While public health advocates have sung the praises of tap water for years, Coca-Cola has been focusing on its own covert assault on the affordable, healthful, and refreshing beverage.
Unbeknownst to many in the nutrition and public health world, the soft drink giant launched a "Cap the Tap" program -- aimed at restaurants -- in 2010, described in the following manner on the Coke Solutions Web site:
Capture Lost Revenue By Turning Off the Tap
Every time your business fills a cup or glass with tap water, it pours potential profits down the drain. The good news: Cap the Tap -- a program available through your Coca-Cola representative -- changes these dynamics by teaching crew members or wait staff suggestive selling techniques to convert requests for tap water into orders for revenue-generating beverages.
Coca-Cola cites a 2006 tap water usage study to point out the obvious -- that consumers drink tap water because of habit, health concerns or price sensitivity.
In response to that, Coca-Cola suggests restaurant waitstaff "turn off the tap" and offers to teach servers how to suggest "profitable beverages" to consumers, citing free refills. For those who truly want tap water, Coca-Cola suggests that servers push bottled water (don't forget that Coke owns the bottled water brand Dasani), diet sodas, iced teas, and smoothies.
Interestingly -- and, most likely, strategically -- information about the program is not as easy to come across online as the many health initiatives Coca-Cola eagerly announces with self-congratulatory press releases. "Cap the Tap" includes a manager's guide, a back room poster (which "educates crew and reminds them when and how to suggestively sell beverages") and a participants' guide, which "offers insights to help servers remember the facts and impact of suggestive selling."