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Beverage

Can bottled water dampen a restaurant's vibe?

sparkling water
Photograph: Shutterstock

Question:

We use a popular sparkling water brand. I wonder if the bottle is not sufficiently premium-looking for fine dining.

– Via Facebook

Answer:

When you think about your overall restaurant concept, you are right to think about all aspects that the guests perceive, from your website and reservation software, which they interact with even before they’ve decided to dine with you, all the way through the menu, uniforms, decor and service that they receive while in your care, and through any follow-ups after the visit. All of these elements work together to convey the type of experience you want to present to the guest.

Like the other menu choices you offer, both food and beverage, your water offerings say something about your concept and the image you want guests to have of you. However, unlike other menu decisions, such as which four or five gins to carry, for example, water can make even more of a statement because restaurants typically have a house brand of bottled still and sparkling water, not giving the guest a choice beyond still, sparkling or tap. Because guests will get the brand you decide, you are right to be thoughtful about the image you put forth.

The first decision to make is whether even having bottled water is consistent with your restaurant concept as you want to present it. Many operators, citing the environmental costs of the bottle, shipping, and recycling, are opting out of bottled water completely, offering house-prepared filtered still or sparkling water. For concepts with a strong sustainability ethos, I would recommend eliminating bottled water altogether.

If you decide that bottled water is a must for your concept, then it is time to think carefully about the image your brand conveys. In a classic place—perhaps a steakhouse or brasserie—a well-known and classic brand may be perfectly appropriate, even in fine dining. People go to those places to have familiar, comforting foods and may want to see a water brand consistent with that vibe. For a more culinary-forward concept, I would recommend something quirkier or more distinctive than a mainstream brand.

If you can’t find the brand you feel is most consistent with your concept, another option would be to private-label a house bottle with your logo.

Whatever you decide, you are right to be thinking carefully about every aspect of the dining experience and what it communicates to your guests, water included. More on premium water selection here.

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