There’s no such thing as a “free” glass of water. In fact, according to industry reports, the typical glass of regular tap water can cost up to $1.08 per serving. How? The glass has to be ordered, inventoried, filled and washed for each guest – up go labor costs. When a glass breaks, it must be replaced. The cost of dishwasher soap, dishwasher rental or depreciation, heat, gas and water – hot water to clean the glass and cold water to fill it – all add to the cost, too. The ice-cube machine runs all day and the air around it must be ventilated – up go the water and electric bills. Finally, don’t forget…the guest is likely to ask for ‘extra lemons’ and then use a few sugar (or sugar substitute) packets and make their own lemonade. Ouch!

It stands to reason, then, if you haven’t correctly factored the cost of a glass of water into your entree price, you’re losing serious bucks per day. Think about all those glasses of water on each table. It’s like placing a dollar bill next to each guest’s napkin. Share this information with your staff so they understand free water isn’t free.

Consider making it a policy never to have water on the tables unless a guest asks for it. According to restaurant surveys, only 48 percent of guests at tables with table tents stating “In order to conserve the earth’s natural resources, we serve water by request only” on their tables, went ahead and asked for tap water. You’ll have saved about half the costs of those free glasses of water! In addition, think of the labor efficiencies when servers or service assistants are not having to constantly refill water glasses. If you do provide water to everyone, perhaps put a half-carafe of water on the table to at least save some of the labor required to refill glasses and potential complaints of ‘my water glass wasn’t refilled promptly!’

The Bottom Line

73,000 guests a year x 52 percent not asking for plain water = 37,960 persons not asking for water x $1.08 per “free glass of water” = $40,996.80 saved.


Excerpted from Pump Up Your Profits: 52 Cost-Saving Ideas to Build Your Bottom Line. Get more ideas here!