If there is such a thing as a happy medium between tap water and bottled water then the kind of Eau de Vie filtration systems offered by dishwasher brand Classeq arguably fit the bill.
Faced with the inconsistencies of mainstream tap water on one hand and the comparatively high costs — particularly in terms of storage and disposal — of importing bottled water on the other, operators are increasingly willing to consider new alternatives.
Classeq distributes two Eau de Vie solutions that are operationally identical but differ in terms of purpose: free-standing units that come in four sizes with their own counter top and fixed dispenser taps; and remote cassettes available in three sizes and which can be installed on existing shelving and sited away from the dispense taps to afford more flexibility in confined spaces.
Eau de Vie contains special SilverSix cartridges that remove the impurities which can adversely affect water composition and flavour. The water can be bottled and served when required, eliminating expensive transportation of bottles and canisters, as well as the need to recycle non-reusable bottles. The cost of producing the water works out at about 5p a litre for users, according to the Milton Keynes-based outfit.
Classeq has already racked up more than 120 customers for the Eau de Vie brand, including the University of Leeds, Hilton Metropole London and The Dock Kitchen. Northern supermarket chain Booths has installed Eau de Vie systems in its customer restaurants, while the company also proclaims to have seen success in the office environment with firms operating staff catering facilities.
Up to now, Classeq has left partners on the sidelines and fulfilled all that business itself, allowing it to make sure that every installation is carried out correctly.
Paul Crowley, marketing development manager for Classeq, explains: “At the moment it still requires a certain amount of specialist knowledge to survey and then fit the suitable equipment. You have to take into consideration the requirements on site and what the demand for the water is going to be, so we make sure that we offer them the right unit.”
That direct-to-the-operator approach looks set to be relaxed this year, however, with Crowley confirming there will be opportunities for sales partners to be involved in selling and installing the Eau de Vie product range.
“I would envisage, probably into the middle of [this] year, we will have a distinct number of distributors who will be trained in installation and maintenance,” he says. “At the moment we just want to manage projects so that we are satisfied that everything is as it should be. But obviously as demand picks up we will only be able to manage that so far, so I think we will probably become more specialised in perhaps the larger projects and allow the distributors to deal with the more straightforward projects.”
By the time Classeq does make the move to channel some of the Eau de Vie business through partners, Crowley expects there to be a raft of exciting sales opportunities for dealers in the UK to sink their teeth into.
“It is still a relatively new concept but there is a definite change, certainly in the restaurant market,” says Crowley. “Specifically in the restaurant trade they are really looking towards alternatives for mineral water. A lot of them are trying to become responsible restaurateurs, they are trying to reduce environmental impact, and water is an area they can certainly do that in.”
What the customer says
The River Café on London’s Thames Wharf installed an Eau de Vie system at its premises after deciding it needed to find a way of reducing the huge quantity of bottled Italian mineral water it was buying in.
The system dispenses at least 400 litres of freshly-filtered water during a typical four-hour serving period and has boosted the company’s sustainability credentials.
Restaurant manager, Charles Pullan, explains: “Not only do we have limited storage space, but we also started worrying about the ethical viability of transporting bottles of water all the way from Italy. On Fridays we used to have 48 cases of water delivered which then had to be stacked away, so we started looking at other ways to serve water.
"Customers are very happy with the Eau de Vie water. They actually like the idea that it isn’t bottled. We charge a nominal £1.50 for a ‘bottomless’ jug per table. It’s really simple to serve. We don’t have to do anything more than turn on the tap and clean the nozzles at the end of the day. Eau de Vie changes the gas canisters for carbonating the water regularly and is always there if we have a query.”