Water, water, everywhere: where’s a guest to drink?

by Suzy Barry, Industry Reporter 10th of September, 2017

Water, water, everywhere: where’s a guest to drink?

Water is a fundamental requirement for life: it feeds our cells, rejuvenates our skin, hair, and cleanses our system. Possibly due to its life-sustaining status, it flies somewhat under-the-radar…unless it’s bad.


Gulping down poor tasting tepid water is not how guests like to begin their day after a rich holiday meal and a few glasses of celebratory accompaniment. The business traveller, recently descended from a dehydrating mission across the skies, is also not enamoured by tepid water with a touch of chlorine or tank moss, nor a chilled plastic carafe of tap water with more than a hint of its receptacle. These products may be approved for human consumption, but are they advised for valued guest consumption?


Guests may not advertise their pleasure upon tasting the delectable bouquet of a good glass of water but in this case, silence is golden. If guests can hydrate in a way that doesn’t offend the palate, you’ve won the round.


So how do you hydrate your guests in a way that won’t mar their hotel review? Filtered tap water, spring water in dispensers with 15-litre barrel bottles, or water contained in individual plastic bottles? Could guest water present a marketing opportunity with branded bottles?


With options and questions flowing freely, we took to the pool of industry experts for some clarity on supply, packaging, method of distribution within your hotel, and relative price points.


Industry views


Peter Molloy of BIBO Water says options for guest drinking water fall into a few main categories: “Unfiltered tap water, filtered tap water, and bottled water (still or sparkling).


“The best option for guests will depend on their needs, location, and the relative cost and value to the establishment.


“One such option is a ‘water bar’ style unit; a compact, countertop water dispenser that provides filtered, purified, chilled, warm, and boiling water at the touch of a button.”


So how does it work? The machine is plumbed into the mains supply using flexible quarter-inch pipe; drainage plumbing is not required due to a removable drip tray, which can be emptied.


“The water passes through a 1.0-micron multi-stage carbon filter, which removes tastes, odours, chemicals (such as chlorine), heavy metals, and microorganisms, such as giardia and cryptosporidium.


“The water then splits off to either the hot or cold tank where it is exposed to ultraviolet light from a UV lamp inside the tank to prevent regrowth of micro-organisms.


“It is an ideal in-room solution for luxury serviced apartments, or motels wishing to provide a value-added amenity for guests - replacing both the kettle and water jug in the fridge.”


The option could also suit public areas where guests can help themselves to a chilled or hot beverage: “For example, lobby areas, gyms, spas, loyalty clubs, and golf-pro shops.


“Let’s not forget the hardworking back of house staff,” Mr Molloy added.  


Responsible service of alcohol: Mr Molloy said establishments offer chilled water for self-service in bar areas to meet the license regulations, alleviating the need for staff to constantly fill urns with ice and water.


Conferences and seminar programs can be serviced using portable pump systems allowing relocation of the units to function rooms.


Mr Molloy says the option is highly efficient, with energy saving features like a sleep mode for times the machine is not in use: “The units use less energy and wastes far less water than boiling a kettle many times a day.”


Peter Molloy’s parting advice? “Why serve poor tasting water in carafes or bottles on the table, when there are so many ways to improve the guests’ water experience?”


Water as a hotel branding tool?


Ross Files of Source Direct told AMG that custom label bottled water has been “big in overseas countries for many years but it is just starting to gain momentum in Australia”.


For in-room applications, Mr Files says the custom label water can be used for turndown service or to stock the guest’s fridge.


Custom branded water bottles can add value to the product and provider by adding “an aura of reassurance” from a trusted brand. “You receive a bottle of Park Hyatt spring water and you know it is going to be good,” he noted. This is where quality is vital: “You don’t want to put your valuable brand on a bottle of filtered tap water!”


“Bespoke beverages have a high perceived value and receiving a complimentary bottle of water is often the best possible reward at the end of a busy day. There is nothing worse than arriving at your room late at night and having nothing in the fridge to drink!”


What about all that plastic?


Bottled water requires a responsible approach, against the backdrop of the worldwide push against its use.  Cities and institutions are banning the sale of bottle water outright with mixed success.


A research paper titled ‘The Unintended Consequences of Changes in Beverage Options’, published in American Journal of Public Health found a total ban at The University of Vermont actually increased the number of bottles being thrown out. People just drank more sugary beverages – and people tend to reuse water bottles but not soft drink bottles.


Perhaps then, focussing on the bottle is advised: what is going to happen to those bottles afterwards and what sort of care is being taken in their production?


Ross Files advised sourcing “certified carbon neutral bottles that are fully recyclable”. He also recommends ensuring that your water is both sourced and bottled under good manufacturing practices (GMP), including adequate food safety assurance.


Many plastic containers are now available BPA-free: BPA stands for bisphenol A, which is a chemical that has been used in the industrial production of plastics and resins since the 1960s and can leach into food or beverages from containers. “Make sure potential suppliers only use BPA-free bottles,” Mr Files recommended.


His parting advice? Don’t over-order: bulk prices may be attractive, but less ideal is “getting caught with too many old labels or bottles when marketing changes are made or legislative requirements mandate change”.


And with label design, less is more: “Don’t try to overload the label design with information. A clear concise logo and message says a lot to patrons.”


So, for guest water options, the message is clear. Make sure your guests enjoy access to clean, fresh-tasting water, served at desired temperature and maybe your water won’t rate a mention on TripAdvisor, but that’s probably a good thing after all.  

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