April 25, 2008

Why is a glass of water, at a restaurant, ‘free’?

Why is a glass of water, at a restaurant, ‘free’?
When ones goes to a restaurant (except during a drought) one gets a glass of water with ice on the table, much like the silverware and napkins. Yet, if a glass of ice tea or soda is ordered then bill increases. However, the cost difference, to the restaurant, is only cents different. Why doesn’t the restaurant give free tea or soda? Why does it give the water?
Waters ‘free’ in my house. The is no usage charge when I drink for a public fountain or a private firms water. Yet there is a real cost to water: however many cents per gallon. A small fee, but a fee none the less. This then begs the question; is every item on the menu already built with the cost of water into it? Each item does have the cost to produce the item, clean the dish and serve that ‘free’ glass of water. But, if I walk into the restaurant and order a muffin, does the muffin have the whole cost of the glass of water served to me? If so then what if I order a muffin and a sandwich. Each item has the cost of the ‘free’ glass of water built into the price, but if I only drink one glass of water I am paying not to drink another glass of water.
Instead of allowing me to decide if I want to pay for my glass of water they are already charging me for it. I don’t get my money back if I refuse the glass of water either. This would set up an incentive for each person to then drink as much water as possible because the cost of consumption is already in the price of the meal (until saturation point). Why stop at water?
Why don’t restaurants hand out ‘free’ soda or tea to the customers? This, as far as I can tell, is only because of rational ignorance and perceived value/savings. Well waters ‘free’ so it must not be as good as soda or tea, therefore the restaurant can charge a much higher differentiated price for the two items.
Next time you enter a restaurant remember that everything you order has another product attached to it, that ‘free’ glass of water.

1 comment:

Alan C. Earing said...

Dude, I'm now hella thirsty!

Having worked in restaurants, I've been told to not give water unless specifically asked for it! Then, I see in the back the frozen shrimp or whatever seafood is being thawed under running water... the process takes hours! As well, serving utensils are often left under constantly running water.

Then, knowing that the water usage of the state of Colorado is mostly attributed to agriculture (I'm talking over 85%), I don't understand the importance of household limitation (accounting for roughly 5% of the usage)!

Perhaps it's because water is a government monopoly and thus subject to government failures...

Dude, I'm STILL thirsty!