Bar Management Tips – Bar Profits Through Glassware

I can sense your skepticism right through the computer screen:

“Glassware? Really? Glassware is going to increase my bar profits? Come on!”

Hang on to your caboose there, my friends. I know that very few bar owners and managers put much thought into their glassware beyond how cool it looks, but you’d better start, because I find glassware to be one of the biggest causes of waste and profit loss in the bar and restaurant industry, specifically the size of the glassware.

When I work with bars, one of the first things I look at is their glassware, because it’s easy to spot right off the bat.  I’m not too concerned about the style of the glasses, unless it looks like they came straight out of my great Aunt Melba’s kitchen cabinets, and then I might make a soft suggestion.

The style of glasses you use is up to you, but the size of your glassware should be closely evaluated. I know that you found these big, classy glasses that are so modern and chic you can hardly stand it, but the problem is, with big glassware, the guests complain that the drinks aren’t strong enough which causes the bartenders to feel obligated to fill them up with more alcohol so the guest stop bitching at them.

This brings up one of the most powerful concepts in the business world, and especially the bar/restaurant industry, and that’s the concept of Perceived Value. Meaning: What the guests thinks he/she is getting vs. what he/she is actually getting.

If you haven’t read my post on the power of perceived value, you can check it out here:

Bar Management Tips: The Power of Perceived Value


How does all of this tie back into glassware?

  1. You as an owner/manager want to serve a regimented portion size that is cost-effective.
  2. Your guests want to be able to taste the alcohol so they feel like they’re getting a good deal.

So you have to find a glass size that fits the criteria for both.

When you have giant highball glasses or a large rocks glass, it doesn’t matter how beautifully crafted they are. The guests don’t give a shit about craftsmanship as much as they do about what’s inside it. They want their money’s worth. And the best way for them to FEEL that way is to have visually pleasing glassware that is economically sized, for lack of a better term.

So let’s get down to glassware size. If you have sizes other than this, it’s ok. Go ahead and use them until they eventually break and you move into the new glassware. In the meantime, open up your glassware catalogue for whatever company you use, and start ordering new glassware with these sizes (you can keep the same style, of course):

  • Highball: 10 oz.
  • Rocks: 4 oz.
  • Martini: 6 oz.
  • Wine: Varies—just know that the larger the glass, the smaller the portion amount appears to be
  • Shot: 1.5 oz.
  • Snifter: 6 oz.
  • Beer: Non-factor


A word about shot glasses. If you don’t have any, you need to get them. The only exception would be if you have an upscale place and you aren’t comfortable serving shots to guests like they’re a bunch of young horny college kids. I get that. But if you’re any kind of casual bar, sports bar, etc., shot glasses will automatically save you money, because f you have 1.5 oz. shot glasses, the bartenders will not pour them all the way to the top or the liquor will spill, so they will actually be pouring about 1.25 oz. which will save you ¼ oz. per pour, but the guests won’t know that or feel like they’ve been gypped because all they see is a shot of liquor.

The most import thing here is, it is physically impossible for bartenders to over-pour in a shot glass, so if you are pouring shots into a rocks glass, change your policy.


A common problem in bars is that bartenders are not properly trained so the drinks they are putting out are not consistently the same, which means different guests that order the same drink from different bartenders aren’t getting two drinks that taste vastly different.

For now we won’t get into the cocktail menu recipes with multiple ingredients and making sure those portions are correct. All I want to emphasize at the moment is to make sure your bartenders are filling the highballs to the top with ice before they pour their drinks. There are two reasons for this:

  1. There is no ambiguity when you say pack the glass and fill it to the top with ice. It’s consistent.
  2. The drink will taste stronger.

Take a look:




I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a bartender make two Jack & Cokes and fill one glass halfway with ice and the other one to the top. Two of the same drink, yet one will taste weaker than the other because it has more mixer in it.

Same goes for martini glasses, and in fact, straight gin or vodka martinis are the biggest money-losers in bars today, mainly because guests are usually getting AT LEAST 3 oz. of liquor (a double), but that second shot is usually only a $2 upcharge.

I’ve seen huge martini glasses come out from the bar that are filled to the top. These glasses can have up to 5 or even 6 oz of liquor in them because again, the bartenders feel the need to fill them up.

In the next post we’ll be talking about portion size, and I’ll include a video piece that shows you how much money you’re losing by filling up the martini glass to the top.

That’s going to do it for this bar management training of the day in our Bar Profit Maximizer series. See you next time. Make a million.



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