wine.

Another company supplying the top end of the market is The Connoisseur Collection. At the reins is managing director, Russell Romery, who says the latest trend in glasses and stemware is for classical simple teardrop shapes with cut polished rims, rather than the rolled rims of old. Romery says polished heat-toughened rims are less susceptible to chipping and other wear or tear.

“Our crystal range (both mouth-blown and machine-blown) is mostly sourced from northern Europe – from Slovakia, Poland and the other traditional crystal manufacturing countries. The majority of our customers are asking for lead-free crystal these days in the classic teardrop shape. The old round bowls seem to be out, as are coloured or cut stems. We seem to follow the European influence here in Australia rather than the chunkier, heavier styles of America,” he says.

Not all suppliers market exclusively to the top end of the market. Companies like Crown Commercial have a vast range of different styles to suit all budgets. For instance, Crown was recently appointed the exclusive commercial market distributors for Luigi Bormioli, makers of fine machine-blown lead-free crystal glasses and stemware.

Each glass, which comes in classic shapes, features double-fired, chip resistant rims. They are robust, dishwasher safe and popular with venues which are anxious to maintain quality but, at the same time, cut down on replacement costs.

Crown also markets Italian Luigi Bormioli’s new Conica range. As the name suggests, this is an unusual new V-shape appealing to venues that want something different. The stemware has a long, delicate stem and a fine cone shaped bowl, but is tougher than its elegant appearance suggests, thanks to today’s advanced technology. There are also matching beverage glasses with a distinctive wide, hollow stem and like the stemware range, can help achieve a certain contemporary ambience at a trendy bar, restaurant, bistro or café.

Apart from the Luigi Bormioli ranges, Crown also distributes a wide range of other glassware designs, in all shapes and sizes including the simple classic teardrop in strong demand, suitable for the smallest café right through to large upmarket establishments.

National hospitality manager, Paul O’Neill says: “The entire range is fully toughened to ensure extra resistance to damage and hence, this means less stock turn over for our customers. One of the winners is the modern Casablanca design which features 13 types of glasses, designed to create an up-to-date look for high volume bars/bistros, as well as more upmarket establishments.

“All designs, including Casablanca, combine robustness, practicality, stylish good looks and affordability and it would indeed be a very difficult customer who was unable to find something to suit.”

The Casablanca range also includes the popular Schmiddy beer glass (also available in the other designs) which comes within the 325-355ml size range, eliminating the need for schooners and middies. The uniform size glass (and one beer price) is a boon for busy bars. Serving, racking for washing/ chilling and pricing becomes easier and staff productivity is greatly increased.

Still on beer glasses, many people would think a beer glass is a beer glass is a beer glass. But not so as some Perth beer drinkers found out recently. Paul O’Neill and his team were in Perth recently for a trade show, after which they gathered at a local pub to relax. When beers were poured into the pub’s regular glasses, the team noticed how quickly it went flat.

“We raced back to the trade show, grabbed some Headmaster glasses and then asked the bartender if he could pour our next beers into these. All the other patrons were astounded at how the Headmaster (made from the latest nucleated glassware) kept the head on the beer and maintained a fresh appearance to the last,” reminisces O’Neill.

He explains that the special treatment on the glasses ensures the base is roughened, capturing the carbon dioxide and slowly releasing it while the drink is being consumed. The Headmaster is available in various styles and sizes.

“It’s been our experience that the marketplace drives the concept. Drinkers certainly recognise the glass makes a difference. It’s a visual thing as much as anything else,” O’Neill says.


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