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Restaurant 101: Waiters Provide Their Own Stemware Because Owner Won’t

Cheap wine in expensive glass or expensive wine in cheap glass? Which one for you?

A Disher with a lot of initials after his last name writes with a tale I’ve never been told. He wants to know if anyone else has had the same experience at other restaurants. He asked me to delete the name of the place but he doesn’t mind if you guess.

Dined at [redacted] yesterday.  Ordered a decent bottle of wine and the server brought what could only be the cheapest restaurant-supply wine glasses for our red. Noticing proper stemware at the table next to us, I asked our server if we could have proper glassware for our wine. Here’s what floored me: he said that we had the only stemware “the owner” provides, and that most servers provide their own, better stemware, for their tables. Paid for by the servers! Our server said the owner wanted a “bistro” feel, and also cited the cost of breakage. I certainly understand the cost…but when many wines are well over $60/bottle (and several over $100), I would hope for a better wine experience.  Have you run across this before?

No, I have not. But I did kill a skunk once.

16 comments on “Restaurant 101: Waiters Provide Their Own Stemware Because Owner Won’t

  1. I’m used to bringing my own to lots of BYO places, doesn’t bother me a bit. But the servers doing it?!?!? That’s crazy.

  2. I’m not understanding how mismatched improper stemware contributes to the “bistro feel”.

  3. Just deduct a Stemage( is that a word ?) fee from your bill if crappy stemware is provided at a restaurant where you are ordering wines above $50.00. It will be interesting to see the restauranteurs cheap bistro response.
    Or bring your own stemware as I do at BYOB restaurants.

  4. If the servers are providing their own stemware for their tables does that mean each server is hand washing the glasses before the next table needs them? I MUST KNOW WHERE THIS IS HAPPENING!!!!

  5. Nosh! so glad someone wrote to expose this ridiculous practice. I applaud the waiters for caring about the experience even though the owner does not.

  6. Dallas is fairly poorly stemmed IMO (looking at you Rise- favorite spot but horribly stemmed/rimmed). Places have no problem charging significant wine prices and 1″ thick rimmed glasses. Glad someone finally called this out. Never heard of server issue. That is ghastly.

  7. I have worked in upscale places in Dallas since the early 90’s and have never heard of such a thing, but isn’t that Avner’s place? He is a piece of work. His line cooks used to steal tenderloin from their day jobs and he would pay cash for it at Bistro A.

  8. Pingback: Restaurant 101: Waiters Provide Their Own Stemware Because Owner Won’t | Daniel Martin

  9. TLS: if the thought of hand washed glasses disgusts you that much, you probably shouldn’t dine out ever again.

  10. We all know the restaurant is Nosh and it is one of my favorites …..but not providing red wine glasses is irritating!!!

  11. Emily: I’ve worked in many restaurants. If the servers are washing them in a three-part commercial sink that is one thing but if they are just rinsing them in the hand washing sink that isn’t sanitary.

  12. I certainly am not condoning this manager/owner’s practice. However, cheap wine glasses are the only way we have managed to avoid the wrath and ire of certain winos.

    Depending on how you ask, there are 4 or 5 glasses to each bottle of wine. A 750ML bottle yields 25.4 ounces of wine. TABC states that the standard pour is 5 ounces. We generally pour a dash heavier, but we still encountered problems:

    My experiences with using larger, beautiful, more sophisticated, more expensive wine glasses have all been shot down. Customers have given me ultimatums, walked tabs and complained for comps and discounts, insulting my ethics because they claim that they were stiffed. You pour a standard 5 ounce pour in an elegant 18ounce Libby goblet and grown-up, sophisticated, educated people will throw a tantrum because physics dictates that 5ounces won’t fill that goblet half-way.

    We didn’t have a choice. We had to switch to smaller, cheaper, generic glasses to avoid being verbally assaulted by winos. Several people walked the tab on their wine and/or made huge scenes. It literally cost us too much to have nicer wine glasses.

    This is really an issue for people who order single glasses. People who spring for a bottle can’t complain because they bottle is corked in front of them. There’s no accusations of cheating, but it was pretty disheartening. We wanted to offer our customers something nice…. No one’s complained about our pour since we switched to the smaller, ugly glasses.

    We run our wine glasses through the wash. Nice and ugly. The heat sanitizes everything.

  13. Libbey makes several grades of product lines, not just the low end kind you see at walmart. They probably have the marketshare on glassware, and most places use libbey: hotels, chain, independent, and expensive.

    I guarantee that you drink out of Libbey 97% of the time you go out to eat.

    Tei An is one of the few places i have seen reidel. Libbey is preferred also because they dont have a label. Its industry/commercial grade quality. Crate and barrel, pier 1, world market,etc glasses dont last more than 2 weeks. The dishwasher heat cracks them.

    Just like regular consumers, restauranteurs have very large variety of options when selecting commercial grade products, cheap, mid range and expensive.

  14. @CBS: Rise uses tumblers, not cheap wine glasses and this is done so intentionally as part of the theme. They have crystal available if you ask nicely.

    @JTT: The problem is not your 18oz stems, it’s your 5 oz pour. 6 ounces has been standard in restaurants since 42 B.C. T.A.B.C. also says a shot of alcohol is 1 oz but if you pour anyone a 1 oz of liquor neat, they will call foul because NO ONE pours according to T.A.B.C. quantities. Those volumes are for drink counting and responsible beverage service training purposes, not service SOPs. People need to stop trying to get 5 pours out of a 750mL bottle and stop being cheap with an already profitable product.

    On this note, I dined at one of the most anticipated new restaurants recently and was poured a shoddy 5 oz pour of a wine that was priced at $1.50 above wholesale bottle cost per glass. Being a person who can eyeball 6 ounces of wine into a bathtub, I noticed. I’m sure other guests will too, if in a less conscious way. Still produces the same result, complaints and first-time diners that become one-time diners.