Diners ordering more tap water, less soda and coffee, report says

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The drink du jour in restaurants: tap water.

Penny-pinching diners are taking a break from beverages with a price and increasingly ordering free from the spout, according to a report from research firm NPD Group.

While requests for revenue-generating drinks have dropped by 2.7 billion servings over the last five years, often due to their price, thirsty customers have asked for 2.7 billion more glasses of tap.


But free water has a long way to go before it overtakes sodas and hot joe. Out of the 50 billion beverages currently served at restaurants, water accounts for just 8% while carbonated soft drinks and brewed coffee command 49%.

That segment, however, could be losing market share to drinks such as iced teas, smoothies, slushies and specialty coffees, according to NPD. Perhaps the shift is another symptom of changing consumer preferences for more specialized and healthful offerings that are manifesting across the restaurant industry.

“New flavors, addressing taste interests, preparing fresh/freshly made, and creating new versions of existing beverages are factors in the beverages that are growing,” NPD analyst Bonnie Riggs said in a statement.


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-- Tiffany Hsu