May 22, 2003

Pepsi's Glass Bottling Line Gets Boost From National Restaurant Chain

Whether it is for nostalgic reasons or just the fact that for some drinkers Pepsi simply tastes better in glass bottles, the demand for the dwindling supply of 10-ounce bottles continues to grow for the Pepsi-Cola Memphis Bottling Company.

The local company is one of only two Pepsi suppliers left in the nation that still refill glass bottles. The other is located in Idaho.

But because of the scarcity of bottles left in circulation the plant has been forced to limit orders to customers that can supply their own empty bottles to be refilled.

The local soda supplier got a huge boost for the glass bottle line late last year courtesy of the Uno Restaurant Corporation and the Pepsi bottling company in Davenport, IA.

"Our restaurants are decorated specifically to reflect the nostalgia of an earlier period," said Aaron Spencer, Chairman, Uno Restaurants. "Even the building is constructed to resemble, or even duplicate, the style of building that was popular in this country in the 30's, 40's and 50's. In fact, most people think that our buildings are old buildings that have been renovated. During that period of time, people often enjoyed soft drinks from glass bottles. Using glass soda bottles as part of the dcor of the restaurants really contributes to the nostalgia."

In all more than 10,000 glass bottles were shipped to Memphis from the Davenport, IA plant. Believe it or not the bottles were refilled but they were not for the customers beverage menu. Instead the bottles were placed in 24-pack wooden crates of old and used as decorations for the inside of the restaurant chain's branch of pizzerias.

"It definitely was a unique situation, refilling all of these bottles knowing they probably would never even be opened," said Mike Johnson, president of Pepsi-Cola Memphis Bottling Co. "We had to make some adjustments on the line to handle the 12-ounce bottles but it worked out well."

The job wasn't finished when the bottles were filled. A special crew came in to put the finishing touches on the order. This entailed putting a new finish on the wooden crates that would hold the bottles. After that the bottles were individually glued into each container to create the filled crates that the restaurant wanted for its decorations.

"The guys on the line did a great job adjusting to the special needs of this order," said Johnson. "We hired some high school kids to come in to do the work on the cases and gluing the bottles and we were very pleased with how they helped put the finishing touches on the project."

As the restaurant chain continues to grow so does the demand for the Pepsi bottles. The push ultimately forced the companies to switch to 16-ounce bottles, which were more readily available after the initial push for 12-ouncers.

"The nostalgic look and feel of an Uno restaurant has been very well received," Spencer said. "We do intend to continue the design, including the use of glass Pepsi bottles."

But local glass bottle lovers don't worry. The order had no negative impact on the local 10-ounce trade.

Based in Boston, Uno Restaurant Corporation currently has a total of 191 casual dining, full-service restaurants operating primarily under the name "Pizzeria Uno ... Chicago Bar & Grill." There are several Uno restaurants in the St. Louis and Kansas City areas.

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