Water—whether it's used in your equipment or served to your patrons--is vitally important to your operation. Today, being "water wise" means using water efficiently in your equipment and merchandising it effectively to your customers.
Back of the house
Obviously, many beverage prep machines use water, with coffee makers at the top of the list. The water that flows through your coffee brewer not only has to be clean to ensure fresh taste, it also has to be free of sediment to ensure smooth machine operation. Many experts--including the Specialty Coffee Association of America and Bunn, the coffee equipment manufacturer--agree that the ideal water for brewing coffee should have no more than 50 to 100 ppm of total dissolved minerals and solids. Buildup of scale can affect the performance and brewing time of your coffee equipment, as well as the flavor of the finished product.
According to Steve Cosh, senior account manager for filter manufacturer Mavea, some operators who have bad-tasting coffee think it's a problem with their coffee blend. But "no amount of ingredient refinement," he says, "can compensate for the potential damage to taste and appearance caused by unsuitable water." So some manufacturers, such as Mavea and Cuno/3M, have designed water purification and filtration systems especially for coffee makers. They help eliminate particulates that can affect flavor and also reduce scale deposits, thus helping to keep maintenance costs down and extend machine life.
Much of your back-of-house food prep equipment, such as steamers, proofers and combi ovens, rely on clean water for effective performance, too. Depending on the size and type of your equipment, though, you may actually be able to double up on your water filtration equipment. "There are instances where one water treatment system can be used for a variety of equipment, such as using a water softener to treat an entire line of food equipment," says Blake Heim, director of marketing for Hobart Service. The easiest way to find out if this will work for you is to have an analysis performed on your water quality and flow requirements. Any costs that may be incurred can usually be made up in long-range filter cost savings. Or, if you’re replacing a steamer, combi oven or other piece of major equipment that uses water, ask if your vendor bundles a water treatment system with it, as Hobart and Groen do.
Front of the house
There’s news about water for front-of-house service, too. Partly in response to environmental concerns and the cost of using bottled water, both still and sparkling, manufacturers have developed systems that allow operators to "pour their own" water. One such system, the Everpure Exubera Pro, produces ambient, chilled or chilled carbonated and filtered water at a rate of up to 31 gallons per hour. The company also includes carafes for serving the water and merchandising support. The Four Seasons Hotel Westlake Village in Westlake Village, California offers the water at a nominal cost to guests in its Onyx restaurant and lobby lounge. "From its inception, guests have reacted favorably" to the Exubera system, says Thomas Hoffmann, director of food service for the hotel, adding that the system has racked up "impressive" sales. "Guests are pleased to see this type of 'green' option on our menus."
Another filtering system that produces ambient, chilled or chilled sparkling water is manufactured by Natura. Instead of carafes, this system offers branded bottles, which resemble upscale bottled-water packaging. At Chicago's Dinotto restaurant, the water is offered to patrons at no charge as a "premium water service." Chef-owner Dino Lubbat claims the system offers "a much better-tasting water" than his previous tap and bottled offerings. "Customers have been very positive about the change and have even complimented the upscale bottle presentation," he says.