One of our dedicated blog followers recently asked whether Texas restaurants are required to serve water without charge. I had heard for years that this was a law, but since I did not already know the answer, I looked into this further. The results were surprising.
It seems that at least at the state level, Texas restaurants are actually not required to serve free water. It appears that there are no Texas cases discussing this issue, and I could not locate a single statute that clearly requires restaurants to provide water at no charge to its patrons.
So I looked further. I reviewed the Dallas municipal code, and again, I found no requirement for serving water in restaurants here. That said, Dallas restaurants are required to have plumbing and water facilities for sanitary and cleaning purposes, both for food preparation and for restaurant patrons’ use. I would bet that nearly every municipality in Texas has a similar requirement. Notwithstanding the requirement for clean water, it still does not rise to the level of “law” that a Texas restaurant must serve water for free with a meal.
So why do most, if not all, Texas restaurant serve water without a fee? Are all of the restaurants in Texas misinformed when it comes to their obligations? Hardly. The answer is that it is both good business and a good idea.
First, if a restaurant is required to have clean water, it might as well provide it to its customers. Given the relative price of water, it’s a great way to add value to a meal.
Second, if the food, drink (or alcoholic beverage) served by a restaurant makes a customer ill, water is a very good form of dilution and seems to be darn-good first aid.
Third, the recent trend seems to be to provide clean, free water both because it’s expected by Texas restaurant customers and it’s a healthy, non-caloric option to sugary or alcoholic beverages.
Despite that fact that it does not appear that water is required to be served free of charge to Texas restaurant patrons, given the above benefits and the relative costs of water, I wouldn’t recommend charging for it any time soon.
Have any opinions on water in Texas restaurants? Please share them!
About the author: Matthew Sanderson is restaurant lawyer in Texas. “Good service with a smile” is his motto. Click here to find out more about Matthew Sanderson’s legal practice and how he can help you today. Follow him on Twitter @dealattorney.