Water, Water Everywhere

What water is doing to your beverages and equipment—and how best to treat it.

By  Abbie Westra, Editor-in-Chief, Convenience Store Products

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Finding the Source

Now that you’re burdened with the knowledge of what water is doing to your equipment and beverages, how do you go about treating it?

One example: A local dealer can come to test the water using dip strips and meters. For retailers with the luxury of time, a sample can be sent to a lab for a very specific rundown of what’s in the water.

The dealer surveys the equipment in the store and space available for filtration to determine whether all the beverage machines can feed off one system. Or, if space is an issue, point-of-use filters can be placed on each piece of equipment.

From there, the retailer works with the manufacturer to create the proper system based on hot- and cold-water needs, as well as the nuances of the area’s water makeup.

San Antonio-based c-store chain TETCO recently initiated a test at two sites to see if a water-treatment system would be more efficient and economical than using inline filters.

“Inline filters were costly and, due to water at those locations, these were being changed out frequently,” says Manuel Escobar, foodservice category manager for the 756-store chain.

Though the company is still in the evaluation phase, “it seems that equip­ment maintenance is down, plus the savings in the costly filters,” says Escobar.

Along with price, Escobar has cited better-tasting beverages, and is consider­ing whether the filtration system offers point of differentiation worth marketing to customers at the beverage station.

The regionality of water is particularly important for chains with stores in various cities, states and regions. Seattle and parts of New York have naturally soft water, and retailers there likely won’t need scale treat­ment, says Parker of Everpure. In Texas and parts of Florida, meanwhile, “you have hardness through the roof.” In Hawaii, silica is an issue due to volcanic rock and soil, while areas that source water from lakes or rivers face high organics that aren’t taken out by water treatment plants and can change seasonally.

“If every water was like [the Pitts­burgh market], we wouldn’t have to do a thing, but unfortunately it’s not,” says Notte of Sheetz.

With stores in six states, Sheetz has many different water treatment systems in place. For new builds, the company’s construction team will conduct an analy­sis that guides what type of system is put in. Most often stores have a complete system vs. point-of-service filters.

“For people who install beverage equipment without filtration equip­ment—or without the right filtration equipment—it is a disaster,” he says.

Many specialty coffee chains and some QSRs have implemented the costly process of reverse osmosis in stores. It strips the water of everything, then blends minerals back in to reach the operators’ optimal flavor. In some Sheetz stores—the exceptions, not the norm, says Notte—the water is so hard, the company has implemented a blended reverse osmosis system. Other areas have no mineral content, so minerals need to be added in for the proper flavor.

Other retailers may consider using ion exchange, or water softening, to deal with hard water. The issue there is that some of the sodium will end up in the final product—particularly unap­pealing in ice, which will come out soft. Further, ion exchange doesn’t filter the water, so a filter would still be needed to take out any chemicals.

Bottom line: Work with the manufacturer to build the proper system for each store, one by one.

The Real Problem

Once a water treatment system is in place, the work has just begun. The biggest mistake a retailer can make when maintain­ing a store’s water treatment system, says Schmidt, is nothing at all. And nothing happens a lot. Filters need to be changed on a timely basis or you run the risk of damaging equipment, resulting in operational breakdowns or maintenance issues, as well as serving substandard beverages.

“If the filters are not changed when they are supposed to … the system is now a waste of money. Change your filters,” says Ryan White, foodservice category manager for Tri Star Energy, Nashville, Tenn.

Tri Star, which operates under the Daily’s, Twice Daily’s and Daily’s Express banners, is implementing water-treatment systems in all new builds. Consistency of product was a key priority in the decision. “You should be able to go to any site and the Coke should taste like Coke, not like well water and Coke,” White says.

Depending on the system and manufacturer, a retailer can either schedule a service person to change filters, or assign a staff member to own the task. Tri Star handles filter replacement inter­nally by the maintenance department. White recommends writ­ing the replacement date directly on the filters for easy reference.

Meanwhile, Escobar of TETCO has found that moving to a storewide system vs. inline filters has allowed for more consis­tency in filter changes with centralized record keeping.

Another pitfall retailers find themselves in is when they want to add new equipment. Call your water-treatment partner to determine whether you can add to the existing system or if you need to add a filter at the point of use. Don’t assume you can plumb in; depending on the capacity, it can be hard on the filtration and plumbing system.

And when you’re building or remodeling a store, consider what you might want to do in the future. Then oversize the system or design it to be expanded so future customers can also drink and eat with ease.


Equipment Innovations

If you don’t already have a water-treatment system in place or are looking to upgrade, some new systems have entered the market that make treating water more efficient and effective.

VIZION by A.J. Antunes & Co.’s water treatment consists of two parts: First, the VZN system removes turbidity and sediment, and off tastes due to chemicals and organic mat­ter that affect the taste of the final prod­uct. Then, the MAVEA system removes carbonate hardness minerals that cause scale buildup in equipment in which water is heated. Of course, some level of mineral is needed to yield a quality flavor, and the MAVEA Intelli-Bypass technology allows retailers’ desired hardness level to be set.

Everpure, meanwhile, is launching its Simpliflow system this fall. Especially useful for new builds, the system tracks all water through a store using a valve system. Everything is labeled to help retailers keep track of all water lines.


Keeping Ice Safe

Besides “off” tastes and freeze up, even more sinister elements are lurking in ice machines. But a new technology from Franke Foodservice Systems simplifies ice-machine cleaning routines while better preventing the spread of harmful bacteria and pathogens.

The device, when attached to the ice-machine water line, creates precise levels of dissolved ozone to safely sanitize the ice-making path and holding bin without chemicals. Ozone has been proven to prevent the growth of bacteria such as E. coli by more than 99.99%, according to the company.

Past systems using ozone used either too much or too little, rendering it either unsafe or ineffective. But Franke’s new system has been received with strong accolades, including a Kitchen Innovations award at the 2012 National Restaurant Association show.

Both Scotsman, Vernon Hills, Ill., and Ice-O-Matic, Denver, have partnered with Franke to make the device available on new machines, as well as retrofits for existing machines. Scots­man will be the exclusive distributor beyond Franke’s core foodservice customers.

“The Franke system provides a highly effective and affordable way to cut the cost and hassle of keeping ice machines clean, significantly extending the interval between cleaning and helping prevent the spread of harmful bacteria and pathogens in ice,” says Terry Toth, communications manager for Scotsman.

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