Why Glassware Breaks and How to Avoid It

What do you think the No. 1 reason glassware breaks? (Or dinnerware, for that matter).

Being dropped? No.

Clanking against another object? No, but close.

Ready for it?

Not having enough. Yep, that’s right.  Too few items, or even “just enough” might seem okay, but in reality, it could hurt you in the long run. Think of it in terms of shoes. If you only have two pairs you wear all the time, they’ll wear more quickly.

Order the Proper Amount of Glassware

In general, for your glassware and dinnerware, at least two items per seat is optimal. This differs operation for operation though. If there’s an item being used often in several different ways, consider ordering about five per seat.  This gives the items enough time to cool down.

Don't stack glasswareEvery Clank Adds Up

The second most popular reason glassware breaks is in the handling. Each little bit of contact on a glass adds up and eventually leads it to break. This can come from stacking cups that technically shouldn’t be stacked, clanking them together or clanking a beer glass on the tap for show.

“When glassware expands and contracts with heat and temperature changes, it suffers from blows,” Coggins explained.  “So it will someday fail.  It could even be from a whack really hard.”

Many times restaurant owners advise their employees not to stack (if glassware isn’t stackable), clank, etc. However, when things get hectic, employees just do whatever they can to get things done quickly.

To tell if a glass is starting to wear, there will be a white ring in the entire inside of a glass.  That’s wear surface area has rubbed away, and the longer the glass is worn down that way, thermal shock will eventually occur.

Let Them Cool Down

“You must let glasses cool enough before using them again,” Coggins said. “When a glass is new and pristine, with no body checks (microchips), they’re designed to handle a 100°F temperature swing. But once it has checks, it won’t necessarily take that big of a swing anymore from a hot environment to cold, or vice versa.  So coming out of a an 180°F environment and immediately putting in iced tea and only cooling to 140°F, you’ll get a break from a body check.”

With thermal shock, the thicker a glass, the stronger it is against mechanical abuse/clanking.  Thinner glasses are more resistant to thermal shock.

“That’s one of the reasons why when the sidewalls are thinner than the base, they’ll separate from each other when introduced against thermal shock.  The base is contracting,” Coggins said.

To see if there are any chips, put the glass over anything dark. If you see anything that looks like little white specs, the glass may be susceptible to thermal shock in the future. Each small chip is a scape point and is where thermal shock will separate the glass.

Bouqueting glassware


What to Watch For

Some common restaurant mishaps to try to avoid are:

  • Putting silverware in glasses
  • Banging the feet of stemware together on overhead racks
  • “Bouqueting” or lacing too many pieces of stemware between fingers
  • Clanking the bowls of wine or martini glasses together
  • Smacking the lip of a beer glass against the tap

Tips Moving Forward

  1. Order plenty of glassware.  A Central product consultant can assist with ordering the right amount.
  2. Cool cool cool.  This ties in with the rule to always order plenty of glassware.  Do not use a glass immediately after it’s been through through the dishwasher.  Same goes vice versa.  Don’t immediately throw a glass into the dishwasher just after having served a cold beverage in it.
  3. A quiet kitchen is a good kitchen. The less clanking of glassware, the longer it will last.
  4. Avoid stacking non-stackables, “bouqueting,”  or throwing in silverware in to glassware
  5. When stacking, it’s better to lay them all on their side instead of stacking on top.  There is less force this way when laid sideways.
  6. Read this helpful hint guide to prolonging your glassware

Stay tuned next month for more in this series on dinnerware and flatware.


2 thoughts on “Why Glassware Breaks and How to Avoid It

  1. Paul Dicks

    Hi, thank you for the above. I found the information really useful. I am currently working on a Project for my Cruiseline. I am currently analyzing the par levels or the service stations. For example onboard the ship i am currently visiting, we have 3 main dining rooms which hold up to 550 persons each. Each dining room is split into 3 sections and each section has a number of service stations in which they store their silverware, glassware and china. Each dining room has approx 30 waiter stations, each station currently hold approx $3200 worth of silver, china and glassware. I have been asked to come up with ways to make waiters more responsible and accountable for their stations. We have budgets for glassware, silver etc, therefore have a limited number of glasses we can order per month. Im looking on a large scale as we have 16 ships. If you could share and other ideas or insight i would be most grateful!


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