Anonymous asked in Politics & GovernmentLaw & Ethics · 9 years ago

Can i charge for tap water at my restaurant when i dont charge for service charge?

Hi people i just wanted to know as im running a little cafe im charging customers for tap water.... wait for it! yes i am main reason for this is because i DONT charge service charge at all. my prices for food is very very reasonable many have told me its cheap. so im stuck pondering whether its right to do so or not now. i'v learned that iv had to mention this on my drinks menu due to food standard agencys otherwise i could get prosecuted for not doing so.

As we all know businesses pay for water rates as soon as u open a tap the meter runs and we pay for that. we have to clean the glasses hence using more water. and to wash the glasses we use our electrical machines in order to do so. So can anyone tell me if im still in the wrong doing so?

many thanks to your comments


Thank you to some of your grown up comments and to the ones who arent im sorry i failed to impress you. if a table of 7 people came in and ordered 7 glasses of tap water and then wanted them refilled; are u telling me i should gladly refill and not have service charge on the bill? if your answer is yes then so be it. and actually im business is running very well at the moment thank Q very much to some of your immature answers.

Update 2:

sorry need to re-phase "i should gladly refill and not charge for it?"

14 Answers

  • 9 years ago
    Best answer

    It sounds like you are seeking closing the cafe, no one will ever return if you do this.

    It is not legal in the US, you have to serve water free if they are ordering anything else. I do not know if it is legal in the UK, but it would certainly be very poor business.

  • 9 years ago

    Legally, you're not doing anything wrong. Ethically, you might be.

    You don't have a service charge, but nor does any other cafe I've ever been to. Even restaurants only rarely have a service charge, and often it's only for large groups. Just because you don't charge service charge doesn't make it ok to charge for tap water.

    How many people drink tap water? Is it half the people who come into the place, or very few people? Are you actually loosing money because of this? If most people want and pay for other drinks, then it's a bit stingy to ask those that do have tap water to pay. After all, it's costing you a couple of pence at most, and you'll probably get that back in tips, or the money you make on selling them other food and drinks.

    Personally I think it's wrong to charge for tap water - there's just no need. Legally you can do whatever you want - you're customers might not be too happy though.

  • 9 years ago

    I would look at this slightly differently. Provide tap water for free, and as someone mentioned make it special, add a slice of lemon, ice, so on. To recoup the cost of the water, and as you mentioned that your prices are very reasonable, look at your highest selling items and increase the price slightly (just a few pence should make up the difference if not more if you do this on your top three or four sellers).

    Customers always appreciate something for nothing, and although tap water costs you money, it's not the best image from a perception point of view in my opinion.

    As for service charges, they are always optional, and again, customers prefer to tip for good service than be forced to, and they can always refuse to pay the service charge which leaves you right back where you started, with an annoyed customer on top of it all!

    Best of luck, hope things keep going well!

    Source(s): Restaurant Consultant -
  • Tavy
    Lv 7
    9 years ago

    GOOD FOR YOU. I had a cafe in the UK and charged for tap water. As you know our business water is metered and we spend more money on washing the glasses. It is NOT illegal in the Uk and many catering business's do it. I would always provide free water for people taking medication, but if they sit at my tables they have to pay for it. You do not have to put it on your menu, if people ask for tap water you just say'certainly but we do charge for it'. You will not be prosecuted for anything as in british law you are not doing anything wrong. I did not loose any trade by refusing to give free drinks.

    Source(s): retired catering business owner UK
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  • 9 years ago

    It's a common misconception that restaurants can't charge for tap water.

    In fact they CAN.

    According to this well known lawyer's website: "Restaurants don't have to provide tap water to the public but if they do they may charge for it since the provision of any water includes an element of service, such as pouring the water into a jug and/or glass and cleaning the jug and/or glass. It is illegal for a restaurant to pass tap water off as bottled water under the Trade Descriptions Act."

    That said such a charge will not do your reputation any good at all. Word will quickly spread that your establishment is so mean that it charges for tap water, whereas most of your competitors will not.

  • 9 years ago

    In most states, charging for tap water is actually illegal (you'd better check with your state and local codes), and could cause your business to close if you persist. You are allowed to charge for to-go cups, but not the practically free contents. A cup of water costs your business less than 1/10 of a penny.

    If I was ever charged for tap water, I'd never return to the cafe, ever. That is greed to the extreme.

    Few restaurants offer free bread anymore, unless high-end. Bread actually costs real money, and the waste is huge.

  • ?
    Lv 5
    9 years ago

    Firstly I would like to know how many times you have had 7 people enter your cafe and asked for water and then asked you for a refill. I think your splitting hairs. and trying to justify your point.

    If you wish to charge for water of any kind then this must be displayed either on your menu or on a sign that is visible to all customers. selling tap water is not illegal and you are entitled to charge for this, but just think about how much you will make compared to what you will loose in lost customers.

  • 9 years ago

    I'll give you the business answer - don't try and make money on small items otherwise your place will be branded as grabbing. Make customers feel they are getting something for nothing. Even put a slice of lemon in the tap water and still refrain from charging. You will get a good name.

  • 9 years ago

    It seems like a good way to ruin a reputation. People talk about unique things at cafes, and charging for tap water is certainly unique, and not in a good way.

    If your choices are between charging a service charge, which everyone does, or charging for tap water, which no one does, you'd be better off with the service charge.

  • Anonymous
    9 years ago

    I would not any restaurant that charges extra for bread I well not go back it has nothing to do with the money it's just cheap same in a bar I order a drink and its not busy and they ask me to pay as they serve it I never go back

  • 9 years ago

    Service charge should be an OPTIONAL charge. It's up to the customer to decide if the service received warrants a tip. As for charging for tap water, it's illegal. You can refuse to serve tap water on the grounds of "Health & Safety" and charge for bottled water, which is what low life establishments charge. Offering water free of charge is something a restaurant/cafe/bar should do for it's customers as it appreciates it customers and perhaps they want a glass of water with their meal or as their last drink. I think you know what i'm saying if you want repeat custom/happy customers

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