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Free Flow And Refills At Restaurants: How Much Are They Really Worth?

Ikea offers free refills for carbonated drinks, coffee and tea at RM2.50.


In recent years, there has been concerns worldwide about rising inflation. The Covid-19 pandemic which led to supply chain disruptions and labour shortages may have caused prices of certain items to soar. The Russia-Ukraine and Israel-Gaza conflict also further complicated supply chain leading to inflationary pressures.  

Rising costs of living have become a main concern of many Malaysians. In a survey conducted by the UCSI Poll Research Centre this year, 89% of Malaysians were worried about the current costs of living as compared to 11% who were not bothered.  

Additionally, when asked which items’ price increase they were most concerned with, a majority (60%) answered food and groceries. 

Perhaps this is the reason why more restaurants are offering free refills to attract customers who want to save on meals. 

Some restaurants offer refills on side dishes such as rice and soups free of charge when you order a full set meal or meet certain requirements. They might even let you share the set and refills with your friend or family, so you only need to order one set and get free refills on rice and soups for two.  

Types Of Free Refills In Malaysia 

Free Rice And Sides: Ma Maison, Banana Bro 

In Malaysia, many of us grew up in households where rice is a main component of our meals accompanied by a vegetable and meat dish. It may be common to always prepare a bigger portion of rice in the cooker in case some need a refill of it halfway through the meal.  

When we eat out in restaurants however, you get a serving of rice in which the portion varies depending on the restaurant and you would need to order an extra serving of rice if it is inadequate.  

Nowadays, there are restaurants that do offer free refills of certain food items including rice when you meet the requirements. For example, Ma Maison, a Japanese tonkatsu chain restaurant, lets customers enjoy unlimited refills on rice, cabbage and miso soup when they order a set meal.     

According to the restaurant’s menu, the sets are priced from RM30.90 to RM60.90, before tax. The cheapest sets including the deep-fried tender chicken cutlets are priced at RM30.90. The set itself comes with rice, miso soup, cabbage, radish and pickles with rice, cabbage and miso soup being refillable at no extra charge. 

A similar dish on the a la carte menu is Japanese ‘udon’ with deep-fried chicken cutlets which costs RM28.90 at the restaurant. However, with a top up of only RM2, you can enjoy a refill of rice, vegetables and soup.   

A search online also revealed that the pricing of Ma Maison’s chicken katsu set is on par with those offered at other tonkatsu specialty restaurants. Tonkatsu by Wa Kitchen also features a chicken katsu dish at the price of RM31 while Tonkatsu Anzu has a chicken katsu set that costs RM35.90.  

Although the side dish items may differ at each restaurant, the pricings are quite standard and goes to show that Ma Maison did not purposefully raise the price of its sets to cover the refill costs. This means the refills are purely added value to Ma Maison’s set meals.  

It is stated that refillable privilege would be forfeited should the items were shared with your dining companions. However, you may be able to share if each person orders an item. For example, a couple can order one set to share and one a la carte dish.  

Another popular eatery, Banana Bro offers customers unlimited refills when they order the ‘Craving Set’ at RM12.90. The set consists of steamed white rice, papadom, four types of curry sauces and three kinds of cooked vegetables that are all refillable for free. 

A check on its menu revealed that if you order white rice and papadom a la carte, they cost RM3.50 each and RM1 for three pieces respectively. The only vegetable a la carte dish at Banana Bro is the ‘sambal petai’ which costs RM9.90.  

By paying RM12.90, you get to enjoy steamed white rice, papadom, four types of curry sauces and three kinds of cooked vegetables such as deep-fried snake gourds and cucumber raita as much as you can eat.  

The ‘Craving Set’ is, however, strictly not to be shared.     

Free Drinks: Texas Chicken, Chilli’s, Ikea, Yayoi, Sushi Zanmai 

From fast-food chains to Japanese restaurants, many restaurants in Malaysia offer free refill of drinks. Some of them don’t require you to order set meals to enjoy the refill of drinks. You just need to pay for a drink to be able to enjoy unlimited refills after.  

For instance, Texas Chicken lets you refill a variety of soft drinks for free while Chili’s and Ikea offer free refills of soft drinks and juices. Some Japanese restaurants such as Ma Maison, Yayoi and Sushi Zanmai also allow you to enjoy free refill of Japanese green tea to your heart’s content.      

Ikea offers free refills for carbonated drinks, coffee and tea at RM2.50. The official Coca-Cola store on Lazada online shows that you can buy four cans of Coca-Cola (320ml) at RM11.60, which equals to RM2.90 per can.  

Chili’s refillable soft drinks cost RM9.95 while fruit juices are RM13.95. There’s also a selection of refillable hot drinks such as Milo that cost RM8.95.  

Are Free Refills Worth The Money? 

There are several factors to be considered before determining if free refills are a good deal for you. One of the factors is the pricing. For example, at RM2.50, a free flow of drinks in Ikea is similarly priced like one can of drink itself. So, at a same price, rather than paying for just one drink, it would be worth the money to get unlimited refill of it. 

Another example would be the deep-fried tender chicken cutlets set at Ma Maison that is priced at RM30.90. It would make more sense financially to get the set as compared to the deep-fried chicken cutlets udon a la carte dish priced at RM28.90, with unlimited refills, since you’re paying roughly the same amount.    

The worthiness of refills also depends on how much the person consumes. The economy of refills stands on the basis that the more you refill, the more worth it financially. Refillable offerings would be worth the money for someone who consumes more compared to a person who doesn’t eat as much. 

For example, if you’re staying in a restaurant for a long time, getting a refill drink could work in your favour since you will probably need to refill a couple of times over the period and get your money’s worth.  

It’s also important to discern when refills may not be a good deal for you. Some restaurants, for example may offer free flow of drinks to customers to entice you to order carbonated drinks or juices that are more expensive than plain water.  

So, if you’re only staying for a meal for two hours, you probably don’t need to refill your drinks and will not get your money’s worth. 

Featured Image Credit: Honey Shune Lai Nyo/DollarsAndSense


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