22 smart ways restaurants are saving water

The water crisis has become critical in the Western Cape and with a dwindling number of days of water left in our dams, it’s crucial for businesses and homes to implement a water-wise policy. From crop irrigation to washing, processing and preparing food in a home or restaurant setting, water is often used without much thought; in fact, statistics show that retail, offices and industry are currently using 14.9% of the city’s water.

Retail, offices and industry are currently using 14.9% of the city’s water. Photo: iStock.

Retail, offices and industry are currently using 14.9% of the city’s water. Photo: iStock.

Eat Out got in touch with councillor Xanthea Limberg, Cape Town’s mayoral committee member for Informal Settlements, Water and Waste Services, and Energy, as well as local restaurants to hear how to be water-wise in restaurants – and at home.


1. Training staff on the importance of saving water can go a long way to reducing water wastage. Mari Vigar of La Mouette in Sea Point says, “All our staff and especially our kitchen porters have been trained on water saving and to not let taps just run for no reason.”

2. Display pamphlets about water saving and the Level 4 restrictions in a very prominent fashion at appropriate areas in restaurants, suggests Councillor Xanthea.

Water gardens wisely

3. At the end of service, don’t throw out unsalted cooking water – you can use it for the gardens. At La Colombe, chef Scot Kirton and his team use blanching water to water their herbs.

4. Jessica and Luke Shepherd from Table at De Meye in Stellenbosch are watering their garden before 5.30am on the allowed days with water from ice buckets and unsalted cooking water, and have mulched as much as possible with straw to retain water in the soil.

5. Jean-Marc Lenferna DeLa Motte of IYO Burgers on Bree Street is also finding new ways to save water: “We make sure that all our plants are watered using grey water and that the chips we boil are done in the same water that they are soaked in and that water is then used to irrigate”.

6. Use half-consumed bottles or glasses of water left over after service to water the garden.

The herbs at IYO restaurant are watered using grey water. Photo supplied.

The herbs at IYO restaurant are watered using grey water. Photo supplied.

Washing hands in the kitchen

7. Ask your chefs to turn the tap off while they lather their hands with soap.

8. Keep the plug in the sink to collect any extra water; this can be used for rinsing.

9. Use paper towels and not cloth towels (which need laundering) for drying hands, suggests the councillor.

Prep and clean with caution

10. Keep small containers of water in the fridge to wash fruit and vegetables, or prep in basins and use the water at night to water the garden. Chef Kobus van der Merwe of Wolfgat in Paternoster even makes use of the tidal pools nearby to rinse seaweed for his dishes.

11. Don’t use water to defrost foods. Rather plan ahead and defrost slowly in the fridge, suggests councillor Xanthea.

12. Mop the kitchen floor only if food is spilled and only at the end of a service. Sweep the floor regularly to keep things neat. Peter Templehoff’s and team at Greenhouse use their ice bucket water to clean the floors at the end of service.

13. Rinse your washed dishes in a tub of water and not in a sink. Then, warm up the water and use it to mop the floor. Restaurants such as Greenhouse, The Conservatory, SeaFood at The Plettenberg, The Pavilion and Origins at The Marine do this daily.

The fern bar makes a lovely spot for a pre-or-post-dinner drink. Photo supplied.

At the end of service, the Greenhouse team use leftover water to mop to floors.

14. Don’t rinse plates off individually; simply run a sink till the halfway mark and use this as rinsing water.

15. Whenever possible, scrape dishes using a scraper, squeegee or absorbent cloth over the garbage bin before loading into the dishwasher. This keeps food material and grease from going down the drain. Install strainers on sinks to trap food waste. This will also assist in minimising or eliminating rinsing the dishes before loading into dishwasher, suggests the councillor.

16. Only run the dishwasher when there’s a full load, and shut it off when it’s not in use.

17. In order to reduce the amount of water used in dishwashing, Wolfgat has stopped changing wine glasses when a different wine is ordered. “I find this practice overly indulgent and unnecessary, especially in a water-short country,” Kobus explains.

18. Tribe Coffee Roasting are now making use of paper and wooden coffee cups to save water.

Invest in water-saving equipment and check for leaks

18. Motion-sensor taps and low-flow tap heads can reduce the amount of water used in the kitchen, and installing a ‘hippo’ – or just placing a brick in your toilet cisterns – can help reduce water usage in toilets.

19. Councillor Xanthea also suggests that restaurants get a plumber to check that there are not leaks on the property. Turn off all water fixtures both inside and outside the restaurant and check if the meter is still ticking over to detect non-visible leaks.

20. Seek alternative ice bucket solutions such Nederberg’s waterless wine coolers that will keep wines and other beverages cool without the need for ice or water.

21. The V&A Waterfront, with its luxurious hotels and numerous restaurants, is using sea water to facilitate its air conditioning in an attempt to lower water usage.

The City of Cape Town has implemented a star-rating initiative for businesses where water audits have been conducted. This is to recognise companies that are making use of water-conservation practices. To apply, email

For more info on water restrictions in Cape Town and more tips on how you can do your bit, click here.


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