Beverages: From the tap

Published in FSD Update

Directors push tap water because of its economical advantages.

What if there were a way to decrease beverage costs, improve customer health and positively impact the environment? Many operators are doing exactly that with tap water initiatives. Take it from Tara Sanders, R.D., dietitian at Oregon State University (OSU), in Corvallis, who recently implemented a student-led tap water program called Fresh From the Faucet.

In an attempt to make tap water the top beverage choice, all dining centers, retail locations and catering services offer tap water in ice dispensers, and all water fountains have been retrofitted with water bottle fillers. Students were also given free reusable water bottles. Sanders reports dispensing more than 8,000 gallons of tap water annually, and a 10% decline in bottled beverage and fountain sales each year.

Infusion inspiration

OSU’s program also includes flavored tap water stations, where dispensers offer water infused with ingredients like citrus and cucumber. “A little flavor goes a long way, so expense is minimal,” Sanders explains. “Have fun and be creative with infusions of fruits and herbs that are fitting for the season.”

Laura Lapp, director of nutrition for Chartwells Higher Education Dining Services, agrees. Lapp also has implemented tap water infusions using a seemingly endless combination of fruits, vegetables and herbs (lemon-cucumber-mint, orange-cranberry and cantaloupe-strawberry, to name a few), which get layered with ice in clear glass reusable containers and topped with tap water—an eye-catching visual, which not only creates a fun dining experience but also an environmentally friendly alternative to bottled water.

“Guests can now enjoy refreshing, calorie-free, sugar-free and caffeine-free beverages,” she says.

Branding

The key to a successful program lies in branding. For example, Sanders placed the program’s logo on the free water bottles that were distributed and also employs maps where students can find filtered water on campus and strategically placed branded posters, clings and stickers near water fountains and stations.

Michael Rosenberger, director of food and nutrition services for the Irving Independent School District, in Texas, can relate. Rosenberger recently branded all of his school’s water fountains with their own unique image, including a professional graphics placard, information about water and its health benefits.

“We wanted to try and make drinking tap water a cool thing, and offering tap water from water fountains was the most economical and socially acceptable option,” says Rosenberger, who admits that spills from water pitchers created a safety hazard for students. “Our signs increase the appeal of regular drinking water, and some fun facts help educate our children regarding the importance of drinking water on a regular basis.”