SINGAPORE - They risk stirring up ill will among customers. Still, some restaurants here insist on charging for water or not serving tap water.
Reader Darren Ling e-mailed The New Paper this week about the poor service he got at the Thai Express West Coast Plaza outlet.
Mr Ling, 24, had not been feeling well on the day he visited the restaurant. He claims he had asked for a little warm water to take his medication.
He says the restaurant manager suggested he buy a 500ml bottle of mineral water instead and have it heated up.
When asked, Minor Food Group, which manages Thai Express, did not want to comment on the incident except to say that Thai Express has a policy not to provide tap water to customers - under any circumstances.
"What upsets me most is that Thai Express knew I was unwell, but did not treat me as an exception under their policy," says Mr Ling.
Thai Express is not alone. Many restaurants across Singapore have the same policy of not serving water. At least 25 outlets here don't serve tap water for free. But some of the restaurants' spokesmen say that they would make exceptions.
But why this policy in the first place?
At Tajimaya, a Japanese restaurant at Vivocity, customers pay $3.90 for a 720ml bottle of Evian mineral water and $3 for a refillable cup of iced or warm green tea.
Ms Bonnie Wong, 25, marketing manager of Creative Eateries, which manages Tajimaya, says that providing tap water is an expenditure for restaurants.
"To keep service standards high for a mid- to high-priced restaurant like ours, we need more staff to refill cups faster," she says.
"And labour cost is high in Singapore."