Australian Chef Criticized for Charging for Tap Water

Bottled WaterIs Australian chef Mark Best justified in charging for tap water at Marque Restaurant, his restaurant in Syndey, Australia?

Best stopped selling “boutique bottled water” and instead offered customers treated tap water for about half the price of the bottled water he previously sold, according to a Reuters article. He did so because he considers these bottled waters to be wasteful and wanted to provide an eco-friendly alternative.

Best installed a water filter system that filters, chills and carbonates the Marque Restaurant‘s tap water. And while he could have raised his pricing across his menu to make up the cost, he wanted everyone to know they were being charged for tap water. He charges the equivalent of $5.31 in US dollars for all the tap water a patron cares to drink. The 500 ml bottles of boutique bottled water that he sold in the past cost twice that much.

“I’m not highly political but I want to make people aware and this is just one initiative,” Best said.

While many patrons were unhappy about it, charging for tap water is not illegal if it has been treated — and Best’s $6,000 Italian-made water filtration system certainly does that.

If Best’s main goal in charging for tap water was to make a statement and “raise awareness of the need for restaurants to be socially responsible and reduce plastic waste,” we would say he succeeded. What do you think: is Best justified in charging for tap water or not?

“Organic” Bottled Water?

organic springs bottled water

The Australian Standard for organic products says that natural products like water cannot be labeled “organic.” But what if that label is part of the brand or company name?

Australian brands, Organic Springs, Active Organic, and Organic Falls sell purified tap water under the Active Organic Spring name, though the water is not organic and is not sourced from a spring. Legitimate organic producers are annoyed at companies that use the term in their brand names, as it can mislead consumers. “Organic” is a term that is typically used to describe agricultural produce, and not natural substances like water or air.

The company, in its defense, states that it is not actually claiming that the water is organic, though the term is used in the brand name. Still – the word can be misleading to consumers, no matter the context. The bottled water industry caught on to the power of this kind of advertising long ago when they began marketing their product with pictures of glaciers, mountains and freshwater springs on the bottles. These days, many consumers will blindly purchase a product labeled “organic”, simply because the word has such a powerful, positive connotation, even if they don’t know what the term itself really means. And some products labeled “organic” are not any healthier or better-tasting than their non-organic versions.

What do you think? If given the choice between a bottle simply labeled “purified tap water” and a bottle labeled “purified tap water” with “organic” in the brand name, which would you be more likely to choose?