Are restaurant soda refills free?

Discussion in 'Community Discussion' started by senseless, Sep 14, 2016.

  1. senseless macrumors 68000

    senseless

    Joined:
    Apr 23, 2008
    Location:
    Pennsylvania, USA
    #1
    I was at a Panera Bread with a co-worker who refilled his soda at the self serve kiosk. He said that this was acceptable, but I wonder about that. If there isn't a sign that says "free refills", what is the general policy in US restaurants? And why would they sell 3 different sizes when you can just buy the small and keep refilling it?
     
  2. MechaSpanky macrumors 6502

    MechaSpanky

    Joined:
    Sep 11, 2007
    #2
    Most restaurants in the US offer "free refills" especially if it is a self-serve style. Unless there is a sign saying "no free refills" I would just assume that refills are free. Normally if a restaurant doesn't offer free refills then they don't have a self-serve system.

    Why they sell 3 sizes is a bit of a mystery to many but probably the reasoning behind it would be for orders that are to go. In that case the size is more relevant but they offer it for customers who are eating there as well (like for children or older people who maybe don't want or need such a big size). When I lived in America, I had many foreign friends who ask me a similar question "Who would pay more for a large when you can buy a small for a lower price and then just refill it as much as you want?" It is interesting to think about it. I would guess that it is also in the restaurants best interest to offer different sizes, if they didn't people would complain.
     
  3. iLog.Genius macrumors 601

    iLog.Genius

    Joined:
    Feb 24, 2009
    Location:
    Toronto, Ontario
    #3
    Generally if it's self-serve or if the eatery uses a fountain dispenser, refills are free. I have never gone to a place that uses any of those that weren't free. The option for sizes are more for those ordering for take out or drive-thru.
     
  4. senseless thread starter macrumors 68000

    senseless

    Joined:
    Apr 23, 2008
    Location:
    Pennsylvania, USA
    #4
    I should add we were getting our meals to go. Rather than buy a large soda, he got a small, drank it and filled it again.
     
  5. bunnspecial macrumors 603

    bunnspecial

    Joined:
    May 3, 2014
    Location:
    Kentucky
    #5
    As said, free refill are normal in US restaurants and can be expected unless stated otherwise.

    I will also say that as a general rule, it's not frowned upon to refill a drink while waiting on a take-out order. Even in places without a self-serve machine, I've had employees ask me if I wanted my cup refilled "before I left" since in a take-out order they generally give you your drink while waiting on your order to be ready.

    The only thing frowned upon is re-entering a restaurant after you've left for a refill.
     
  6. MICHAELSD macrumors 68040

    MICHAELSD

    Joined:
    Jul 13, 2008
    Location:
    NJ
    #6
    Nicer restaurants tend to charge per soda, but otherwise chains and places with a self-service fountain provide free refills 99% of the time.
     
  7. Mac'nCheese macrumors 68030

    Mac'nCheese

    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2010
    #7
    I'm sure management knows people do this and don't care. Like someone already posted, they only care if you leave and bring it back the next day for more.
     
  8. ActionableMango macrumors G3

    ActionableMango

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2010
    #8
    The general rule is free refills for fountain soda unless stated otherwise. I don't think self-serve fountains have anything to do with this...even server-supplied fountain soda refills are almost always free in the USA.

    Of course there are exceptions. I've seen some smaller, family-run places have a little cup or jar near the fountain and a sign saying "refills 25 cents" or whatnot. These tend to be the low-price joints and I assume they have razor-thin margins.
     
  9. senseless thread starter macrumors 68000

    senseless

    Joined:
    Apr 23, 2008
    Location:
    Pennsylvania, USA
    #9
    I wonder if this will hold true as more cities impose per ounce soda taxes, like Philadelphia.
     
  10. ActionableMango macrumors G3

    ActionableMango

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2010
    #10
    Charging per refill adds to the cost and complexity of running the restaurant. It increases lines and wait times. It reduces customer satisfaction. In order to prevent stolen refills, you'd have to move the fountain behind the counter. This reduces kitchen space and increases labor.

    So if I owned a restaurant, I'd still have free refills. I'd just increase the initial price of the soda to cover whatever the average cost of the tax would be.
     
  11. jknight8907 macrumors 6502a

    jknight8907

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2004
    Location:
    Hudson Valley NY
    #11
    It's fairly common here in upstate NY to have no free refills at the mom-and-pop type restaurants, especially pizza places. But the other 99% of the country, it's all you can drink.
     
  12. Tomorrow macrumors 604

    Tomorrow

    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2008
    Location:
    Always a day away
    #12
    The only restaurants I've ever seen that charge for refills are ones that serve cans or bottles.

    For drinks like milk, juice, etc. it's a little more hit-or-miss with free refills, but coffee, tea, and fountain sodas are generally free to refill everywhere.
     

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