Restaurants from Miami to Sweden are starting to charge for water, and for many it’s a trend that’s been a long time coming. As the saying goes there’s no such thing as a free lunch—turns out that’s true for water, too.
One estimate puts a restaurant’s actual cost for each “free” glass of water at $1.08 per glass. How did they come up with that number? For starters, by considering the labor required to order, inventory, fill, and wash a glass for each guest. Next by adding up the soap, dishwasher rental or depreciation, heat, gas, and, of course, the water—both the hot water to clean the glass and the cold water to fill it. Finally, by factoring in replacement charges for glass breakage.
We haven’t even mentioned the increased labor from refills, plus the time it takes staff away from profitable activities. Taken together, it’s easy to see why offering free water isn’t as truly free as patrons might think.
There are steps restaurants can take to turn the tide of free water. Post notices indicating that water will only be provided upon request. One study demonstrated that 52% of guests will forego water—already a significant cost savings. Better yet, turn a money loser into a moneymaker and start charging for water. It’s easy! Simply upgrade to a foodservice-quality, still water or sparkling water dispensing system that doubles as a chiller — think no ice (more cost savings) — and includes modern filtration science. Your new water menu should include some creative recipes using fresh fruit and/or simple syrups that, when blended with your carbonated water, are sure to win new converts.