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Customers turn to tap water in restaurants

Tap water is one of the fastest-growing beverage orders at U.S. restaurants, according to the NPD Group.

Meanwhile, sales of revenue-producing drinks are declining, the consumer research firm said.

A recent report by Port Washington, N.Y.-based NPD found that tap water servings have increased by 2.8 billion servings since 2006. Tap water orders currently make up 8 percent of the 50 billion beverage servings ordered at restaurants, according to NPD’s Crest service, which continually tracks consumer behavior at restaurants.

Since 2006, total beverage servings excluding tap water have fallen by 6 percent, a decline of 2.7 billion servings, the report said. The study included a survey of 5,550 adults, 18 years and older.

The decline in beverage orders at restaurants is led by carbonated soft drinks and brewed coffee, which represent 49 percent of all beverage servings.

Consumers cited cost as a chief reason for not ordering carbonated soft drinks and other non-growth beverages.

“Although the economy and high unemployment are factors in tap water’s upswing and beverage servings declines, some beverages, like carbonated soft drinks, were declining prior to the recession,” said Bonnie Riggs, NPD restaurant industry analyst and author of the report.

The sale of iced tea, a longtime staple in restaurants, is increasing, while other growth categories tend to be newer beverages, such as smoothies and specialty coffee drinks.

Contact Mike Dempsey at [email protected].

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