August 08, 2004

Random Regional Question

When I was in Georgia, I learned that all the restaurants (including fast food establishments) provided free refills on non-alcoholic drinks. People would often take their cup back to the counter before they left to fill it up for the road. Is that the same in other states? That is not the case in NY.

Posted by Karol at August 8, 2004 06:53 PM | TrackBack
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Here in Florida, it's primarily only fast food type restaurants.

Posted by: Rick at August 8, 2004 06:59 PM

I have found that to be the case in EVERY place outside of New York. We know that a NY waiter would look at you sideways if you expected free refills!

Posted by: Thomas at August 8, 2004 07:16 PM

it is that way in Ar, Tn, and LA in fast food places.

Actually most of the fast food places i eat at, you can get your own drinks instead of having to go to the counter and ask (you can get as much as you want as often as you want).

Also i don't know if the have Mcalisters in Georgia (a Miss sandwich place), very large glasses of sweet tea (i normally go through two while i am there, and one for road)

Posted by: cube at August 8, 2004 07:29 PM

In texas, its like that pretty much everywhere

Posted by: Vince at August 9, 2004 02:23 AM

This is a topic I know well.

In 1986 I moved to Richmond, VA from Washington, DC and found that they had this crazy free refill policy everywhere. I had never heard of such a crazy thing, but apparently people in Richmond were very familliar with the concept.

By the time I moved back to DC in 1991 it had started to take root there. Within a year or so, and certainly by 1993, most everywhere I went to eat had this policy. There are still one or two hold outs, but for the most part if the place has a fountain for soda, refills are free.

There are some caveats to this though, specialty drinks usually aren't covered, like a place that's known for their tea or lemonade. And prices of drinks went up substantially when this policy was being put into place. I expect that for what they charge these days for a soda, you'd have to get 20 or so refills before it would start hitting their bottom line, and I'm sure the average is more like 2 or 3.

Posted by: Kearns at August 9, 2004 06:36 AM

I find that to be true of most of the South. I lived in North Carolina for 18 years and it was true almost everywhere there. But then, we drink more in the South. I think it's a cultural thing.

Posted by: Dorian at August 9, 2004 07:08 AM

Yup. Mostly in fast food places, but you can get a refill in most places if you just ask. Oh, for your research I am in Maryland.

Posted by: Courtney at August 9, 2004 09:07 AM

I remember, pre 9/11, the was a Miami Subs/Arthur Treacher's on the south side of Liberty, across for the WTC, that had this.

Out on Long Island a lot of the fast food places offer this as well.

Posted by: Sean at August 9, 2004 10:57 AM

I can't claim to have been all over America, but refills seems to be the case up and down the East Coast (except for NY), in the Pacific Northwest, and in the South, particularly when it comes to iced tea.

By the way, this is my first visit here, and I have been wandering about a bit. I like what I've seen, though I wonder why you came out. Maybe you could elaborate sometime, or point me to the entry where you already have.

Posted by: Mr. E. at August 9, 2004 11:43 AM

I don't think it's a grand conspiracy or anything regional. As people point out here, the examples everywhere tend to be at fast-food places.

As far as restaurants go. Yes. A few in the south do, but most, in my experience (of which I have buckets), don't. It's a restaurant, not a charity. And while soda is cheap and therefore easy to give away, it's also ... well, cheap ... and a great place to pull in some profit by charging a buck or two for every glass.

The fast-food thing is probably a matter of logistics. I work in Midtown. The McD's, Wendy's and Burger Kings in the area do NOT have self-serve (and therefore free refills). But this is most likely due to the insane volume of business at lunch and, perhaps, to the homeless population. You can imagine there would have to be someone just to police the soda fountains to a) make sure the lines moved b) keep punk-ass candy-selling teens from 'stealing' soda and c) keep homeless people from 'stealing' soda and or ice and, in the process, ruining the dining experience for your guests. Now, the Subway on 45th and 3rd has the self-serve soda. But Subway, in a town where you can get much better sandwiches for better prices practically anywhere, does a lot less business. And STILL, there's usually some back-up at the soda fountain during lunch.

(By the way, if you want to see perfect examples of how a fast-food line should be run and how one shouldn't be run, go to the Wendy's and McD's on Lexington, right across from Grand Central. Wendy's has it down to a science. And McD's? Well, it's about as messy as their bathrooms)

Posted by: ken at August 9, 2004 11:49 AM

Yes Karol, FREE-REFILLS is a socially accepted practice in all of Southern California, as well as Arizona. So much to the point that when tourists from these areas come to New York City, they spend well over $50 on the bar tab, at places like Tavern on the Green cause they want refills on sodas & just assume it's free. (said situation happened in May of this year to my family) Also, take a look into the drive-in chain SONIC. I recall from college in AZ, they have like Nickle Tuesdays or Wednesdays, where 52 oz sodas are a mere nickle. & free refills. Thus, people would buy a cup & travel BACK to the Sonic for refills throughout the day.

Soda addiction is rampant. I'm a recovering addict myself. Ken, I enjoyed your comment. These are all issues, I have thought of myself.

Posted by: Vanessa at August 9, 2004 01:43 PM

It's that way in fast food restaurants in Colorado.

Posted by: Bond Girl at August 9, 2004 03:15 PM

Only at cheap places around here. Which sucks if you're a soda snob like me and won't drink carbonation unless it's Pellegrino, or Perrier, or Orangina or something (and yes I know Orangina is made by Pellegrino, but it IS different).

Posted by: candace at August 9, 2004 04:11 PM


Had no problems getting a refill in Boston while visiting you there

Posted by: supersexy29 at August 9, 2004 04:15 PM

I refuse to go to places that don't give free refills, though I mainly drink water these days.

Posted by: Drew at August 9, 2004 04:32 PM

Oh Karol, it's one of the many things I miss about the ATL...

Let's do it again some time


Posted by: Rachel at August 9, 2004 07:29 PM

I'd like to restate, it's not just fast food places where you fill your own.

Any national chain sit-down casual place from TGI Friday's to Ruby Tuesdays to Cheese Cake factory has free refills. Even upscale places like Morton's or Smith & Wollensky have free refills.

In addition, local chains of similar stature have free refills, like my beloved Clyde's.

There are a few places that serve soda in bottles, and therefore don't do free refills (like the McCormick & Schmick's) but they are few and far between...

And if you are in a section of the country where this isn't the policy? And you are paying more than $1 for each soda? I'd demand free refills, 'cause that's crap.

Posted by: Kearns at August 9, 2004 10:38 PM

"And if you are in a section of the country where this isn't the policy? And you are paying more than $1 for each soda? I'd demand free refills, 'cause that's crap."

We are talking Manhattan, you would pay $2 at a diner and $2 for each refill. Go somewhere fancier than a diner and it's even more.

The only place I know that has self serve drinks in Manhattan is Subway.

Posted by: PAUL at August 10, 2004 01:02 AM

Yep. NY meaning NYC perhaps, but out here in Buffalo, it varies on the esatblishment.

Posted by: Jennifer at August 10, 2004 05:56 AM

We don't have free refills up here in Canada, at least not in Vancouver. Some places have "non-stop pop" but you pay about $3 for that so you need to drink a lot of it to make a dent.

Posted by: Tina at August 15, 2004 11:26 PM
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