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Mildred’s Manifest-Eau

Mar 22, 2019

Until the late seventies, no one would have considered bottled water as an option in Canadian restaurants and a request for it would have been considered patronizing or even mildly insulting. Our drinking water was clean after all, we sniffed, unlike those places where drinking water from the tap would make you sick.

That changed in the early eighties when bottled waters became the smart choice and guests might actually be put off if bottled water were not available. Servers too, were quick to embrace the trend recognizing that selling bottled water raised the average cheque and hopefully their gratuity, often asking if guests would prefer “flat, sparkling or Toronto’s finest” with a slight moue. There is not doubt that it was a boon for restaurants as well. As sober business lunches replaced the martinis, wine and a sandwich mid-day meal in the late eighties, the sale of bottled water boosted the bottom line.

But at what cost? When the Province put a deposit on wine and liquor bottles and the blue bins we trundled to the curb twice a week were filled with water bottles that had come from Europe, we saw our carbon footprints showing.

Our friend, Roberto Martella of Grano once remarked how ironic it was that we should be importing water from “dirty old Italy” to a young, clean country like Canada blessed with boundless fresh water. Former Ontario Premier, Bill Davis, jovially but pointedly asked me why we offered water from Europe when the purest spring water was available from only a few miles away in Caledon.

Once we started looking at our water consumption, it became obvious how flagrant we were in its use and how thoughtlessly we wasted it. We became determined to be better stewards of this precious, if plentiful resource. When we opened the new Mildred’s in Liberty Village, we started by banishing bottled water. Some reacted with surprise, some with mild scorn. We were told it was a bad business move and the bottom line aside, customers did not want to drink tap water and wasn’t hospitality about giving people what they wanted?

Our Mildred’s Manifest-eau was outlined on the table coasters for our water carafes, so our guests would understand the reasons behind our choice to serve filtered, chilled local water exclusively. The response was overwhelmingly positive. It was obviously an idea that appealed to people. Encouraged by their patrons we have seen many other restaurants move in the same direction.

This was a first step in raising our water consciousness. We continue to look for ways to reduce waste and eliminate water pollution. Without drinkable water, we have nothing.