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Water wars: should tap water be free in restaurants?

Yep we know the MEN have already had a campaign over this in 2008. But lots of people are commenting on the site. So is it utterly bad and naughty of restaurants and bars to charge for tap water?

Published on October 29th 2008.


Water wars: should tap water be free in restaurants?

The Results..

Yes: - 92%
No: - 8%

Two things.

Firstly, it appears there is no legal obligation to serve free water. Secondly, restaurants occupy a classic boom and bust market, profit margins are low, they have to pay water rates so why not pass on those costs?

Of course the counter argument goes, they pay a relatively tiny amount for a jug of Corporation Pop (as it used to be called), and customers will no doubt be spending on food and drink as well. Also given the emphasis on responsible drinking and so forth restaurants should be encouraging safe habits.

So it seems people simply have a moral objection – it just feels wrong that we should have to pay for tap water. It seems petty and a classic example of bad practice and poor service.

These to our minds are a convincing argument.

By the way, the whole debate on the site was started by this paragraph from Jonathan Schofield in his Confidential review of The Mulberry Tree: ‘The two orders of bread (we liked it that much) came to £8.25. This is, to my mind, too much. Bread like water, the two pre-requisites of any basic diet, should be free in restaurants. Maybe Confidential should start a campaign’.

Anyway what do you think? Please feel free to name and shame individual venues.

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51 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

emma graceOctober 29th 2008.

I'm glad you've raised this properly Man Con. I personally have never been to an establishment where I've been charged for tap water, and I hope I never do. Whilst I acknowledge the point regarding the water rates, to charge for a glass of water seems, to me anyway, to be a restaurants way of getting as much out of the customer as they can. Things like side orders of chips and pasta dishes etc, (relatively cheap to make) have such high GP's, surely this makes up for the free tap water?? What next? Adding a surcharge onto the bill for the dishwasher soap used in the pot wash to wash our plates??? It all seems to have gone mad...

mark mOctober 29th 2008.

Never drunk the stuff anyway. I've heard that fish piss in it and it has no alcoholic content. nuff said

emma graceOctober 29th 2008.

correct on both counts mark...i dont' know why i'm getting so het up!

scoteeeOctober 29th 2008.

Emma,if all we ate was chips and pasta profit margins would be far higher and places like this wouldnt need to feel so desperate... i have first hand experience of restaurants and bars and i can tell you it aint that simple the clients want more choice at different points at a rtime that suits them whenever they like and they want these things for next to nothing...its an extremely fina balancing act however it still feels wrong to charge for water in a bottle let alone a tap in my eyes...anyone rember only fools and horses when del boy plugged the new peckham spring??? there are no medical benefits to buying evian over tap water and i am sure you have paid for a bottle of water before???? so why not pay for a glass in a restaurant???

mark mOctober 29th 2008.

it is a good thing that we live in a place where the tap watewr tastes nice. In bedfordshire it tastes disgusting. wonder if restaurants charge for ti there

scoteeeOctober 29th 2008.

Course you do Ms Grace, I bet you have one empty bottle for your next fill in your handbag right next to your desk ? Te He ...

angieOctober 29th 2008.

Who cares if the MEN have already debated this? ManCon is the pulse of Manchester's opinion.

scoteeeOctober 29th 2008.

And on that note I am now going for lunch at subway where i have a voucher for free coffee,and Ms Grace any two can dine for £6.99??? if you would like to join me you can have the free coffee...but you have to bring your plastic bottle!!!

emma graceOctober 29th 2008.

I'll see you there...I'll be the one with a bag full of plastic bottles to fill up from the coca cola dispenser. Should last me a few weeks!!

mark mOctober 29th 2008.

Just be glad you are not a customer in this pub... uk.news.yahoo.com/…/ralia-icecream-b7e5c6f.html…

emma graceOctober 29th 2008.

Oh...My...God...that's shut me up!!

mark mOctober 29th 2008.

think i'll put it on my menu

scoteeeOctober 29th 2008.

Mark that s a sh*t story !!! Wahey !!!!Oh well, someone had to say it first !

ADOctober 29th 2008.

restaurants use more watter washing and cooking than their customers drink - the water rates should be included in their overheads and factored into the cost of the food your paying for... which leaves the cost of washing your glass - which must cost buttons - water should be free - in paris they get free bread over here we get fleaced...

jasonOctober 29th 2008.

why stop at the cost of water...what about soft drinks??In several of the pubs local to me (M20 area) the price of a glass of coke / lemonade etc is more than the cost of beer / lager / guiness - even when it comes out of one of those soda guns, which are simpply syrup & carbonated water! in the age of responsible drinking, why not encourage us to not drink, as opposed to drink and then get a cab home!

AvoOctober 29th 2008.

I've just had lunch at the Happy Seasons in Chinatown and got a free pot of Chinese tea.

scoteeeOctober 29th 2008.

Yeah but to be fair AD in Paris they charge £14 quid for a slice of chocolate cake and cup of cofee?!!!i'd want it buttered for that too !!!

becksOctober 29th 2008.

I can't decide.I think places like all you can eat Chinese buffets shouldn't have to give it free because the food's cheap enough already and that's how they make their money.On the other hand, if i ask for a bit of extra ice, i don't expect to be charged and that's water. Hmm.

joOctober 29th 2008.

If I have to pay for it then give me the bottled stuff...sparkling at that!Not paying for tap water...sorry.

mark mOctober 29th 2008.

Worse than the coke scam is the cordial scam. I went into a large pub in WDidsbury and they wanted to charge me 2quid for a pint of orange squash. Now THAT is outrageous

emma graceOctober 29th 2008.

Now out of that £2, I wonder how much goes towards a)the water, b)the cordial c)service costs, d)dishwasher liquid, etc etc lol

scoteeeOctober 29th 2008.

Mark m, emma G only drinks tap water a 750ml bottle she found on the floor in a cinema.This bottle has been with her since the age of six and she has no idea about the rising costs of cordial ???

emma graceOctober 29th 2008.

This is true, but i'd just like to clarify that I BOUGHT the bottle at the age of six, not found it...give me some credit scoteee! lol

scoteeeOctober 29th 2008.

blah blah blah !!!

ChickOctober 29th 2008.

mark m; sellin coke/lemonade etc out of a gun rather than a bottle is hardly a 'scam' is it? If someone wants vokda & coke, what are you supposed to do? Charge 50p for the coke from a gun or £1.50 for half of the bottle?

ChickOctober 29th 2008.

mark m; sellin coke/lemonade etc out of a gun rather than a bottle is hardly a 'scam' is it? If someone wants vokda & coke, what are you supposed to do? Charge 50p for the coke from a gun or £1.50 for half of the bottle?

mark mOctober 29th 2008.

the mark up on syrup based cokes etc is huge. Average cost less than 10p of syrup to make a pint of coke. With cordials it is even less. My comment was based on the huge margin that seems to be acceptable to most pubs.

ScottieOctober 29th 2008.

The Chinese restaurant in the Trafford centre tried charged us 50p each for a party of 10 of us - putting £5 on the bill - we'd already paid for a full round of drinks as well! We'll never return.

RobertOctober 29th 2008.

I think it's a nice gesture to give free water and creates a good impression. But I can see why the all you can eat for £5.95 places won't do it.

Ali McGowanOctober 29th 2008.

I've never been charged for tap water in a restaurant, ever. If somewhere ever did tell me there was a charge, I'd set the place on fire [but I'd finish my meal first, and pay for it, obviously. I am not complete heartless].

GrahamOctober 29th 2008.

Consider the facts though.. the waiter has to;1) Take the order from the cheapskate customer2) Walk to the kitchen.3) Walk to the shelf with the glasses on.4) Walk over to the tap.5) Turn the tap on.6) Watch as the glass fills with water.7) Turn the tap off.8) Put the glass on a tray.9) Take the tray out to the waiting customer.10) return to whatever he was doing before.You're talking about BIG sacrifices here and you want them to do it for free??! You all live in Cloud Cuckoo Land... Next you'll be wanting the plastic forks at the chippy for free!!

emma graceOctober 29th 2008.

Actually I prefer the wooden forks at the chippy...much more old school

GrahamOctober 29th 2008.

Eating chips with bits of old mushed up, re-formed tree? What kind of madness is this??!!

EdOctober 29th 2008.

Several years ago, a friend of mine was scouting out venues for a Real Ale Society Christmas do. He arrived at one of the prime candidate pubs and asked for a glass of water. The barman served the drink and asked for 50p. My friend objected to paying for tap-water, and the barman replied 'I'm not charging you for the water, I'm charging youfor the ice'. My friend replied 'I didn't ask for ice', took the ice out of the drink and put it on the bar, drank the water and left.

GrahamOctober 29th 2008.

What would have been better would have been for your friend to wait in silence until the ice had melted.. meaning an agonising 40 minute wait by the bar man for the 50p. Then your mate coulda gone "What ice?", or even better... wait until the ice and water have evaporated from the glass after about 8 weeks... then he coulda asked for his money back. By which time the bar man will have forgotten that the man had not paid for the drink. Your friend woulda made 50p pure profit!! An infinite profit margin! Suck on that Drragons Den! You laughed at my proposal... but i'm the one with the profit now! Stick that in your invisible pipe and smoke it Peter Jones!

Ali McGowanOctober 29th 2008.

Ah, Peter Jones. The tallest man in the history of the DD. Yet he is not as tall as the Peter Jones department store in Sloane Square, which must make him feel woefully inadequate, the poor man.

rosieOctober 29th 2008.

water,or anything that you might eat/drink in a restaurant,is never free.Some places just don't bill you for it seperately.As with "free" bread etc the eaterie has to cover its costs and charges you a little more to swallow any losses.

Warburtons of BoltonOctober 29th 2008.

As the best bread maker in Greater Manchester or indeed the universe, we are on a mission to make bread free to the world. How will we fund this? We propose a Bread Tax. Gordon Brown uses Stealth Taxes to pay for stealth bombers and the like and we have asked him to introduce a new Bread Tax. He will get to keep some of the dough [see what we did there] and we will keep the rest. He hasn't worked out how to implement the Bread Tax but said 'we'll think of something. I'll get David Milliband to suggest it, to ruin his reputation once and for all'. So, you'll soon have a wonderful selection of Bolton-made bread available free at every restaurant in the city.

GrahamOctober 29th 2008.

I hate swallowing losses. Unless they're pan-fried in extra virgin olive oil, with a bit of garlic, some nutmeg, oregano... Mmmmm. Loss perfection!

Warburtons of BoltonOctober 29th 2008.

As the best bread maker in Greater Manchester or indeed the universe, we are on a mission to make bread free to the world. How will we fund this? We propose a Bread Tax. Gordon Brown uses Stealth Taxes to pay for stealth bombers and the like and we have asked him to introduce a new Bread Tax. He will get to keep some of the dough [see what we did there] and we will keep the rest. He hasn't worked out how to implement the Bread Tax but said 'we'll think of something. I'll get David Milliband to suggest it, to ruin his reputation once and for all'. So, you'll soon have a wonderful selection of Bolton-made bread available free at every restaurant in the city.

Tech OfficerOctober 29th 2008.

In Scotland the only organisations allowed to sell water are Scottish Water and a few Port authorities are allowed to resell to ships. British rail does its own thing as they are not covered by the water Bye Laws, although they have to buy the water from ScotWat in the first place. At 70p/thousand litres (1 cubic Metre/1 metric ton)how much profit is that if a restaurant charges 50p a glass, even allowing for service.

scoteeeOctober 29th 2008.

My Dad is scottish and he nearly dropped a pound coin once..he bent over that fast to pick it up it hit him on the back of the head!!

AquaOctober 29th 2008.

Ever since I've lived in Manchester (6 years, 3 different locations) I've always paid a set rate for water. If this is the same for restaurants then it seems a bit petty to charge their customers for tap water as they pay the same amount no matter how much they use. Perhaps restaurants are on meters though? does anyone know?

ChickOctober 29th 2008.

Aqua; I'm on a metre

FloOctober 29th 2008.

Zizzi in Spinningfield refused us tap water when we asked. They said they only served bottled water, and proceeded to bring out about 4 diddy ones and charged us nearly £3 each for them.

BunnyOctober 29th 2008.

Absolutely! I would never return to a resaurant that charged me for tap water...

LozOctober 29th 2008.

After just having returned from traveling round america where iced water is served in most restuarants and, diners and cafes BEFORE you even sit down at your table, it is strange to me that you even have to ask for it in this country! it should be as normal as having a knife, fork and spoon on your table!.....Therefore free!

GrahamOctober 29th 2008.

Interesting if the MEN had a campaign - I'm not sure you can get a 'glass' of water at the MEN Arena - just expensive bottled water......

PaulOctober 29th 2008.

If restaurants want to cut their own throats let them

Dr JonesOctober 29th 2008.

I live in India House and the tap water is truly vile, worst tasting water ever, some of the restaurants(in the city centre) have pretty much the same supply, so think I would stick to bottled water anyway. Cannot fathom ever haing to pay for a glass of water in a restaurant, when it is abundantly clear that wine has a mark up of over 100%....and we pay for that surely a punter can have a free glass of tap water?!

seabeeOctober 29th 2008.

dr jones everyone knows that the water supply to india house is not only connected to the river medlock but also to the sewer system so you have been taking the piss literally mate.as for the paying for water in restaurants i usaully drink from the toilet bowl it has a lemmon flavour i find

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