More F&B Outlets Charge For Tap Water Due To High Costs, Says Restaurant Authority Of Singapore (RAS)

A popular choice when dining out in Singapore, is to order plain water instead of a soft drink.

Especially if you prefer a healthier option or if you’re a student who wants to save a little money after splurging on the meal.

Well, TODAY uncovered that some F&B outlets are charging exorbitant prices for a glass of plain water, in a report on Friday (22 June).

Let’s dive right into the debate.

Charging between $0.30-$1 per cup

A survey of 13 VivoCity eateries revealed that more than half charged between $0.30 to a dollar for a cup of tap water.

6/8 of these outlets offered refills, while two required customers to buy another glass, according to Today.

One outlet even sold a bottle of water for $1.50, and did not provide drinking water for free — their reason being that customers “preferred bottled water”.


Although serving free water was the “norm several years ago”, changed practices may be due to the “rising cost of operations”, said the Restaurant Association of Singapore (RAS) when questioned.

They estimate that prices of water now range from $0.50-0.80 per glass.

Restaurants’ side of the story

As for restaurateurs and business owners, they cite the water tariff hike as a reason for the price increase.

Staff and servers are also trained to tell customers the price of water, when a glass is ordered.


However, some customers still belatedly realise that prices are higher than expected.

When queried further, staff reportedly answered that “it was the reason passed down by the management”.

Cost of a cup of water is “very complicated”

A spokesperson from Kim Gary restaurant explains this a little differently,

The cost of a cup of water is very complicated. It involves the filter maintenance, manpower, rental, electricity cost, and many more.

Similarly, some eateries explain their decisions to raise water prices with rising “business overheads” — high rental costs, and cleaning costs for cups.

By charging for water, businesses hope to prevent customers from abusing “that privilege” which costs manpower and resources.

Price psychology

When diners are pushed to fork out cash for water, some find buying alternative beverages more “worth it”.

With a estimated $0.20 difference between a bottle of water and a canned drink, it’s not hard to see why.

People who avoid sweetened drinks due to medical reasons, also find themselves faced with “no choice” although it’s “super not worth it”.

The daughter of a diabetes patient chimed in,

It would be…appreciated if complimentary water is being served…especially for those who take medication straight after their meals.

She added that “free water” can encourage people to drink more water, as opposed to “charging a high price” which is a “turn-off”.


Self-service water dispensers at F&B outlets could also allow patrons to help themselves, without troubling staff.

Making customers happy

RAS reiterates that they don’t “encourage (or) discourage” charging for tap water, as they leave this decision to F&B establishments.

Eighteen Chefs, and Swensen’s say, however, that they will continue offering free water because “this is what our customers want”.

While some patrons don’t mind paying for water, some still think that complimentary water should still be offered as a “basic hospitality” which builds “customer loyalty” in the competitive industry.

Second water price hike in July coming up

The bad news is that there’ll be another water price hike in once July rolls around. This is part of a two-phase 30% hike, since the first round completed last July.

Thankfully, RAS says businesses have already been warned against pricing drinking water for profit.

Should we pay for a cup of tap water?

Restaurants all over the world, in particular those in Europe, do currently have a practice of charging for drinking water.

But in water-scarce Singapore, would putting a price tag on tap water deter customers from abusing the privilege?

Or stand to drive customers away due to exorbitant prices for a basic service?

We’d love to hear what you think in the comments below.

Featured image from VitalWorkLife.