Restaurants and the water crisis: Your water-wise guide to eating out

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Drought and water scarcity affects all parts of South Africa from time to time. Whether you live in Cape Town, or are planning to visit the Mother City, here are some tips on how to be a responsible guest and still have a great meal out.

Start a conversation
Speak to the restaurant owner or chef about steps that they are taking to operate more sustainably. Reducing waste often equals profitability in the restaurant business, and most owners are proud of the ways they’ve found to minimise waste - both water and otherwise.

Techniques such as food waste composting, worm farms, low water cooking and food package recycling programmes can often be found in your favourite restaurants.

ALSO READ: Can you survive on 50 Litres of water a day? Here’s how to try

Count your water, not your calories
Water used (or consumed) outside of your home such as in restaurants, bars, hotels, and cafes, still counts as part of your daily water ration. The biggest guzzlers of fresh water in restaurants are:

1. Tap water - jugs of tap water are often left unfinished after the meal is over. If you must, order a glass of water at a time. Better to order bottled water, and best practice is to bring your own water with you when you leave the house.

2. Ice - Ice buckets filled to the brim are just a few hours away from becoming litres of wasted water. If you like to add ice to your wine, use what you need and send the rest back. Some restaurants are using wine cooler ‘jackets’ that are reusable and water-less. The golden rule - put ice in your drink, not your drink on ice.

3. Flushing loos - as the wine flows, so the bathroom queue grows! An average guest visits the restroom twice per meal. In a 50 seater restaurant, that is at least 100 flushes a night or 1500 litres of water. At current Cape Town limits, that is enough fresh water for one person for an entire month! So think twice, is it really necessary to flush?

Support your favourite establishment
All of this sounds quite scary, but you can still enjoy a meal out in times of drought.You can support your local restaurants and cafes in two ways:

1. Give them your business.
Times are hard for them too and in many areas of South Africa the hospitality sector is an important source of local employment. Remember, supporting restaurants supports farmers, wine producers, and suppliers too!

2. Encourage and comply with their water saving measures. 
Once you’ve started the conversation, you are armed with information and can act accordingly. If the restaurant has a “no tap water” policy or a policy to minimise the use of excessive wine glasses, then support them in their endeavours.

Dining out can be a special treat, or a meal out with kids and in times of drought, we can all still have a great time! Saving water and resources where we can helps restaurants to stay open, keeps staff employed and doing what they love most - providing delicious meals and memorable experiences.

Katy Rose is the Front of House Manager at Foxcroft Restaurant in Constantia. Check out her food and wine blog

ALSO READ: 10 Excellent water saving tips from an eco-conscious restaurateur and chef