THE Government and the UK’s biggest water provider are urging the hospitality industry to offer free tap water to customers as a matter of course.
The initiative could be bad news for upmarket food-led businesses where the selling of bottled water at a high mark-up is an important revenue stream.
The campaign, led by the Government-funded Consumer Council for Water (CCW), follows mounting negative publicity surrounding the product, in particular the BBC programme Panorama’s claim that a litre bottle of mineral water produces 600 times more carbon emissions than a litre of tap water.
Foreign brands in particular have been singled out for being environmentally damaging and the mark-ups on bottled water have also been brought into question, which can be as high as 10 times the cost price.
CCW is planning an accreditation scheme, allowing consumers to identify restaurants serving tap water routinely via a tick symbol displayed on doors, menus and publicity material.
Marcello Bernardi, PR manager at the Thomas Cubitt, a gastropub in Belgravia, London, said: “Bottled water is an extremely important part of our trade – particularly in our dining room.
“If people stopped ordering it then it would be a challenge we would have to address.
"We only offer water for free if a customer specifically asks for tap water – people expect to pay for bottled water at this sort of establishment.”
Max Durrant, manager at the Only Running Footman, an upmarket food-led site in Mayfair, said: “The negative publicity is not having much effect on our bottled water sales.
“We offer a choice of still, sparkling or tap and over 50 per cent go for bottled.
"We’re quite aware of food miles at the site, so all our bottled water is from Wales.”