How much would you pay for a bottle of fine sparkling mineral water? What if you knew that the same quality of water had originally come from the tap? In an effort to offer diners a more eco-friendly option, Chef Mark Best of Marque Restaurant in Sydney is charging diners for filtered and treated tap water in lieu of boutique bottled water – and is catching a lot of flak from critics in the process.
According to reports, Chef Best started out selling AU$10 bottles of boutique mineral water at his award-winning upscale Marque Restaurant (where the nightly degustation prix fixe runs AU$150 before drinks), but came to find bottled water a wasteful practice and started searching for a more eco-friendly solution.
That solution came in shelling out AU$6,000 on an Italian water filter that goes way beyond your average tap-affixed Brita system, chilling and carbonating water for a finished product as good as anything that comes in a bottle. Chef Best started selling this water at a rate of AU$5 (roughly $5.30 USD) for unlimited refills – actually kind of a bargain compared to old prices, inasmuch as charging for water could ever be considered a bargain. But beyond a cost cut, the biggest benefits are a reduced carbon footprint and less bottles winding up wasted and left to landfills.
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But being charged for what’s still essentially tap water – even if it is the best tap water you’ve ever had – is still a hard pill to swallow for many. Chef Best has reportedly fielded some nasty letters and comments stating outrage at the premise of being charged for tap water. Best notes that he could have buried the cost of the filter elsewhere, but chose this path instead to raise awareness that reducing waste and eliminating bottle water is a very real option.
Besides, Chef Best seems bemused by the fact that people are so ready and willing to pay top dollar for bottled water – noting that diners at Marque Restaurant frequently order up to AU$40 worth of water bottles over the course of a meal – yet shun the same when offered from the tap. "They can drink 40 liters for AU$5 if they want and suddenly it's seen as charging for tap water!" said Best. "It's quite interesting; it means the marketing of the mineral water has been very effective."