H-2-Oh!

Water—so simple, so pure, perhaps this necessity of life is so unobtrusive that you don’t even think about how it can help your business. Our bodies are made up of about 65% water, and water covers about 70% of the planet—but what percentage of your sales come from this necessary hydrator?

Are you letting water sales slip by the wayside as you focus your energies on hawking sodas? Read on to find out how you can go back to the source and get the most out of selling simple H2O.

Water, Waiter!

Whether in a sit-down or takeout setting, customers appreciate water for a variety of reasons: It’s convenient on the go, it’s perceived as healthy, and its taste doesn’t overpower any meal. In a sit-down setting, you can tap into serious profits by suggesting that customers try bottled water when they sit down for their meal. “Train waitstaff to offer bottled water by asking if they would prefer sparkling or still, bottled or tap,” suggests Stacy Roth, marketing manager for Nestlé Waters North America in Greenwich, Connecticut. 

When selling for delivery or takeout, why not suggest water alongside your soda suggestions? A simple question with every phone order—“Would you like a soft drink or bottled water with that?”—can help customers know about your bottled water options. Some people won’t automatically think of ordering water with a meal, but giving them the suggestion will help them consider it, leading to increased sales. 

Don’t forget to display the water within your store as well—with the sophisticated packaging and fun bottle shapes of many of today’s waters, you may be able to hook customers on visual appeal alone. “Begin by properly merchandising inside the four walls,” says Spencer Langley, an Overland Park, Kansas-based on-premise national account executive for Icelandic Glacial, Torrance, California. “Position bottles in a cooler or ice bin, or even warm on the counter, so guests can see the bottle prior to ordering. Include a picture of the bottle and logo on the menu boards and/or table menus.”

The visual appeal tactic has worked wonders for Roberto Russo, general manager of Sbarro (www.sbarro.com) on Canal Street in Manhattan. He found a brand of water that sells itself due to its unique packaging: Aquadeco, shaped in a pedestal-type bottle that looks almost like an award. “When we put that out, we went from selling 5 to 10 cases of water per week to selling 125 cases per week,” enthuses Russo. “People buy one to drink, and one to take home with them! My supervisors were amazed; even my workers were amazed. My goal is to get out 200 cases per week.” Russo is making a smart profit considering that he sells each bottled water for $2.99, plus tax! Due to Russo’s success, more Sbarro’s stores will start to carry the unique brand, starting with locations in the Northeast, and he is confident that they’ll fi nd the same results.

Keep in mind that the time of day may influence people’s beverage choices. Bottled water is often a big hit with the daytime crowd (for these and other bottled water statistics, see the sidebar “Water: The Stats” on page 42). “Bottled water sells very well for us,” says Richard Allum, director of marketing for Amici’s East Coast Pizzeria Restaurants (www.amicis.com), with 20 locations in Northern California. “The stores in major urban areas with a large lunchtime business clientele have by far the highest sales—as many as 20 cases total per month—and our sales reports show that this is the time period and demographic of the primary consumers of bottled water.”

Water Q & A

What water should I choose? Pick one with a story or concept that aligns with your pizzeria’s image. “For example, a pizzeria that specializes in an organic whole-wheat crust may comerchandize the pizza with bottled natural spring water (and create content reinforcing health and wellness),” says Langley. “High-end gourmet pizza shops might capture imagery of fresh specialty ingredients alongside a bottle of super-premium water half-poured into modern glassware. Try to reinforce your guests’ ideal experience.” What’s the real difference between bottled water and tap? You (or your customers) might ask this question, so here’s the deal: “Tap water is from a municipal source and by necessity is treated with chemicals for purification,” explains Rick Brasher, managing director of Indefinite Possibilities/Good Vibes for You Australian Spring Water, Houston. “These same waters also contain ground contaminates and pollution from the area. These chemicals lend a distinct taste or flavor to the water.” He goes on to note that many of today’s bottled waters may come from a municipal source (the source is always mentionedon the bottle). However, these are treated with processes by the company to make them stand out from what you’d find in the tap.

What about the new flavored waters?

Flavored water is a growing market; though people want to be healthy, they also want a beverage with great taste, and flavored waters are meeting that demand. Many manufacturers, from Coca-Cola and Pepsi to smaller labels, are introducing a variety of waters on the market. Carmine Russo, manager of Baby O Pizza in New York, has found success with Vitaminwater, which offers extra vitamins and several formulations. “It sells itself,” he says. “We keep the Vitaminwater in a case right next to where people order, and we see a lot of kids who like them. I also personally plug the waters because I love them myself!” 

Should I look into private-label water?

Private label allows you to put your own image or brand on a bottle of water, so it may be a great fit for your pizzeria, and there are several benefits, as Brian DeLoia, owner of Johnny’s Pizza in Ellwood City, Pennsylvania, has discovered. “Serving our own brand is a win-win situation,” he says. “First, cost of private labeling was much more attractive than what the beverage companies charge for their brands. Second, we’re able to use our logo incorporated with some graphic designs from the bottler. Last, when the customer takes the bottle with him, it becomes a walking advertisement!” Lest you think that a private label will sell less frequently than a recognized brand, the figures speak for themselves: DeLoia says that sales of his private-label bottled water make up approximately 30% of his beverage sales. 

No matter what brand or type of water you choose to carry—flavored or plain, sparkling or still—you’ll do yourself and your clients a service by letting them know about your bottled water. You’ll gain the loyalty of customers who increasingly seek a healthy alternative to sodas and sugary drinks, and boost profits for your pizzeria besides. “Giving consumers what they want results in guest satisfaction and higher profit,” concludes Langley. “The brand image, package and quality of the bottled water served have a direct association with the pizzeria brand image. Providing your customers with choices will keep them coming back to you.”