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      • Get free advertising for your coffee shop

      • Run a fixed-location food and beverage business? Get free advertising for your coffee shop

        There may be no such thing as a free lunch, but there is such a thing as free water. And with that comes free advertising for your coffee shop, restaurant or sandwich bar. You’d have to have had your head buried in the sand – probably battered by plastic bottles washed up on the shore – not to have seen the high-profile moves to combat the throwaway habit that comes with our takeaway culture. Millions of plastic-lined coffee cups and plastic bottles discarded after a single use every year. Quite apart from the expense and the waste of natural resources, the impact on the natural world is horrific.

        Aided by the popularity of the BBC’s recent Blue Planet II, there’s been a massive and public urge to reduce our waste. The UK fails to recycle 16 million plastic bottles a day. Astonishing. Back in 2015, the organisation City to Sea launched Refill Bristol. Simple, really: cafés, bars, restaurants, sandwich shops and all sorts of public amenities, like museums and gyms, have begun to allow – no, to encourage – members of the public to refill their bottles with drinking water for free. More than a dozen cities and towns now have their own Refill schemes, and more are being added all the time.

        So far, so green. It’s a more sustainable, environmentally friendly way to live. If you’ve a strong eco-conscience, you’ll be moving on this already. But where does the free advertising come in? Well, there’s always the local press, keen for good news stories. But you don’t need to be a PR guru to get the word out in your local area and raise awareness about and public benevolence towards your café. You just need a tap of your phone…

        First, download the Refill app for your iPhone or Android. Then add your business to the map. The app is in beta mode at the moment, so it’s early days, but that also means you’ll be one of the first free water stations in your local area. As the app gains in popularity, more and more potential customers will be pointed towards your coffee shop. Users can rate the refill and share the results on Twitter and Facebook (look out for the hashtag #Refill), so there’s great potential for a local brand boost. And once people start coming to you for free water, the alluring smell of fresh coffee, the gleaming commercial espresso machine, and any tasty tidbits you have to offer might just prompt purchases and, in time, ongoing loyalty.

        Businesses signing up to their official local Refill scheme can also get official stickers to display in their windows. And if you haven’t yet got a local Refill scheme, talk to your town centre or BID management team and get the ball rolling. That’s virtually guaranteed to garner local press attention.

        Water you waiting for? Sorry. We couldn’t resist…