Water World – Expanding Horizons for the Hospitality Sector
It's just over 12 years since all restaurants in England and Wales that serve alcohol are legally required to give customers free tap water. At that time, for many premises, a glass of water meant either chlorinated tap water or expensive bottled water. Things have moved on, according to the industry body that is responsible for auditing companies offering other methods of dispensing water: the Water Dispenser & Hydration Association (the WHA).
"Whilst much of the business world was shut down, the water dispense sector was working hard to respond to the new climate of change and the need to appeal to ‘safety first' attitudes. After such a long time away from restaurants, pubs, and bars, customers have come back to find that the familiar water cooler is now popping up in unfamiliar formats and not just in the workplace. It's one of the few good things to have emerged from the pandemic," says Phillipa Atkinson-Clow, General Manager of the WHA.
Now there is a plethora of options for the on-trade. Hospitality systems that resemble bar pumps are available, delivering still or sparkling water in any quantity required, without the need for using precious storage space. These generally come with sturdy but elegant reusable bottles that can be cleansed and reused time after time, so the environment impact is minimal. The bottles can be branded with the venue's own logo, reinforcing the identity of the business and providing social media opportunities if the bottles are caught on camera.
There are also touch-free countertop and free-standing systems dispensing mains-fed water, especially useful in establishments where counter-service is operated so guests can serve themselves with water.
Integrated Tap Systems are also becoming a big new trend. In fact, this is the fastest growing category in the water dispense sector, according to the latest research from Zenith Global.
Other new developments include the introduction of smart device app controls; microbial coating for touch areas; and other safety measures.
On-premise owners need to remember the health needs of staff too: back-of-house water dispensers to keep the team happy and well are just as important as the provision of great-tasting water for customers.
Jon Wicks, chairman of the WHA, said: "The water dispense sector has developed to meet new needs and has seen a proliferation of Integrated Tap Systems, touchless machines, hospitality systems, all alongside of course tradition bottled water coolers and mains fed coolers. It's no longer a ‘one size fits all' approach. The industry has risen to the challenges magnificently. The key thing which all these have in common is the provision of a safe, convenient means of drinking what is arguably one of the healthiest of drinks, water - and, thanks to the WHA-safe standards due to our Association's auditing and training, these systems are all provided safely and sustainably. It's just how water delivery should be."