Why don't U.S. bars/restaurants ever post their drink prices?

I recently got back from Berlin, where every establishment helpfully lists its price for every menu item next to the front door.

Is there some legal reason that American restaurants and bars never openly post their beer/cocktail prices? (other than happy-hour prices once in a while). I can sort of picture how ABC boards might consider that advertising, but it just works to the detriment of the consumer.

Is the US the only country that does this?

Lots of restaurants have a drinks menu. But I guess if a bar tried to do it, it would be like a phone book. Bars with Happy Hours usually post that menu.

True, but many of them have no prices listed, so you have to ask someone, or just order and hope for the best. Drives me nuts.

I think as far as the restaurants are concerned it’s so you buy it. If you see, in print, that pina colada is 10.99 you’ll think twice.

I’ve never seen a bar without a drinks menu that listed prices… am I crazy? Is this a regional thing? (I live in the Seattle area, for what it’s worth.)

Remember that the bartender has to memorize it, so it can’t be that complicated.

Generally something like 1 price for beer (or maybe a higher one for ‘special’ beers), one price for standard wines, one price for mixed drinks (using standard liquors), another price for mixed drinks (using ‘name brand’ liquors), and another higher price for drinks that require additional ingredients or a lot of bartender work (irish coffee, fruit drinks, ice cream drinks, etc.). So usually something less than a dozen prices to remember in all.

I’ve noticed that quite a few casual dining chains (e.g., Red Lobster, Outback, etc.) have booklets that show pictures of featured drinks, but rarely have prices on them.

I also think it is not uncommon for restaurants not to have a full drinks menu: they may list their wines, beers, and a few signature cocktails and after-dinner drinks, but not necessarily list the prices of rail or standard liquors. Places that list prices for your standard rail drinks remind me of New Jersey diners, for some reason.

I’ve seen unlisted prices in a few (very few) upper end chi-chi joints. but the vast majority of US establishments I’ve been to have drink prices clearly listed in the menu, a separate drink menu, or on some kind of chalk board.

Do German restaurants have very limited drink menus? Many US restaurants have pretty extensive drink selections running into dozens or more. Fitting them on a board at the door would be problematic.

While they might not be featured on the main dining menu the chain drink prices are usually listed on a table card or separate drink menu.

The chains don’t list prices because they vary from place to place. If you have 500 restaurants, you can’t customize menus.

It’s also avoided by smaller places so that the drink prices can change without having to reprint the menu.

Around here, it’s an actual menu, usually either in a book form or a photocopy held by a stand on the table. Maybe you’re just looking in different places?

Usually, the menus have 3 sections:
Beers and wines
Soft drinks/non-alcoholic drinks.

On a typical menu, wines are sold by the glass, beer by the bottle, and cocktails have varying prices. You can also see if they offer pitchers, entire bottles of wine, etc.

In general, if a bar doesn’t have a menu, it’s what we would consider a “watering hole.” You’ll drink what the house has and not order anything fancy. The bartender probably has no idea how to use the spigot to count off shots, they don’t know how to make cocktails, etc.

My advice is that if you want to tell if you are in a nice bar in the US, you generally have to ask two questions:

  1. Do you have a menu?
  2. What do you have on tap?

A good bar generally answers #1 with “yes” and #2 with “more than one beer.”

A watering hole generally says “no” to #1 and “only X” for #2.

Wait, why would this logic apply to drink prices but not food prices?

Lots of bars do. You have to stop going to the quality places.

I’m talking about a separate drinks menu, sometimes which is a glossy spiral bound book about six inches high and maybe 3 inches wide. They look like this. At many of the chain restaurants I’ve been to, there are no prices in that menu. There are many times no prices posted at all for the mixed drinks featured in that booklet, but the main menu will typically have prices for wine and beer.

My WAG would be that in some jurisdictions the LCB/ABC/etc requires prices to be listed on drinks menus.

In German restaurants the list is generally a column long: half a dozen beers (with prices for .33 liter and half liter), maybe a dozen wines, eight or nine liquors and a few cocktails.

I was actually thinking of those spiral-bound booklets at TGI Fridays which list no prices, but the Irish pub I went to yesterday evening didn’t have prices listed anywhere I could see either.

Whenever I see something offered for sale with no price given, I assume that “If you have to ask the price, you can’t afford it”.

There are many, many German restaurants where the drink portion of the menu is multiple pages, sometimes more than the food. Depending on the establishment, there might be dozens of wines or, in the case of a cocktail bar, up to 100 different cocktails. I cannot fathom a place that doesn’t list their prices, it seems you’re really taking your chances there.

As for space on a board or similar, you just take the menu and stick it in a glass box in front of the entrance. It’s great, because you can just walk up to a place and without having to sit down evaluate whether it’s in your price range and whether you like the food choices. Also, the end price is gonna be a lot easier to estimate, no tax added afterwards and maybe up to 10% tip maximum.

The bar I frequent has a large flatscreen mounted on the wall that shows their webpage with current drink prices.

Now I’m thirsty.:smiley:

Different tax rates in each jurisdiciton. In the restaurant industry, profit from food and non alcoholic drinks is based on volume, on alcoholic beverages it’s based on the selling price.