Swan Song For The Free Refill?

This dire message at a Tucson Italian beef joint claims the restaurant’s dissolution of its free refill policy has to do with outside forces conspiring to make soda syrup too pricey.

Have you seen anything like this in your town, or is the price hike restricted to Northwest Tucson? Is this the beginning of the end for free refills or just an aberration?

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  1. YouDidWhatNow? says:

    Ah…RC. The King of Colas.

    Anyway, no – I don’t think there’s any widespread rise in syrup costs. This is just a restaurant trying to stem it’s waning profitability.

    • Dover says:

      Exactly. Soda is so cheap, the price could double and barely cut into the profit.

      • Griking says:

        /shrug

        I know in my area the cost of 12 packs of Coke and Pepsi have been going up and up for the past year. They now sell 6 packs in cans that are half the size of normal soda cans but they charge what they used to charge for the full sized cans. I’m assuming that they think if they sell these long enough we’ll all forget about the full sized cans and accept the new standard. Fat chance. I’ve started buying store brand soda instead.

        • bricem says:

          I’ve definitely noticed the same thing. On rare occasions a few years ago, I could pick up a 24 pack of Dr. Pepper for $4. Now, I can only get a 12-pack for the same price.

      • ChunkyBarf says:

        Agreed.

  2. redskull says:

    I think one free refill is fair. How many does a person need?

    • FooSchnickens - Full of SCAR says:

      I think the most I’ve ever gotten was three, but that was after spending several weeks on a backpacking trip and celebrating surviving at a western sizzlin’

    • DavidCopperballs says:

      Well, they’re already cheap if they’re serving you RC, right? I haven’t had an RC since….

      ….when did Shea Stadium stop serving in the paper cups with the saran wrap top?

    • axhandler1 says:

      How much money is the restuarant losing on each refill though? A few cents maybe? There are probably better ways to reduce costs than limiting the number of refills.

      • craptastico says:

        probably more than a few cents. even though that’s their cost for the soda, if someone buys a small instead of a large they’re probably losing more like 40-50 cents. this is just one more perk that’s going to disappear b/c some people will take advantage.

        • RadarOReally has got the Post-Vacation Blues says:

          But most places either only offer free refills on the large, or only sell one size if they offer free refills. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a restaurant where you could just buy a small drink for less and get unlimited refills.

          • bpotterr says:

            The only place I’ve seen to only offer free refills on large drinks is the movie theater (where drink and snack sales are the big money-makers). Everywhere else I’ve been that has multiple drink sizes allows free refills on every size as long as you dine in.

        • mac-phisto says:

          there’s better (& more profitable) ways to solve that problem. 1) adjust your size names (medium should always be called “regular” – statistics show everyone wants to be regular, 2) price for “value” (as in, make the regular & large only nominally more expensive than the small), 3) adjust your sizes (small a 12oz? make it an 8. if it’s an 8, make it a 6).

          this is a poor way to save money b/c it alienates guests. better to move the soda machine behind the counter than hang the dreaded “NO FREE REFILLS” (or related) sign. it’s not even a policy you can enforce without losing customers & destroying your brand image.

    • MercuryPDX says:

      Depends…
      If you’re buying a large, one refill should do it.
      If you buy the smallest size possible in order to save a few cents/bucks, I’m guessing you won’t stop at one.

      [Note: I think limiting it to one refill is fine]

      • greggen says:

        Well then, feel free to limit yourself to one refill. I think that putting limits on yourself is fine.

    • thebigbluecheez says:

      It’s not how many we *need*, it’s how many we’re entitled to. As Americans, we deserve MORE soda!

    • greeneyedguru says:

      Given that they’re charging anywhere from $1 to $2.50 for something that costs them a few cents, you should get as many “free refills” as you want. Especially if they advertise “free refills” and you’re doing the “filling” yourself.

      • The Marionette says:

        It’s called profit. If they have unlimited refills it’s less profit, so they set a limit on it. My job has 1 free refill on our drinks and it hasn’t stopped people from buying more. Conversations have pretty much went like this.

        Customer: How much is your (x)size drink?
        Me: $x
        Customer: Do you have refills?
        Me: Yes 1 free refill
        Customer: *sigh*……… Let me get 3 of them.

        Even though the price seems high to them and there’s only 1 free refill, ultimately they’re going to want the drink so they’ll pay the money for it even if they don’t really want to…. not all the time but on average it’s a 3:1 ratio of people who will buy it to those who won’t because of pricing/refills.

        Personally (depending on the size and cost of the drink) I think 1 free refill is enough. The largest drink we have at my job is 44oz and to me that’s plenty (and I’m someone who’s pretty tall), and we give a free refill on it so 88oz total should (

    • Lollerface says:

      I think there’s a psychological aspect to the free refill. I generally wouldn’t drink more than one refill worth, but the idea that I’m limited might make me “more thirsty”.

    • myCatCracksMeUp says:

      I drink about 5 or 6 medium, or 2 or 3 large soft drinks with dinner, sometimes more.

      If some places stop giving unlimited free refills on soft drinks, I’ll either not go to those places, or if I really like the food, I’ll drink water. And when I drink water I still drink 2 or 3 large glasses.

    • ahleeeshah says:

      My boyfriend drinks about 6 or 7 iced teas every time we go out. I tend to tip really well if the person waiting on us is able to keep up.

    • Cicadymn says:

      “Dean do you know what this is?”
      “Uhh a big grinder”
      “A supersized Hero?”
      “Beep bloop blop”
      “NO! This is here to get people to buy 5 cents worth of SUGAR WATER!”

  3. Dallas_shopper says:

    I think sugar-free drinks should get free refills and sugary drinks not. Of course, this is because I only drink sugar-free drinks. ;-)

    • Excuse My Ambition Deficit Disorder says:

      Here’s a sugar free cookie…just for you…

    • TVGenius says:

      That’s one of the beefs I have with those proposals to tax sugary drinks. Like I’m not going to pay for it with my Diet Coke at Circle K. Do I have to give the cashier a taste to prove it’s Diet?

    • operator207 says:

      Sugar-Free drinks are not for everyone. If they have artificial sweetener in them, and I drink them, I go Hypoglycemic in minutes. I get whoosy, feel sick, and sometimes vomit or pass out. Maybe I am allergic to some type of artificial sweetener, all I know is I stay away from them, and I am fine. I tried one small dixie cup of Fuzion the other day, and just about passed out in the store. I could not fault the attendant for telling me it had artificial sweeteners in it. I could only fault myself for not picking up a bottle and reading the ingredients.

      As for the real “issue” about refills. Soda is cheap from those machines. Really cheap compared to handing out cans or pouring from a 2 liter bottle. If this company needs to have this sign, one of two things is happening, they are having a really hard time staying afloat, or they are buying thir syrup from the cartel, and getting pinched on it.

  4. thompson says:

    If they can’t afford the $0.15 that it costs to fill up a cup of soda, this restaurant has more problems than prolific drinkers.

    • longdvsn says:

      Ha ha…$.15! Not even close.

      The cost of the syrup (and water) going into a refill is closer to $.02 (oops…now $.03 with the cost of their syrup going up). If you add more ice…maybe $.05-.08.

      Soda/Pop is one of the biggest markups in the food/restaurant industry. This place is just trying to rip people off. I’d go up more than once for a refill if I was thirsty and just ignore the sign (that, or never go there again)

      • Tim says:

        Yes, but it’s because of that huge markup that the markups on other items aren’t bigger. So they could charge 10 cents for a soda, but then your burger might go up in price.

        Businesses don’t care where their money comes from. They just want the money.

      • JMILLER says:

        You are right, except it is not close the other way. A very large purchaser of these products will pay approximately $0.008/ounce (colleges and McDonald’s level pricing), and an independent will more likely be around $.015/ounce. A large hold approximately 24 ounces. Let’s assume ice of 4 ounces. That means each refill costs the restaurant 20 ounces multiplied by .015. Or in real dollars 30 cents. Then factor in the cost of the cup, the straw, the lid, water filtration (they are needed for the system). Yes, those costs are one time only costs, but if a guy comes up 3 times to fill up his cost to the operator is now at 90 cents just on product. That huge profit margin is not so great now.
        If you don’t think 15 cents per customer is a lot for a restaurant, lets do the math on that. Let’s pretend 200 customers per day. 200 multiplied by $0.15 is $30 per day. Times 360 days per year comes to profit of $10,800.
        This perception that restaurants are these profit machines is so distorted. The average restaurant lives on profit margins between 5-10 cents on the dollar. I bet when you go to the car dealership you do not say, well what are the costs of all the parts and that is what is a “fair” price. There are labor costs, utilities, rent, insurance, equipment that are part of the expenses involved in operations.
        Two drinks is very fair and not out of line to keep everything fair to all and not raise prices.

        • SChance says:

          Is that per ounce of *prepared soda,* or per ounce of *syrup*? I think you’re quoting the price for the *syrup.*

          Because if that price is for *syrup,* your costs are way way way off, since there’s only a fraction of an ounce of syrup in even a large cup of soda.

          • DanRydell says:

            Once again you’re wrong – there is much more than “a fraction of an ounce” of syrup in a cup of soda. Syrup is mixed at a ratio of ~5.5 to 1. 5.5 ounces of carbonated water to one ounce of syrup. So there’s nearly 4 ounces of syrup in a 24 ounce cup of soda.

            It’s been over a decade since I had a job where I dealt with soda syrup, but back then it was $35 for a 5 gallon box. So figure $7 a gallon which makes 6.5 gallons of soda… yeah, his claim of $.008-$.015 per fully prepared soda is spot on.

        • ellemdee says:

          I know people who have owned their own restaurants and they all tell me that it literally cost them pennies per cup of pop served (way below $0.30). You could buy pop in 2L bottles and still have a cost of less than $0.30/cup, and fountain pop is way cheaper than 2L’s. One of these people is an accountant as well, so you’d better believe she knew down to the penny what each beverage or menu item cost the restaurent to produce and serve. If a customer was unhappy or had a problem, they’d always offer them a free pop (soda), since it only costs them a few pennies.

        • fantomesq says:

          How much do they make if I forgo soda because i feel they are too stingy with their product?

          • JMILLER says:

            That is your option. BUT, that is not the way the average consumer acts. They do not lose anything. I am sure GM could sell millions more cars if they sold them all for no profit (in fact they did that for a long time with fleet sales). We all saw how that turned out now.

  5. Fineous K. Douchenstein says:

    I’ve seen restaurants have this in place for years. The price of their drinks isn’t quite as absurd as most. $2 for a soda is outrageous.

    • dg says:

      If you think $2 for a soda is outrageous, you should come to InLaws Restaurant in Gurnee, IL… $2.75 my friend… $2.75…. brought to you by BOHICA group….

  6. areaman says:

    Most of the taco shops I like in San Diego have a $0.50 or $0.75 per refill policy.

    And don’t go to Taco Bell across the street because of this.

  7. nbs2 says:

    It’s Tuscon, what do you expect?

    Besides, “pricey corn syrup”? What, so each refill will cost the restaurant 2 cents instead of 1 cent?

    • tbax929 says:

      I’m not sure why you’re hating on Tucson, but this isn’t just limited to Tucson. I’ve seen this in Phoenix, San Diego, LA, and San Fran.

      • nbs2 says:

        I know that the problem isn’t isolated to Tuscon. I’ve seen it in a lot of places. And the one free refill is more generous that I had expected.

        Nevertheless, Tuscon is the armpit of Arizona. We can debate the refill issue all day, but facts are facts.

    • YouDidWhatNow? says:

      Um, just to point out they’re not talking about “corn syrup” – they’re talking about the soda syrup.

    • kajillion123 says:

      Um, a 100% increase in price is substantial.

      • MauriceCallidice says:

        But a reduction in profit margin per cup from $1.89 to $1.81 (or whatever) is trivial.

  8. econobiker says:

    T ypically what I’ve experienced:

    Northeastern US- NJ, NY metro areas- “Hell no free refills!!!”
    Southeastern US- TN,AL, GA etc- “Let the colas flow free!!!” I have seen signs saying free refills during the visit which you purchased the drink and no outside cups or mugs…

    My figuring is that the labor to refill a purchased drink is more in those areas than the profit from the cost of charging for a refill plus generally most people are honest and won’t rip off drinks by bringing their own cups. While in college about 20 years ago I frequented a Burger King that charged about 25¢ for cola refills in its fan coffee mugs (which cost about $3.99 to buy). The employees told us that even at 25¢ a mug the store was making a profit on the cola sale.

  9. SPOON - now with Forkin attitude says:

    the Co2 costs more than the syrup. oddly enough it costs less to get soda at walmart than it does to get soda delivered from soda wholesaler. I never understood that.

    • Murph1908 says:

      It’s due to the delivery cost.

      From Walmart, they ship a truckload to them, and you take it home.

      Having the driver deliver it to your home, you are paying that delivery cost across 5 or 10 cases, not hundreds.

    • balthisar says:

      I make soda water and soda at home. CO2 is practically free versus the price of the syrup. Twenty lbs of CO2 lasts forever, and only costs about $15 at Airgas (for me as a non-commercial customer). Soda syrup either costs what it takes to make, or about $64 per 5 gallons (brand name like 7-Up or Dr. Pepper) at Sam’s, or about $36 per five gallons for generic. At a normal 5:1 ratio, you get 30 gallons of soda from a single box. Twenty lbs of CO2 will make way more than 25 gallons of bubbly water (25 gallons is the non-syrup part of 30 gallons of soda).

  10. exit322 says:

    If restaurants I frequent start this policy, I will be frequenting them far less, and exclusively for take-out-style options. While they’re well within their rights to make this a policy, I’m not paying $1.89 for a drink (if I’m lucky) and then not getting to drink as much of it as I’d like.

    Certainly I won’t be complaining up and down to workers there, but if anyone asks my thoughts, certainly the answer will be “well, there aren’t unlimited refills, so I’ll stick with tap water or get it to go.”

    • The Meathead says:

      “I’m not paying $1.89 for a drink (if I’m lucky) and then not getting to drink as much of it as I’d like.”

      You can drink the whole, for example, 44 ounce drink if you’d like, no one is stopping you.

      Want another 44 ounces? That’s not your original drink.

  11. Mobius says:

    Soda is cheap and profitable. I know I refuse to buy soda when there are refill limits. This may end up biting them in the ass when they sell less soda in general.

    • myCatCracksMeUp says:

      Exactly – back in the day when there were no free refills on sodas, I’d just drink water. And I’d drink a lot of water, so the server would still be busy getting me refills.

      Now that everyplace I go has free refills I generally drink sodas if it’s a Coke place (boo, hiss on Pepsi!), and even with my 2 or 3 large sodas the restaurant is making a good profit on me.

      If they stop with the free refills, it’s back to water for me, and less profit for the restaurant.

  12. Platypi {Redacted} says:

    This happens occasionally at “mom n pop” joints in the NW. Most chain restaurants don’t even bother to try. So hard to have an employee trying to monitor the refill count when they could be doing profitable things like making/serving food, cleaning, stocking, etc.

    If the soda costs 1.75, the refills should be free or I will just drink water and get a soda elsewhere later! Not worth the extra cost to me unless I can make it worth it by drinking $1.75 worth of soda (in my twisted thought processes).

  13. Riroon13 says:

    I went to a locally-owned ‘bar n grill’ type restaurant in a suburb of New Orleans once where there was even a refill charge for tea

    Again, I said I went there ONCE

  14. ChuckECheese says:

    So many questions…
    1. Where the hell do they have RC fountains? I don’t remember ever seeing one.
    2. Why hasn’t some enterprising company tried to get in on the soda fountain business, selling generic fountain soda syrup?
    3. What are the true costs of producing a cup of soda fountain drink? Most fast food places are charging nearly $2 for a large now. As everybody knows, you can sometimes get a 12-pack for that at a store. Grocery stores have labor and overhead costs too you know.

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      I travel a lot for work and see RC fountains every once in awhile, mostly in small towns. They seem very common in rural Kentucky.

    • kosmo @ The Soap Boxers says:

      I haven’t seen an RC soda fountain, but my office has them in a pop machine (although it’s a Dr. Pepper graphic, I think).

      We previously had Pepsi, but there was a minimum number of bottles we need to buy per year to keep the machine, and we fell below that. So the Pepsi supplier yanked the machine. It was replaced with a machine that has RC, Dr. Pepper, and such.

      I actually like RC, so I didn’t mine the change. Also, the price dropped from $1.25 per bottle to 75 cents, so nobody is really complaining.

    • Kishi says:

      I had lunch at a BBQ place a week or two ago that had an RC fountain. Good stuff.

    • gnimsh says:

      1 Northwest Tucson.

    • Snoofin says:

      2. If restaurants used generic soda syrup less people would eat there. If Im already paying $2.00 for a soda it damn well better be Coke or Pepsi.

  15. dolemite says:

    Ah, I remember the days before free refills. Back in the 80s. Americans were a lot thinner back then. Probably all the cocaine.

    • ChuckECheese says:

      and the cigarettes. and the aerobics. remember aerobics?

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      I just posted the same thing. It really wasn’t all that long ago, where if you wanted more than one soda, you’d buy a pitcher. Even a large soda was pretty close to a small today.

      • econobiker says:

        And back when the Big Gulp was in fact the biggest available versus the “Enormous Vat o’ Soda” which you can buy today…

    • Smashville says:

      Why, I remember when for a dime, you could take the trolley from Brooklyn to Battery Park with enough money left over to go catch the picture show.

  16. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    Let’s see, the cost of a large soda to the consumer: anywhere from $2-5
    Cost for a large soda to the Business: $0.10 a cup.

    Yeah, syrup prices are out of control, man!

    • JMILLER says:

      Please check your sources on that cost. It is 100% wrong. If you would like, I will give you the actual contracted price for a state bid contract that shows what the true cost is. This 10 cent number is something somebody pulled out of their behind. It is factually incorrect.

  17. FreshPorcupineSalad says:

    Just drink water, good and free.

    • Morte42 says:

      Free? Not here buddy.

      • myCatCracksMeUp says:

        Where are you? I’ve never been any place where tap water with ice wasn’t free.

        • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

          I think he means that it’s not free because you or the business pays the water company.

          So it’s not free because the cost is absorbed into the cost of your food.

          • RickN says:

            The cost is absorbed into the prices whether you drink water or not, so adding a glass of water to your meal is…FREE!

  18. Jesse says:

    Margins on soda are pretty high but these mom & pop shops don’t go through the volume gas stations and chain restaurants do. I would venture to guess these people are getting screwed by the vendor and are paying artificially high prices for syrup.

  19. Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

    It’s amazing how in the past 20-some years, the whole concept of a free refill has gone from a perk to an entitlement. It wasn’t all that long ago that if you wanted a soda, it came in a tiny glass or cup and if you wanted more, it cost more. You’d either get multiple glasses of it or buy a pitcher to save money.

    • balthisar says:

      Yeah, I remember growing up and going to eat at Pizza Hut. Back then, you could eat inside one; they had waitresses and beer, and of course, pitchers of soda pop! The pitcher always meant that I’d not have to nurse a single glass of pop through my whole meal.

      • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

        That brings back memories — I can remember begging my parents to let us go to Pizza Hut back when they got the first tabletop Pac Man machine in town. At the time, our arcade was still converting from pinball to video games, so Pizza Hut was the place to be.

        Plus, it was one of the few places my parents let me get more than one soda because they came in pitchers, so we could each get two glasses of it.

    • evnmorlo says:

      I’m trying to imagine getting a tiny cup of soda… Was this in East Germany?

    • davidc says:

      “It’s amazing how in the past 20-some years, the whole concept of a free refill has gone from a perk to an entitlement.”

      Yea, but back in those days they didn’t charge you an arm and a leg for the soda. You could get 3-4 sodas back then for what 1 costs today (accounting for inflation).

      Extra’s used to almost be considered Loss-Leaders. Now they are the profit centers for most restaurants, fast or sit-down. I generally pass on the extra’s like “Fries & Drink” at most places cause it’s more then the cost of the main item.

      • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

        I’d be curious to see the stats. On a per volume basis, it seems like soda today is way cheaper. At restaurants, glasses are larger and have free refills and bottles from vending machines are way bigger than the old skinny or short stubby glass bottles from the 70’s & 80’s.

  20. paul says:

    A few small restaurants around here charge 25 to 50 cents per refill. Some diners and joints like that don’t give free refills at all.

    A lot of fast food places that don’t have self-service soda fountains will still give free refills, but you have to wait in line to ask for it which probably dissuades a lot of people from bothering.

  21. baconsnake says:

    My local deli tossed the free refills about 5 months ago. So sad…

  22. Jerem43 says:

    You ever wondered why the fast food restaurants put out the coupons that state buy a fry and drink and get a free sandwich? It is because the cost of the fries and beverage are pennies on the dollar. They still make a profit when the give away the sandwich.

    Charging for refills is stupid, a 20 oz cup of soda costs about 12 cents.

    • econobiker says:

      Also the reason that “supersizing” or other “upsizing” schemes are also pure profit…

  23. almightytora says:

    I know over here the Boomer’s (which is an arcade/golf and game area/food establishment) just got a new Coke dispenser that dispenses over 100 different Coke products (e.g. Fanta, etc). I brought my 40 oz souvenir bottle and asked to get a refill (which is usually $0.99).

    The lady behind the counter told me that refills are now free when you have a souvenir bottle. Sweet. (If one doesn’t have a souvenir bottle, they can get a bottle for $4.99, or get their special Coke cups that look quite nice for a smaller price, but free refills for that day only. I don’t know if one could sneak in the cup at a future time, but oh well.)

  24. GeekChicCanuck says:

    It wasn’t until I lived in the U.S. that I ever saw a place with free refills. All of the places I’ve lived in Canada don’t have them or only got them very recently.

    • econobiker says:

      At least you Canadians have ice (and not just outside). The Euro scheme of warm cola is interesting…

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      It was like that in the USA until 20 or 30 years ago. The fact that so many Consumerist readers can’t comprehend the concept of paying for refills makes me think the bulk of readers are under the age of 25 or 30.

      • captadam says:

        Hey, I’m under the age of thirty, and I remember the following: free refills, small fountain sodas that were, you know, SMALL, 12 ounce CANS of soda in the cooler at the convenience store, soda machines with 12 ounce cans, and glass bottles that seemed really freaking huge at 16 ounces.

  25. Scurvythepirate says:

    If I know a restaurant doesn’t do free refills, I tend to not eat there. Especially when they are charging between $2.00 to $2.50 a glass (and they are usually glasses that wouldn’t even hold a can of pop with the ice in them).

    I even had one waitress say she thought it was stupid and she felt bad telling people there were no free refills.

  26. XTREME TOW says:

    Many “Crap in The Box”, “Booger King”, etc. in San Diego are moving their fountains behind the counter and the employees will put a check mark on the cup with a magic marker when you get your “1 Free Refill per Customer”.
    Don’t be upset, look at the skyrocketing costs these businesses have to deal with:
    Cup, 12.5¢
    Lid, 8¢
    Straw 7¢
    CO2 5.5¢
    Filtered Tap Water 3.8¢ (includes cost of making water turn to ice).
    SYRUP 3.2 ¢
    TOTAL: 40¢ Retail Price: $1.69 +Tax.

    • craptastico says:

      i guess the employees are volunteers, the building is donated and instead of electricity and utilities the place runs on fairy tale wishes?

      • RandomHookup says:

        Employee pay is a pretty much fixed cost unless the action requires someone to work longer. Same with most utilities as far as this transaction, but maybe we should throw in a napkin or two.

        • JMILLER says:

          Employee pay is fixed? So there are the same number of employees at a restaurant at 3 pm as there are at noon? The only two major variable costs in a restaurant are cost of goods and labor.

      • Jamie All Over says:

        think at the margins… those costs aren’t going to change based on if they have free refills or not.

        • JMILLER says:

          Then why not free refills on everything? Please enlighten us as to the costs associated with running a restaurant? Also please tell me what you think the cost of the refill is.

          • Jamie All Over says:

            I’m saying the costs of running the building or paying employees have nothing to do with the cost of giving free refills. The only costs are usually more ice and more soda.

    • Corinthos says:

      I hate when places have fountains behind the counter. I won’t eat in there anymore. I don’t eat at Chicafila because of this. I will go through the drive thru and take it home though.

      I just don’t want to have to stand in the line with people ordering just to get a refill on a drink.

  27. only_james says:

    I used to work for a midsized theater chain. The profit margins on sugar beverages is outrageous. Plus a lot of companies actually work it out where you get rebates from the distributor if you sell certain amounts of carbonated beverages. I know there were several years we got rebates that exceeded what we paid so we made a double profit once on customers then made more money from the distributor.

  28. Juliekins says:

    RC Cola Celebrates 10th Purchase

    http://www.theonion.com/articles/rc-cola-celebrates-10th-purchase,1674/

    I can’t think of RC Cola without also thinking of this article. Sorry, back to your discussion.

    • craptastico says:

      wildly unpopular? RC is much better than Coke or Pepsi. they just don’t advertise so it’s cheaper. i guess if you need a commercial to tell you what to drink it would be unpopular, but if you can think for yourself you should try it sometime.

    • ZombiGamer32 says:

      I don’t see why people make a big deal on silly things like this. This country has an etitlement issue, we feel that we are entitled to everything at reduced cost or free, never mind that the goal of a business is to make money and turn a profit.I blame it on the current political landscape with our leaders everyone of them thinks that any company/corporation who is out to make some money is gouging the consumer and should be taken down and people are buying into this

  29. MrsLopsided says:

    …a Tucson Italian beef joint…

    Owner-operated independent fast food restaurants have long been short-sighted and stingy in efforts to reduce costs. I know a few that will only give 1/2 cup of cola if you ask for no ice.

  30. jeff_the_snake says:

    when i took ownership of my restaurant back in ’00 one of the first things i wanted to do was put in a soda fountain for employees and our occasional dine-in customer (we only had one table) since i would get killed on furnishing 20 oz. bottles at 80 cents each as free drinks. the pepsi rep really pushed the pre-mix style ones and i found out why after it was installed; those tanks cost a lot and dont hold much soda. maybe that’s what’s going on with this place. if they’re using the standard box type syrup then they have no excuse.

  31. Draw2much says:

    I’ve lived in the South most of my life. Free refills are standard in that area of the USA. I can’t understand why they wouldn’t have free refills unless they have a ridiculously low price for the drink to begin with.

    That is to say, if the actual cost per medium cup is 10 cents for the store, and they only charge 50 cents per drink… then yeah, I can understand charging for refills.

    But if it’s a $1.00 or more, there’s really no excuse. Most people won’t get near a dollar’s worth of refills.

    Though honestly, I’m surprised more places don’t have a pricing scheme similar to this:
    $2.00 unlimited refills.
    $.50, one free refill, and then $.10 per for all other refills.

    (Assuming, of course, the actual cost per refill is 10 cents.) They’d be making money both ways, and their customers would have a cheaper option.

    They could even have different cups for each unlimited and limited drinks. (Maybe a place on the limited refill drink where the server can mark to say they’ve had their free refill so that they know to charge after that.) I doubt it’d work in a fast food place though.

    I’d pay 50 cents for a soda and one free refill rather than $1-$3 for unlimited refills. But then I don’t drink soda often, I like water better. ^^;

    • ChuckECheese says:

      Most fast food places I’ve been in lately charge a minimum of $1.59 for a small, and the price for a large is bumping against $2 (typically $1.89 or $1.99). Non-chains are charging $2 for fountain drinks. Some are doing away with the free refill. It’s clearly price-gouging. My opinion is that we are experiencing an epidemic of greed. Such drink prices aren’t necessitated by business constraints. In Phoenix I see people go to fast food places with drinks purchased elsewhere. Some places have signs on the door saying “no outside food or drink.”

      • JMILLER says:

        How is it “price gouging”? Please define “gouging” by your definition, since legally it has a very specific meaning. Can I ask what you do for a living? How much are you paid? Your cost to live in a house and make your payments is what? Based on your philosophy a profit is bad. So anything you make above an beyond your costs should not be passed on to your employer? Even better, should the person who is single and works for your company be forced to buy a family plan insurance when it is just them, while the family of four pays the same amount?
        If you drink more soda than me, shouldn’t you bear more expense than me?

        • ChuckECheese says:

          Price gouging has several meanings, depending on use, tradition and jurisdiction. There isn’t one specific meaning of the term, but my usage is within acceptable bounds, which include using the term when a business uses anticompetitive means (price fixing in the case of fast food – notice how they all charge about the same price?) to provide a needed good (beverages in a restaurant) at an inflated cost (most people in this thread estimate the profit margin on fountain drinks is around 500% or more).

          It’s price gouging when the charge for an item is far in excess of its cost. I think that all items for sale should be priced based on the overhead, labor and materials to make them, plus a profit that is similar for all items for sale within the business. In other words, the margin on a burrito should be similar, percentage-wise, to the margin for a cup of soda. Sodas shouldn’t subsidize burritos. Although I don’t think anybody in this thread has yet told us what restaurants are really paying for soda, it can be assumed, based on the price of soda elsewhere, that if you can buy soda for 3&#162 an ounce retail, it doesn’t cost 10&#162 per ounce in a fast food place.

          Yes, Virginia, greed is destroying America, whether it is overpriced Pepsi, overpriced medical care, overpriced houses, overpriced college education, or overpriced corporate executives. I would love to see steep progressive taxation on all income so that the pursuit of ever increasing gobs of money would no longer be rewarding. This would probably lead to increased employment, less advantage-taking, and fewer sightings of Hummers. I think we’d all breathe a sigh of relief soon thereafter.

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      When you say you’ve lived in the south for your whole life, how old are you? I spent most of my childhood in Texas and can’t think of a single place that had free refills back in the 70’s & 80’s.

  32. Greely says:

    Racetrack (a gas station chain) will give you refills at a discounted price, even with outside cups. They also have a promotion for the summer where you buy a 32 oz Racetrack cup for about 7 dollars and can refill it for free until some time in mid-August.

  33. supergaijin74 says:

    I don’t know how this is a problem; does anyone like RC enough to get a refill?

  34. Chaluapman says:

    I have definetly noticed a rise in prices of soda in the supermarkets.

  35. damageddude says:

    Its been awhile but when I worked in a deli almost 20 years ago I remember the owner telling me that those soda machines were like gold. It cost something like 5 or 10 cents for him to make a glass of soda, which he then sold for 75 cents. Considering I still pay more for a glass of soda then I pay for a 2 litter bottle my guess is restaurants are still making a small fortune on these machines. Most restaurants that I go to here in NJ that have these machines offer free refills (but don’t always advertise it).

  36. OrlandoDude says:

    In the “old days” (late 70’s early 80’s) ALL drinks were behind the counter, no refills. Then someone got smart (I think McDonalds did it first) and figured they saved way more on labor by putting the soda fountains in front of the counter by making it “self-serve”- even including giving away free refills. It’s a business model that works.

    For the life of me, I can’t figure out why Wendy’s has not done this yet. Free refills, yet you have to ask an employee.

  37. Mapmaker says:

    You’ve never been to Honolulu, I can see. One free refill is standard at the Burger Kings here, and many fast food places charge for the first refill.

  38. JonBoy470 says:

    If the store wants to limit free refills, they should put the soda fountain behind the counter. Case closed.

  39. esc27 says:

    Most restaurants near me charge $1.50 or higher for drinks. $2 is common. For an (upper-average) $8 meal it seems ridiculous that 25% of the cost goes just to the drink. “Free” refills are the only way to avoid being ripped off. (This is one reason I’ve switched to tap water Makes eating out much less expensive.)

  40. evilpete says:

    doesn’t the ice cost as much as the syrup ?

  41. menty666 says:

    I actually noticed that one of the Wendy’s franchises around here has recently moved the soda station out into the dining room. So Wendy’s, McDonalds, and Burger King around here all have them out in the open.

    Maybe I just behave myself a little better than most, but if I’m going to get a refill it’s usually just once on my way out the door anyway.

  42. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    One free refill seems reasonable, and more polite than saying “Hey jerk, don’t you think 7 cups of Mountain Dew is enough?” I’m not buying the story about pricey corn syrup though. My guess is that (as usual) a few people have ruined it for everybody by taking advantage.

  43. lihtox says:

    One more data point: the McDonalds’ in Toledo charge $1 for any size of soda, including free refills, and their large is pretty big. This doesn’t seem to be chain-wide, although I’ve seen the same deal in Windsor, Ontario. I also noticed a local billboard suggesting that Wendy’s has started offering the same deal. Now, maybe syrup is much cheaper for them than for the independents, I don’t know. (Perhaps they stockpiled it when the price was low.)

    I rarely see the “no refills” policy in restaurants in the U.S. (I live in Toledo now, was in Dallas last year, and have been through Pennsylvania and Boston recently.) I was just up in central Quebec last week, however, and noticed that most restaurants did not appear to offer refills on soda; in sit-down restaurants the waiter would not even ask if I wanted another.

    • JMILLER says:

      Generally those promotions are funded in part by Coke in cooperation with McDonald’s co-op. McDonald’s will pay about half of what an independent restaurant would. Coke realizes that losing the largest restaurant chain int he world based on sales volume is worth breaking even. It’s funny how much people here complain about corporate restaurants, then want independents to act like them. They say they support local, but then expect them to compete with them based on price alone. Wal Mart does the same thing in forcing manufacturers to sell their products cheaper and cheaper (which of course leads to cheaper end products) Coke could use cane sugar, but it’s cheaper to use HFCS.
      People need to realize that cheaper and more is an unsustainable business model. It is a rapid spiral to oblivion. Those who shop on price, get what they pay for.
      By the way, do you think McDonald’s profits are derived from Coke? If so, you might want to read their very own annual report. You will see little mention of Coke as the reason people eat there. McDonald’s is using Coke to draw people to smoothies, coffee, and Angus burgers

      • lihtox says:

        Makes sense. And I know what you mean about comparing independents with chains: most of the restaurants I went to as a kid were fast food, and it took a while to get used to the prices at nicer places: “What do you mean, $6 for a hamburger!” :)

  44. captadam says:

    Given that a “small” is now 16 ounces, and we have up to 44 ounce or larger fountain drinks, I’d be surprised if the price of syrup is spiraling out of control.

  45. pimpybra says:

    You don’t want me to refill my drink for free? Don’t make me do the work of pouring the soda. The second that machine is out for public use, if I bought a cup, I’m filling it.

  46. Southern says:

    http://sodaparts.com/main/page_faq.html

    “Average 5 gallon bag-in-box name brand syrup is approx. $62. It will yield about 30 gallons.”

    (I’m sure a real restaurant pays probably half that, so we’ll go with the $35 per box figure mentioned earlier)

    So $35 worth of syrup (5 gallons) will make around 30 gallons of soda (at a 6:1 ratio).

    That’s roughly $1.20 per gallon JUST FOR SYRUP (Let’s just call it 1¢ per Ounce.). That’s not including the cost of the CO2, (which is probably pretty low, but NOT free), the cost of ice (which includes water, electricity, and the cost of the ice machine), the cost of the soda machine itself (which could be anywhere from $500 to $20,000, depending on the machine.. Hey, this cost has to be amortized over how many sodas you sell too!)

    So a 32Oz soda is going to cost at LEAST 50¢ to make. Refills only need to forgo the cost of the cup, all the other charges still apply.

    That said, Soda is still extremely profitable for a restaurant, but it’s not quite as much “Free Money” as people think it is.

  47. NoFriggingWay says:

    Funny this came up. I go to a gas station twice a week and buy a 32 ounce Soda to drink while I’m working. Last Week they went from the perfect mix to a disgusting mix. They reduced the Syrup and increased the Water. The Soda is sour now. The gas station used to always be very busy and the soda machine had a line. Now the Soda Machine is rarely used. The Owner asked me why I don’t come in as often any more and I told him his soda is Gross. He said no one else had complained and got pissed right away. I told him well it tastes bad to me.

    On top of it, Sodas went from $0.79 to $1.05. I would mind paying the higher price for the better drink, but not for the nasty stuff he calls Soda.

  48. eddieck says:

    But their Italian beef is freaking awesome.

    (I’m 99.99% sure the joint mentioned is Luke’s Italian Beef. I live in NW Tucson.)

  49. qualityleashdog says:

    Hope it is forced out of business soon. We have a Mexican Restaurant here in Madison, Indiana and they used to have two locations. Now they are down to one, which they moved to a lower rent location in order to stay open. They would bring you out a glass of soda, and it was printed on the menu that you are limited to one refill. They would come to your table and try to take your glass for a refill when you had taken about an inch out of your drink. Of course, you had to tell them you would take your refill once the glass was actually empty, and wouldn’t allow the addition of one inch of soda to count as your refill. When your glass actually reached a level where a sane person would refill it, the waitstaff was nowhere to be found. I once ordered fajitas for takeout from them, and they didn’t include the tortillas wrapped in foil. I called back, and they said I could come get them if I want them. I didn’t feel like driving back to the store, and told them as much. No offer of a free meal, beer or anything to make it up to me. Just the waitress telling me that “that wasn’t her problem if I wasn’t driving back.” Guess it did turn into her problem when customers realized what was up and stopped supporting her business and she was out of a job!

  50. qualityleashdog says:

    Oh, and the location of the restaurant that is closed is now used to host gold buying events, I guess it’s just a shyster magnet.

  51. dilbert69 says:

    Drink tap water instead. It’s free, you can get as many refills as you want, and you’ll save a lot of money over the long run.

  52. Alliance to Restore the Republic of the United States of America says:

    While I fully support anyone’s right to drink as much HFCS as they want, I also think this will be a good thing for the legions of fatties out there who simply don’t need any more. Make it cost them to get fatter and maybe some of them simply won’t go for it.