Specialty water has a long history in upscale restaurants. Oftentimes, discerning tastes call for an array of still and sparkling options, often costing owners a bundle for product that takes up valuable storage space and increases their carbon footprint.
Lately, however, restaurants have been saying goodbye to the bottle. Companies such as New Jersey’s Natura Water and Ontario-based Q Water are changing the game, providing solutions and services that take the place of Perrier.
We spoke with former Dragons’ Den contestant Paula Tekela of Drink To Your Health Inc. to learn how her company’s under-the-counter solution is helping restaurants provide quality filtered water and cut down on waste.
Water Canada: What’s the inspiration behind Q Water?
Paula Tekela: About six years ago, I read an article about San Francisco’s Chez Panisse. The owner (chef, restaurateur and activist Alice Waters) had created a filtration system that dispensed still and sparkling water into decanters. I fell in love with the concept. As a veteran of the water filtration industry, I’ve always been selling against bottles.
I tried calling the owner—once, twice, three times—but she never returned my calls, so Stephen [Beaumont, Tekela’s business partner at Drink To Your Health] said he’d design the system, which uses four-stage filtration to provide still and sparkling water.
We’re helping restaurants lower their carbon footprint, and there are benefits to going green. For one, they no longer need to order bottled water—the system is installed in-house—so they’re saving money and shelf space. Additionally, it’s very rare that it will need more than two maintenance visits [based on 18,000 litres] per year.
With the system itself, we’re trying to be as environmentally friendly and energy efficient as possible. A cold plate with ice chills the water—it doesn’t use any electricity. The only component that does use electricity is the carbonator, and that’s not even 24/7. It’s used as needed.
What were some of the initial challenges?
Entering the restaurant industry was a huge learning curve, and at first, it was a struggle. When Q Water was first launched [in 2009 at the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association show], we had a great response—restaurant owners said they loved the concept, but they were afraid to be first to install it. We had to change mindsets.
Now that the system is more widespread [at the time this interview was conducted, over 80 restaurants in Toronto were using Q Water], we’ve had excellent feedback.
What are the plans for the future?
Right now we want to blanket Canada. We’re setting up in Vancouver, and we have systems in Calgary and Halifax. We’re also partnering with different coffee companies. Next, we plan to venture into the United States.