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Is it fair to be dismissive of a place that doesn't offer no-charge water?


Of course the food is the number one thing, but I am inclined to write off an establishment if they refuse to provide free drinking water. I figure if they are so chintzy as to not give their customers free water, then perhaps they are cutting corners in other aspects? It's just a real off-putting thing.

  1. Where is the restaurant/establishment? What kind of restaurant/establishment is it?

    1. Are they only offering bottled water? Seems a tad out of step when the thing to do is to drink 'local' water. Not only is it green by using less resources for production and shipping and a new 'statement' of sustainability, but most cities' water performs better in taste tests than bottled water.

      I'm not sure if they are chintzy but it is very off putting, seems service adverse, and I wouldn't eat there even if the food was decent. Charge me for the bread but give me the water please.

      1. It doesn't bother me so much if it's a fast food place charging say $.25 for a cup, but if it's a sit-down place forcing you to ordered bottled water, it does turn me off. Bottled water is not necessarily any better than tap water and the environmental impact of bottled water is much greater. Sure the restaurant is going to have to wash a glass and possibly give out a straw, but that's not a huge expense.

        1. if there is clean glassware and a running tap then (at least in America) they should offer free water.

          1. Jfood is a tap water eater so this effects his dining experience in the middle of the bulls eye.

            He would not be dismissive at all if a restaurant would not serve free tap water. It will be one of the inputs for the cost decision on whether to go. No different from any otheritemon the menu.

            1. More than fair.

              1. I also find that a little off-putting. I don't know if I'd completely stop going to such a place just because water isn't free. If it's such a big deal to you, write the place off your list of go-to restaurants. Consider it a personal preference.

                1. There is a locally owned place near where I live that serves very good Mexican food with a nice mix of other South American dishes but, no tap water. I put up with the the no water policy a few times but after my last visit when I went into the restroom to refill the water bottle that I had purchased I said no more. It's to ridiculous of a notion not to give your patrons water for me to go back to this place.

                  1. we've had regular boil orders in my area over the past few years and I don't drink the tap water, even when it is "clean" because it has way too much chlorine and still smells swampy. So local restaurants typically don't offer tap water , although some of them do.

                    On a refreshing note, the place I ate at this weekend, offered free bottled water (they didn't leave the bottle at the table, but the waitor brought it out to replenish glasses). I wasn't in a familiar area, so there could have been any reason to not use the tap water such as boil orders etc.

                    However if water is clean and accessible, I can't see why a restaurant should not allow it's being served. Unless they got sued or something in the past for providing contaminated water or something.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: im_nomad

                      I agree, I think you've covered all the bases.

                    2. I never would get as far as wondering what else they're cutting corners on. No hospitality, no me. I'd leave the minute I was refused a glass of water.

                      1. Since we haven't heard again from the OP, I'll muse on a couple of things:

                        what if its a food cart of some sort? what if its a takeout sort of place that doesn't have cups (one of my favorite Asian food takeout spots has one cooler with bottled drinks and that's it)? what if its a relatively low priced restaurant that is charging for cups, not for water technically? I've seen many places that do this (including one of my favorite diners) 20 cents for a large cup, 10 cents for a small cup. There are many reasons that I'd find legitimate that an "establishment" might not provide free water.

                        If this a sit-down restaurant with table service then not offering water to customers who are buying food or drinks is strange and certainly something I'd note as a potential reason not to come back.

                        Edited to add: after perusing the OPs other posts, it looks like this was a recent experience at a barbeque restaurant in the Manchester, NH area. $6.50 for a sandwich and side kind of a place. I'd be interested to know what their other beverage offerings are.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: ccbweb

                          I tend to give the takeout places a little more slack. The Quizno's by work charges the same rate for tap water as for soda because the employees can't see the self-serve soda foundtain from behind the counter, and they had too many problems with people taking soda with a water cup.

                          The Cajun takeout only really does bottled drinks, so I don't expect them to have foam cups on hand for just tap water.

                          But if we're talking sit down, and they provide cups for other beverages, then the tap water should be complementary.

                        2. If I was already there and found out, I'd make a point of telling the manager or maitre d' why I'd never be coming back. That's if I were in a good mood. If I were in a bad mood -- and alone -- I might just pack up and leave right there.

                          This applies anywhere except a fast-food place. People who order water (as their only drink) there and expect it to be free for some reason tick me off.

                          1. I do know a couple of places in NYC that don't serve tap water. And they don't cut corners with ingredients, etc. They are both Italian restaurants, and I think the reason they do it is because most Italians don't order tap water in Italy.

                            Personally, I'd find it a bit off-putting if they didn't offer tap water. But it wouldn't be the thing that makes me decide not to go there.

                            1. I would really want to know why they were doing it. If they wouldn't tell me why, I would be pretty suspicious. If their reason was profit, they should admit it somehow. If it's because they don't think they have a good water supply that would be safe for drinking, I sure wouldn't be eating there either.

                              1. Not Fair, but understandable.

                                Take the example of 2 identical restaurants. One charges just for the entre. The other charges $1 less for each entre, and they charged $1 for tap water. If everyone in your party wanted water, then you would break even. If anyone wanted another beverage, then you are actually money ahead. But since you feel the $1 charge, and you probably didn't notice the cheaper entre, you feel slighted at the water charging restaurant.

                                It think this practice is much more common in other parts of the world. We americans like our all inclusive happy meals, and tend not to look at the final bill as a whole.

                                There are other threads about charging for bread that have a similar tone. We are used to getting it for free (actually just rolled into the price of everything else) and feel slighted when people actually want us to pay ala catre for something we are used to getting included.

                                1. There's a restaurant in Los Angeles that, from all reports, is one of the ultimate dining experiences ever. From the reviews I've read, they only serve bottled water. I have not been there because dinner starts at $300pp, food only. I don't know what their reason is for only serving bottled water. I will very casually call this restaurant a sushi place. All the reviews indicate that everything there is top notch, from service, to the very hospitable sushi chef/owner, to of course the food. The sushi bar is made of maple and sanded each night prior to dinner seating. Do they cut corners? That's laughable with this restaurant. Am I going to dismiss them for only offering bottled water? Hardly. Instead, I'd be happy to pay for water from bottles, if the cost of the food wouldn't feel so painful.

                                  1. Is your tap water clean? And so, do they only have bottled or they are charging for tap water? Because the latter is ridiculous, I can get that free at home.

                                    1. I would not stay at a place that charged for water. I like a glass of water with dinner whether or not I'm having a cocktail or wine or tea or anything else. If I cant have a glass of water, I'l leave.

                                      1. If the overall cost of the meal isn't worth it, stay away. If you think it's worth it, return.

                                        1. More-or-less on topic: StripSteak in Las Vegas serves tap water on request, but not only is it not filtered (most Vegas restaurants filter their water since the municipal water is so bad), it tastes noticeably worse than regular Vegas tap water. This is some feat in itself, and I'm not sure how they do that. It's completely undrinkable, which leaves you with a choice of booze (we don't drink) or expensive bar sodas.