Posted on | February 1, 2008
Written by | Garrett Peck
Raise your hand if this has ever happened to you: you’ve ordered a nice bottle of wine at a restaurant, only to find it served in a cheap clunky glass. The glass releases none of the wine’s bouquet, and it’s so small the wine practically spills over the top. “Nobody deserves to be served a good wine in a bad glass,” said Kathleen Talbert, a representative for Riedel. Indeed, inferior glassware cheapens the experience of fine dining.
High-end wine glasses can be expensive, they are easy to break, and they require hand-polishing, but restaurants can turn off customers by using obviously inferior stemware. “Operators need to consider that the consumer is much more educated than they were in years past,” said Mike Coggins of Villeroy & Boch. “They need to focus on presentation in choosing the right glass.”
There are a bewildering number of choices for wineglasses. “It can go from a simple one or two glasses, up to an entire extensive line of glassware based on the restaurant’s audience,” explained Jim Pappas of Fortessa, which imports Schott Zwiesel stemware. Most restaurants will be fine with a handful of elegant styles. A native of France, Thibault Chaillon of Champagne Charles Heidsieck noted that many French restaurants only have three wine glass styles: white, red, and vin de tables for everyday use. Ultimately, restaurants can find a balance between durability and elegance without breaking the bank – or the glass.
Brett Goldfarb started his career in the casual dining industry more than two decades ago as a dishwasher, working his way up through the ranks as a bartender and server to become senior director of operations and training at Florida-based Roadhouse Grill today. He has seen thousands of wineglasses break, and yet lives to tell the tale.
“The biggest problem with wineglasses is that they break,” Goldfarb said. “The wine glass is the most fragile glass you deal with.” The stems snap in the dishwasher, or a glass left near the service bar on a busy evening can easily be knocked over. “I don’t know of anyone who’s made an unbreakable glass!”
The bistro Vapiano opened its first U.S. location in Arlington, Virginia in May 2007. General manager Alex Meltzer didn’t know how many wineglasses broke in the restaurant’s first 6 months, but it was enough that he recently restocked the shelves with 150 new glasses. Derek Brown, sommelier at Komi restaurant in Washington, DC, faces the same problem. “We have very high breakage – consumers have no idea. It’s a lot!”
Wineglasses are the most broken service item. In his experience, Goldfarb has seen about 15% break each month. At that level, a restaurant can expect to replace all its wineglasses every six months. That’s a big expense. And that’s why restaurants are increasingly turning to sturdier yet elegant stemware.
Libbey Glassware has traditionally made low-cost glasses popular at casual restaurants. “Libbey’s product is more affordable and more durable while retaining the look restaurant owners want,” said Linda Szyskowski. Most of its wineglasses are round rimmed, but it has a growing line of sheer rimmed glasses, such as its Aficionado line made with the company’s proprietary SheerRim/Dura Temp Edge process. This line includes both red and white wineglasses.
“One of the big things in restaurants is not that the glass will break, but how it will break,” Szyskowski explained. “With Libbey’s process, the glass breaks in just several large pieces instead of shattering into a million tiny ones.” Libbey Glassware is available through major foodservice providers. It is also the exclusive U.S. importer of Luigi Bormioli glassware.
“Riedel’s restaurant line has expanded tremendously in just a few short years,” said Kathleen Talbert. Riedel launched its latest series, the Extreme Restaurant, in April 2007. Maximilian Riedel, an eleventh-generation glassmaker and now head of the company’s U.S. division, developed the line after tiring of hand-carrying his own glasses to restaurants.
“These glasses have slightly thicker bowls, a slightly thicker stem and a wider base,” Riedel said. “The wider base makes it less likely that the glass will tip over and since the stem is often the point of breakage, the slightly thicker stem increases durability. All the Riedel Restaurant glasses have a sheer rim, as opposed to the rolled rim found on much of the restaurant stemware.” The Extreme Restaurant series includes four varietally-specific glasses with diamond-shaped bowls: Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir/Burgundy, and Riesling/Sauvignon Blanc/Zinfandel. In addition, the series offers a cocktail glass.
The Riedel Extreme Restaurant Series is only sold through select distributors. In Northern California, it is sold through Wine Warehouse; in Florida through Southern Wine & Spirits, and in Metro New York through Lauber Imports. Riedel also owns the Spiegelau brand.
Schott Zwiesel targets the upscale and luxury market. Jim Pappas is the executive VP of corporate sales at Fortessa, the exclusive U.S. importer. He explained how the company’s Tritan technology uses platinum instead of lead “to strengthen the glass at the vulnerable zones – the lip, the foot, the bowl where it meets the stem. It’s really incredible.” He added, “Schott Zwiesel is break resistant and dishwasher safe. There’s really nothing like it.”
Schott Zwiesel offers about a dozen lines of stemware. Pappas noted in particular the Forté series, which is classically round shaped, as well as the distinctly angular Pure series. “Pure is very recognizable,” he added.
Unlike most glassware producers, Fortessa doesn’t sell through distributors. “Our primary model is direct. We market and distribute the product to end-users,” said Pappas. There are a few exceptions – for example, International Wine Accessories (IWA) sells its line.
VILLEROY & BOCH
Villeroy & Boch produces glassware for the high-end market, and it is sold through authorized distributors. Mike Coggins, vice president of sales and marketing for the company’s hotel & restaurant division, noted several series they have recently introduced. Maxima is oversized glassware for both red and white wines, while Schumann’s is a more casual line.
Coggins is even seeing a shift among caterers upgrading their wineglasses from 8 ounces to 12 ounces. “Most operators concentrate on a few glasses for wine,” he noted. “It’s pretty rare for operators to offer an extensive range of glasses – we often see them offering just two glasses, and sometimes even one!”
Adequate Inventory “Restaurants often buy just enough glassware to get by,” said Mike Coggins of Villeroy & Boch. This causes headaches for the staff who have to quickly wash and restock glasses during a busy shift, and they may skip important steps like polishing, or fill wine into a hot glass. With inadequate inventory, glasses wear out quicker, “like wearing only one pair of shoes all the time,” Coggins explained.
Proper Dishwasher Racks “Caring for glassware in a restaurant setting is different than loading it in your home dishwasher,” explained Maximilian Riedel. “Proper racks are a must – one size does not fit all. The rack holds the glasses securely, and prevents chipping and excess vibrations during the wash cycle.” Improper racks are one of the leading causes of glassware breakage.
Washing “Always wash stemware well with soap and water and rinse thoroughly,” said Linda Szyskowski of Libbey. “Any residue on the glass can detract from the taste and experience of wine or spirits.” Maximilian Riedel added that staff should remove the glasses after the final rinse cycle is complete, “otherwise soap residue present in the steam will redeposit itself on the glasses.” Once glasses leave the dishwasher, they must have time to cool off. Thermal shock from pouring a cold beverage into a hot glass can break the glass.
Polishing There’s no way around this. Customers expect sparkling, shiny glasses, so stemware should be polished by hand using a microfiber cloth. However, glasses are frequently broken during polishing, as people sometimes rotate the bowl and base in opposite directions, snapping the stem right off. Jim Pappas of Fortessa emphasized that servers be trained to rotate the glass in one direction.
Staff Training Most glassware is broken because of human error, but breakage isn’t inevitable. “The most critical piece is staff education,” stressed Brett Goldfarb. The staff must be trained how to handle, wash, care for, polish and serve the restaurant’s stemware. With proper staff training, a wineglass can have a long, unbroken life.
Where to Buy
Restaurants and on-premise facilities can buy wine glasses through wholesalers.
Additional information on specific glass lines can be found at the following:
Riedel Crystal America
IWA (International Wine Accessories)
Distributes Schott Zwiesel Forté, as well as Spiegelau Vino Grande line
800-527-4072, and ask for the
Exclusive U.S. importer of Luigi Bormioli glassware
www.fortessa.com, then click on
Schott Zwiesel and then Tritan
Villeroy & Boch
then click on Professionals
Posted on | February 1, 2008
Written by | Garrett Peck
Remember wine coolers back in the 1980s? Times change, and so do our tastes. A new generation of cocktail-based ready–to–drink beverages (RTDs) has quietly emerged, appealing to consumers with new tastes while bringing greater convenience and efficiency to businesses. The RTD market may still be in its infancy, but a number of producers are looking to transform the way we serve and drink cocktails.
THE RTD MARKET
“The ready–to–drink cocktail really does terrifically capitalize on two key trends: premiumization and convenience,” said Michael Ward, SVP of innovation at Diageo. RTDs are the ultimate convenience: a consumer just has to pour and garnish the beverage. And drink it, of course. Hosts no longer have to mix every drink – they can just pour it from the container. “Everyone knows these drinks, but they don’t know how to make them,” said Joe Metevier, brand director for Bacardi Rums.
On-premise business benefits as well. Bartenders’ youth, inexperience and short tenure is a major issue, but RTDs can ensure a consistent product. According to David Henkes of market analyst Technomic, 83% of bartenders agree that mixers make their job easier. RTDs earn a greater return in a soft casual dining market by lowering the cost of preparing a drink.
Many producers focused initially on the Margarita, the country’s favorite cocktail, but as the market got crowded, they started branching out. Consumers have rediscovered the Mojito, so get ready for more flavors and line extensions. Can you say Caipirinha?
STIRRING THE MIX
If you ever see Stirrings non-alcoholic mixers, you won’t forget them. Lined up on the shelf, they are a kaleidoscope of color, stunningly packaged in clear bottles that show the brightly colored mixer inside. “Our packaging has a lot going for us that gives us an edge over the competition,” CEO Paul Nardone said proudly. “It’s a brand people speak proudly of wanting to show off at home – and the bar.”
Stirrings was only launched in 2005, but it has made a big, colorful splash in the mixers world. “The opportunity we saw in the market was the inconsistency of wanting premium spirits, but there wasn’t a premium product in the mixer business,” said Nardone. “Ours is fresh-squeezed in a bottle, but it’s consistent every time.”
Look for Stirrings to make an even bigger splash in 2008. It has formed a strategic partnership with Diageo to target retail and on-premise accounts. The two companies are pairing their brands in what Diageo calls the Perfect Pour program. This offers cross-merchandising and sampling. “A tryer is a buyer,” Ward said. “The liquids really deliver against what consumers are looking for.”
R U RTD?
Diageo was the first entrant in the RTD market, and its first foray was the Jose Cuervo Authentic Margarita, followed by a Smirnoff line extension. “It’s about cocktails I know, with brands I trust, with the sophisticated taste that I expect,” explained Ward. Besides the Perfect Pour campaign with Stirrings, Diageo will be launching the Smirnoff Pomegranate Martini in 2008.
Jose Cuervo soon had company in the Margarita King, which started in San Francisco in 2002. “It was definitely obvious that we were pretty early,” remarked Gigi Hong, VP of marketing. “People didn’t believe there would be such quality in a Margarita in an off-the-shelf market. We took a couple years to overcome these obstacles.”
Key to its strategy is its Los Angeles office. “We’ve done quite a few celebrity events – and that in turn has granted a lot of attention for The Margarita King,” Hong remarked. It capitalizes on founder Giovanni Fernandez’s public personae. He appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show, giving the product enormous leverage. The brand introduced its second cocktail flavor, Pomegranate, in January. While currently in just 12 states, it will expand to the East Coast in 2008 and is moving into on-premise accounts as well as major retail chains.
A very new entry into the RTD category is Salvador’s 100% De Agave Premium Margarita, which was introduced with very limited distribution (in Dallas and Denver) towards the end of 2007. Based on the positive response from consumers, the product is now being introduced nationally in 2008. According to Todd Nickodym, director of marketing, Luxco Spirited Brands, the key point of difference with Salvador’s is that it is created and bottled in Mexico using only genuine 100% agave tequila. He said, “We believe that it is the quality of the tequila that makes a truly superior tasting Margarita. In addition, the new Salvador’s 100% De Agave Premium Margarita is bottled at 30 proof to deliver an authentic, full flavored Margarita taste experience that does not get watered down when enjoyed over ice.” Nickodym, optimistic about the future of the brand, noted, “The growth of our core Salvador’s RTD line continues to out-pace the growth of the RTD category. Much of that is the result of the new products and flavors we have brought to market the past few years, including Salvador’s Mojito, Long Island Iced Tea, and Pomegranate Margarita.”
Another Margarita-style ready – to – drink that has an expansive line of flavors is Tarantula. The original five Tarantula RTD flavors – Azul, Berry, Mango, Melon and Strawberry – were introduced in 2003. According to brand manager Michelle Nouvel of McCormick Distilling Co., “A very positive and enthusiastic response from consumers quickly resulted in expanding the line to include Peach and Black Cherry.” Nouvel said that their products really connected with consumers because they are made with real tequila and natural fruit flavors, are available in convenient 4 packs and the 1.75 size, and because the variety of fruit flavors provide so many choices. “On-the-go Margarita consumers also appreciate that there is no need for blenders and no need to measure, which makes Tarantula RTD’s perfect for packing coolers or a quick convenient party starter,” she remarked. This year, the brand also introduced a Reposado Tequila Margarita RTD for a 100% authentic Margarita.
Bacardi jumped into the RTD market with its line of rum-based Bacardi Party Drinks. “We’re in our sixth or seventh year in the category. We were early adopters,” claimed Joe Metevier. Since then, the line has expanded to six flavors, though Rum Island Iced Tea is still the bestseller. It appears Bacardi has the rum-based RTD market to itself: “What makes us unique is that we’ve got the whole rum-thing cornered. We have first-mover advantage.”
Bacardi Party Drinks focuses on off-premise sales in control states. “Sampling is the key to the category,” Metevier said. “Once people try the product, their conversion rate is very high.” The brand lives up to its name – and that’s why the 1.75 liter packaging is so appealing to at-home consumers. Look for a new flavor in 2008.
Daily’s has made non-alcoholic mixers since the 1960s, and aggressively launched its RTD line in 2006. The Margarita has been the bestseller, while planned new flavors include Blueberry Mojito and the Caipirinha. President and COO Tony Battaglia said confidently, “Year to date we’re tracking 60% over last year’s ready to drink market. We’ve barely touched the surface.” Daily’s cocktails are wine-based, so restaurants that don’t have a liquor license can still sell them.
Daily’s offers a variety of packaging, including bottles, boxes, and freezer-ready pouches, and this reflects its strategy of targeting consumers as well as casual dining. The 1.75 liter box has a pour spout on the bottom for easy use. The pouch looks like a big Capri Sun, and restaurants can even sell it as a take-out item. “We’ve seen a huge surge in our pouch business. We couldn’t make enough this summer – the demand was so high,” noted Tim Barr, director of marketing. “It far surpassed our expectations – it was 400% of what we had budgeted for the summer.”
Barton Brands acquired Cocktails by Jenn in 2005 and launched its vodka-based cocktails nationwide. “Customers buy ready to drink because they enjoy the cocktail experience but don’t want to have all the ingredients in their home,” said brand manager Lori Logan.
CbJ comes in four flavors: Appletini, Blue Lagoon, Cosmopolitan and Lemon Drop. It comes in 750 ml bottles, or alternatively a tote with four 100 ml bottles. No other RTD is so obviously targeted at adult women: “She feels like she’s going shopping,” Logan mused. She called the tote a “liquid fashion accessory.”
Kahlúa is unique in that it is the only coffee-based RTD. “A return to classic cocktails such as the White and Black Russians and the Mudslide has been instrumental in propelling Kahlúa into a leadership position in the category,” said Susan Kilgore, Kahlúa marketing director. Targeted at off-premise sales, Kahlúa introduced new packaging and a new flavor – Raspberry White Russian – in early 2008 to take advantage of growing consumer interest in ready to drink cocktails.