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Nov 1, 2007 03:48 PM

Gourmet Weekly: Water

Could anyone post the information about charging for bottled water in a recent edition of Ruth Reichl's "Gourmet Weekly?" It's sparked some debate, but I can't seem to find where it's archived.


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  1. Where is the debate? I get it in an email, this is what it said:

    When the three-Martini lunch disappeared, restaurateurs were faced with the problem of replacing all that lost liquor income. Happily, bottled water came along to help out the bottom line. Now they are faced with a new problem: For ecological reasons, some diners are rejecting bottled water and asking for tap instead. Undaunted, one savvy restaurateur has come up with an ingenious new source of income: According to Nation's Restaurant News, Neal Fraser, of Grace and BLD in Los Angeles, is now selling all-you-can-drink "house-bottled" water for $2.50. I'd hate to see this turn into a trend.

    10 Replies
    1. re: JasmineG

      Ya know, I'd LOVE to see it become a trend. $2.50 for unlimited filtered water is not bad at all. I certainly prefer it to having to choose between dreck from the tap and a $7 bottle of Panna. Given that a high quality, commercial grade, reverse-osmosis filter can cost $2,000-$5,000 (plus the cost of replacing the filters), $2.50 is a great deal. It gives the restaurants a financial incentive to purchase high-end filters, and gives customers an affordable, good tasting alternative to bottled water.

      Of course, I am assuming that the water is RO filtered and they're not just charging you for tap or Britta. But I don't see any respectable establishment attempting that.

      Just another reason to return to BLD for their perfect eggs benedict and blueberry ricotta pancakes next time I'm in LA.

      1. re: Morton the Mousse

        Huh, I guess my problem with it is that I don't think of tap water as dreck at all -- I think that the tap water in the Bay Area, especially, tastes just fine. For people in DC, with some of the worst tap water I've ever had, I understand, but in most other places that I've lived, I don't have a problem with tap water.

        1. re: JasmineG

          SF tap generally tastes better than LA tap, but it all varies depending on how old the pipes are. I think it's a matter of acclimating yourself - once you get used to drinking RO filtered all the time, it's really difficult to drink tap without noticing an "off" flavor.

        2. re: Morton the Mousse

          Eh. At $2.50 a pop it's still a rip-off. I buy RO water for $0.25 a gallon at the neveria near my house. It's hard for me to imagine paying a 2000% mark-up (assuming I can even drink a 1/2 gallon in one sitting) for freakin water.

          I can see it now ..."All-you-can-breathe house-blown air for $1.50. Corkage fee of $0.50 charged for those bringing their own oxygen tanks."

          1. re: hohokam

            Whatever happened to "oxygen bars"? So 'last century', I guess.

        3. re: JasmineG

          Worse yet, S. Irene Virbila tells us today in the LAT that the new restaurant "Comme Ca" is charging $5 PER PERSON for all-you-can-drink restaurant-bottled tap water!

          1. re: mnosyne

            Are they charging that price for tap water, or house filtered tap water? The price is still excessive, but there's an important distinction between the two.

            1. re: Morton the Mousse

              A quote from the article:

              "We bottle the water ourselves," one server tells us, explaining the $5 per person all-you-want-to-drink water fee. Which means my party amuses themselves by downing as much water as possible to get our money's worth."

              1. re: mnosyne

                So is this an automatic fee -- like the bread charge in restaurants in Italy -- or can you decline it? Does the whole table have to decline it, because if one person gets "all-you-can-drink" filtered water, how can you keep him from pouring it into another diner's glass?

          2. re: JasmineG

            Thanks for posting this Jasmine! Part of the debate is - should restuarants charge for filtered water? If a restaurant spends hundreds of dollars on a fancy filtration system, either they charge for the water, or make up the cost by raising prices somewhere else. Is it a greater crime to charge for filtered tap water that's just as clean if not cleaner than Panna or Pelligrino or to charge an 800% mark-up on bottled water that's not as eco-friendly?

          3. OWWW - my Bulls***t Warning Detector just went off.
            Why can't restaurants get inexpensive purified water delivery (5 gallon jugs) like anybody else, and consider it 'good will' or 'an investment in food quality'?

            For some communities an onsite purifier makes a noticeable improvement in the dining experience. I'm actually willing to eat (or at least drink) at the Lenwood, CA Denny's along I-15 because they informed patrons that they had one. For coffee it makes a Huge difference!