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Report makes waves over water mark-ups

11 August 2004

Restaurants are charging more than £6 for one litre of mineral water - more than six times the cost in a supermarket - a new report has revealed.

The investigation by Which? magazine exposed by just how much some of the country's leading restaurants mark up mineral water.

Gordon Ramsay's restaurant on Royal Hospital Road in London charges £4 for a litre of Evian, while at Heston Blumenthal's the Fat Duck at Bray in Berkshire, a litre of Chateldon sparkling mineral water costs £4.50.

Evian is served free at the Waterside Inn at Bray, but 75cl of Perrier or Badoit costs £5 - making it £6.66 a litre. Raymond Blanc's Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons in Oxford charges £3.95 for a similarly sized bottle of Evian, Badoit or Hildon.

However, a two-litre bottle of Evian costs just 68p in supermarkets Asda, Sainsbury's, Safeway or Tesco, according to the report.

Caterer's investigations revealed that prices for water also remained steep in high-street food and drink outlets. A 75cl bottle of San Pellegrino cost £3.30 in Mitchells & Butlers' All Bar One, against just 99p in Safeway.

High-street chains Nando's, Zizzi and Pizza Express all served water in 50cl bottles at £1.60, £1.70, and £1.75, respectively - comparatively, not much cheaper than their Michelin-starred counterparts.

But the industry hit back at criticism of its pricing. Martin Couchman, deputy chief executive of the British Hospitality Association, said: "Restaurants price their menu items as part of a total package, and bottled water is an item that has to be sourced, stored, served, and the empties taken away."

A spokeswoman for Gordon Ramsay Holdings defended the group's prices. "Our restaurants are priced in line with restaurants of a similar standard," she said. "The prices are in keeping with the whole experience and level of service - you can't compare buying a bottle of warm Badoit from a supermarket to drinking it in a three-Michelin-starred restaurant."

Zizzi's founder Adam Kaye said the mark-up on water at his restaurants was not outrageous. "It's just the cost of serving it," he said.

Source: Caterer & Hotelkeeper magazine, 12 August 2004

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