By Jeremy Bender, Cheapism.com
Soft drinks are a key money maker for most restaurants. Marked up significantly to maximize revenues and profits, soft drinks manage to drain customers' wallets at the same time. Order a soft drink at an establishment that supplies free refills, however, and a relatively pricey order instantly turns into a value buy.
We identified 11 casual restaurant and fast-food chains, and one entertainment venue, that maintain free refill policies.
Taco Bell offers free refills through soda dispensers located in the seating section of the restaurant. The chain takes pride in the fact that it was the first fast-food operation to extend this courtesy. Refills while seated in a Taco Bell are unlimited, but as soon as you leave the freebie is finished -- unless you buy a new cup. Drive-through customers are not eligible for no-charge refills.
McDonald's offers unlimited refills from the self-serve soda machine in the dining area. According to a McDonald's manager on Yahoo Answers, customers can fill up for free at any point in the future as long as they keep their McDonald's cup. Drive-through customers can take advantage of the free refill policy by physically entering the restaurant and bringing the McDonald's cup with them.
Burger King, much like McDonald's and Taco Bell, supports free refills. Some Burger Kings feature self-serve soda dispensers that are fully accessible to customers while others keep the dispensers behind the counter. In this latter situation diners must ask a cashier to fill the cup.
Fuddruckers is an international sit-down, build-your-own burger chain. The waitstaff offer free refills while customers are seated. Some locations offer free refills on French fries, depending on the franchise owner.
Friendly's refills all fountain drinks and iced tea at no charge for customers dining in the restaurant. The soda list includes Coca-Cola, Diet Coke, Sprite, Fanta, Barq's Root Beer, and Minute Maid Lemonade.
Five Guys, the fast-growing burger chain that is consistently ranked among the best, provides unlimited free refills for dine-in customers. If you take food to go, or leave the restaurant and return, forget about the freebie.
Chipotle, like many of its competitors, offers no-cost unlimited refills to customers dining in the eatery. Chipotle outlets usually maintain self-serve drink machines that customers can access as needed.
TGI Fridays is a sit-down restaurant with free fill-ups for soft drinks, iced tea, and coffee throughout the meal. Sometimes TGI Fridays runs promotions for refills on other items, such as fruit slushes.
Applebee's is hit or miss on the refills front. The majority of locations offer free refills for soft drinks and coffee, while others charge. Ask the waitstaff, as each franchise location maintains its own policy.
Related: Where can kids eat for free
Chili's Grill & Bar boasts a refill policy that covers soft drinks and, depending on the particular franchise, coffee, brewed tea, iced tea, and lemonade throughout the meal. There are no refills for alcoholic drinks.
Olive Garden offers a variety of liquid refreshments that can be refilled at no cost during a meal. The list includes raspberry lemonade, juices, coffee, and soft drinks.
AMC Movie Theaters also, surprisingly, maintain a free refill policy. Any purchase of a large popcorn or large fountain drink entitles the customer to one free refill for the same item. There is a limit of one refill, however.
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