Charging for Hot Water at Restaurants – Okay or Not Okay?

bridges restaurant

After my friends ran the Sun Run this morning, we went for a group lunch at Bridges Restaurant (Bistro & Bar) on Granville Island.  We had a good time with good company, service was fine, food was alright, view was lovely!  Everyone ordered brunch/lunch and most of us had coffee, caesars or beers with our meal.  I had a hot water with my meal.

When the bill came, to my surprise, I was charged $2 for the hot water I had ordered!  I asked our server about it and he said “yeah, that’s just the way it is…” Not wanting to make a scene, we paid our $60+ bill for two and left.

I left the restaurant quite frustrated and annoyed because I felt like we were being nickle and dimed as customers. My frustration doesn’t come from the actual dollar amount because an additional $2 on top of a $60+ bill between my boyfriend and I is not significant. It comes from the fact that Bridges wanted to milk every penny possible from their customers by charging for something which most restaurants would gladly provide as freely as ice water.  Why is cold or ice water free, but they can arbitrarily put a $2 price tag on hot water?  By the way, this wasn’t bottled water, or tea. I didn’t even get a lemon with it!

When I shared my experience through Twitter, I received a multitude of support and shared opinions of disbelief.  Below are some snippets of responses and RTs I received through Twitter:

  • $2?  That’s crazy and not good for business!
  • #overpriced
  • wow really?! That’s ridiculous!
  • That would leave me furious. It isn’t if you sat there and had JUST water
  • that irks me even more, when servers aren’t upfront about extra charges
  • Thats outraegeous!

I would estimate that 19 out of 20 people I talked to afterwards shared my opinion that it was a bit “odd” and “not okay” of the restaurant to do so – especially not letting you know upfront there was an unexpected charge.  It’s not like I sat there and ate nothing. Our entire table had ordered full meals with drinks and gladly paid the auto-gratuity for our party of 8.

Anyway, Bridges got my $2 but will they get my return patronage?  There are plenty of other restaurants in Vancouver who have a similar view of False Creek and the way I felt I was nickel and dimed at Bridges does not seem like an inviting reason for me to return.

By the way, Bridges is not the only restaurant to do this. La Terrazza in Yaletown charged $1 for hot water, on top of a $100+ meal for two people.

What are your thoughts? Should restaurants be charging for hot water? Have you had a similar experience?


18 Responses

  1. yes, absolutely. Hot water is time consuming, inefficient, and overall irritating for service staff. Just because you ordered a full meal does not mean that most people do and especially during events like dine out, where patrons are getting an immense discount on their meal, charging for hot water is imperative.

  2. my friend and I went to Wildebeest and they charge $1 for regular water or $1 for their carbonated water.

    The waitress said something along the lines of all their water is run through a water filter system in house and carbonated in house and the dollar goes towards (I can’t remember exactly but) “paying for the filtration system” …. I wouldn’t have mind just having good ol regular tap water as it’s good enough for me at home!

  3. Thank you for sharing your thoughts Vanessa, we’d love to address this concern.

    The $2 fee is in place due to most customers expecting lemon wedges, honey, sugar and in many cases bringing their own tea bags in (it happens more often than not). Many restaurants have the same fee put in place for the same reasons.

    We agree that $2 for JUST ordering hot water and not asking for any sides is unfair. Sometimes it is just too hard to monitor when it is busy. We have asked our servers to keep an eye on this and try to only charge those who are in need of additions to their hot water. Our sincerest apologies for the inconvenience and we hope it won’t keep you away. Our sunny patio would love to have you back!

    ~The Bridges Team

  4. A group of us went to a buffet place in Bellingham. We had to pay for our meals before entering the restaurant. We were asked if we wanted to purchase a beverage. Most of us did purchase one; however, this one guy in our group did not.

    During the meal, he went and helped himself to a cup of hot water and took out a tea bag from his pocket. He let the tea bag steep for a while and then added milk and sugar (the restaurant’s). He only had a couple of sips when the manager came over and took his cup of tea away because he hadn’t paid for a beverage.

    Perhaps that is why some restaurants charge for hot water?

    1. Yikes! I agree that a restaurant’s hospitality can only go so far – Bridges mentioned that they had prior experiences of people asking for lemon, honey or bringing their own tea bags, which is why they put the $2 charge in place.

  5. I don’t think that the people that pay a lot of money for a meal and then get charged for hot water is in the best interest of the business. Sure, maybe some customers (maybe many) bring in their own tea bags and ask for lemon or honey, but I’m sure that is a small percentage compared to the rest of the patrons who do not take advantage of this service. It seems as if Bridges is penalizing true patrons just because of a few cheap ones. What’s next? Charging for all condiments used? Patrons are not going to think “oh, this charge is to cover the cost of ___________ and ___________”… they’re going to think “you’re seriously going to charge me for hot water after I just spent ______________?” They will just leave thinking that their patronage is not valued.

    As for the first comment regarding dine out, this was not a dine out situation. She was not getting a discount and was paying the full amount. Even if she was getting a discount, patrons should all be treated the same. I think if your restaurant must charge to compensate for events like Dine Out, then perhaps they shouldn’t be participating in these events. It’s a fundraising event for a cause, not the restaurant.

    By the way, the last two times I was at Bridges, I had to wait an hour to get a seat and my order was wrong both times. I’m a local and go by there all the time. I barely go in anymore due to long waits and less than stellar service. The food is good, but not good enough to compensate. I now only go if there’s a birthday or something. I will not be ordering hot water! lol.

  6. Even after reading Bridges comment, I still find this really hard to swallow. It’s frankly, just BS and I definitely won’t be going there. Since when should we, as patrons spending our hard-earned money, feel so condescended to by a restaurant that is “inconvenienced” to serve hot water with *gasp* a side of lemon or honey!? I didn’t realize either of those were such expensive commodities and frankly most places I’ve been to don’t even give you that anyways.

    Also, who are these “many” restaurants that Bridges is citing? I always order hot water and I never have gotten charged for it.

    I would say a good compromise is to not serve the hot water with anything and if a customer does request it, make the charge something a little less insulting than $2.

  7. Christina is spot on.

    Even if these people are asking for honey and milk, that justifies a $2 charge? I find Bridges response just as ridiculous. It’s a major turn off for a restaurant to nickel and dime their patrons – it’s reason enough to never return to a place that has this arbitrary fee for a human right.

    I wonder if they also charge you if you use the bathroom more than once? I mean, how else are they expected to cover the cost of the hand soap?

  8. Honestly, I think restaurants have their method of charging. Personally, their justifications is unacceptable. But then again, what can we (as individual customers) do? I remember going the restaurant with the lobster logo on Robson (totally forgot the name) and they charged $10 for water!

    Initially we were surprised it came in a tall glass jar. When the bill came, we were amazed being charged. They say it was something like pure from the mountains or something. Aren’t all water FROM THE MOUNTAINS?! We ended up paying and left.

    In response to Christina’s comment, its not “CHEAP” per say. There are some individuals who needs hot water because of health issues. Personally, I need hot water in certain cases when I have headaches to soothe the pain. So they are not “taking advantage” but more so its their preference than ice cold tap water.

  9. I think being charged $2 for hot water is ridiculous, no matter what excuse the restaurant gives. The thing that bugs me the most about this situation is the fact that the server wasn’t upfront about the extra charge. When you ask for water, hot or cold, you don’t expect to be charged for it. If there is an additional charge, they should be transparency from the beginning. No one likes to see extra charges on their bill.

    I don’t think the extra $2 is the issue here; when someone is willing to dish out $60 for a meal for two, that $2 really isn’t going to break the bank. It’s a matter or principle.

    1. Yup, you got it. It’s a matter of principle rather than the actual dollar amount. And yes, our lunch was around $60 for two people: salad, quesadilla, two beers and one hot water + tax & gratuity 🙂

  10. I have worked in the hospitality industry for over 10 years. And as a server, I can’t tell you how frustrating it is when customers come in to split a salad and bring their own tea bag in for the hot water. A server is still working just as hard to serve that table as they would be a couple ordering full meals… but the tip obviously won’t be as nice because the total bill is a fraction of the cost. And now that the minimum wage for servers is lower, if we don’t receive a decent tip it effects how many bills we can pay that month.

    I agree that charging $2 for only a pot of hot water is silly and that the customer should have been told ahead of time by the server. It could have been a new server who just didn’t want to stir the pot… the hot water pot, that is! Ha!

    Sounds like Bridges is actually going to change things up and I’m surprised they even got in on a “debate” about hot water. I know my workplace wouldn’t give 2 cents!

  11. Totally agree with the charge. I have witnessed entire tables of guests at restaurants asking for hot water with lemon and honey. Absolutely fine if that is your choice of beverage, for health, digestion, ‘detox’ whatever – but you should be charged. Hot water is a pain for servers to provide, as much a pain as tea- which carries a charge. Accompanied by hot water and lemon (which many ask for) makes it an expense that needs to be accounted for. Perhaps less of a charge without lemon and honey would be in order, but honestly, if the dollar is a problem maybe one shouldn’t eat out (Not meaning that is you, OP, but speaking for others..) Agreed that the guest should be informed of the charge so as not to feel accosted when the bill comes.

    This has also become a mainstream request- when it was a rarity- I’m sure the restaurants wouldn’t think twice about charging. It is because it is so common that they have had to program the charge.

  12. I believe 2$ for a pot of hot water is reasonable (although I do think there should have been some sort of disclaimer on the menu or from the server to inform you of the charge), and here’s why:

    prices of anything in a restaurant are marked up because of overhead costs and wages. although a pot of hot water costs nothing (other than the negligible amount of $$ spent on electricity to heat the water) – it takes about as long to prepare as many other drinks – ALL of which have large mark ups because of the various costs put into being waited on at a restaurant.

    a glass of fountain pop costs next to the same as a pot of hot water but it is charged for because of various other costs incurred through the process of serving it. seems strange in a country where water is free, but you are dining in a restaurant where you are being served and that is what you are paying for, not just the items you are consuming.

    i’m surprised and sort of disappointed that Bridges response to this thread doesn’t seem to do much more than shirk responsibility. there would be less of a gap in understanding between those working in the service industry, and the patrons that they serve.

  13. Side note… A great way to have every server secretly hate you is to order hot water and lemon. This doesn’t seem like a big deal to a patron right? How hard can it be to put hot water in a cup with lemon and not get paid for it while 5 other tables are expecting excellent service.

    Most people don’t realize that every time you complain to a manager you could be getting someone fired. For a reasons as simple as a bad day or they aren’t getting the support they deserve. I urge you to be refreshing if you encounter a problem in a restaurant. Realize like any company it’s up to management to ensure that staff are set up for success. Chances are if you have an issue it may be due to poor management and not the person serving you.

    At least imagine walking a mile in their shoes before throwing someone under the bus.


    A former manager and server….

  14. I disagree – what is the difference I. Cost to a restaurant from serving coffee or tea vs. providing a cut they have to wash, rendering service, cream etc. my wife orders it all
    The time – ‘pat do not charge, but the only difference from a cup of coffee is probably 10 cents worth of coffee. She just got some at Applebys so we will
    See if they charge for it. I Hoogled this article because she did not believe anyone barged for it.

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