I Have a Question: Why do Restaurants Put Lemons in Water?

I hate lemons in my water. Especially when they are huge slices. I can deal with a thinly cut layer, but for the most part, I like my water to taste like water. Last night I was served a big glass of water in a plastic tumbler and there were four lemon seeds floating around between the ice cubes. I wondered how much an average restaurant spends to add lemons to tap water. Seems like a great way to cut costs. Waddaya think?


  • Scott

    If it wasn’t there I would ask for it. If the water is filtered then it may taste ok but if not the lemon helps freshen it up.

  • Kat

    For me it is a hygiene thing, I don’t like them in my water because someone used their hands to slice them and they are usually laying around before they throw them in your glass. I also wonder how many restaurants wash them before slicing.

  • TLS

    I’m usually asked if I want lemon. I can’t remember a time that someone put a lemon in the water without asking first.

    Oh, and it is best to say NO to the lemon as studies have shown that the lemon is often contaminated due to poor sanitation when cutting, unwashed fingers putting the lemon on the glass, not washing the lemons first, etc.

  • TLS

    Jinx, Kat.

  • jane

    Water had bacteria/algea that results in a smell similar to a goldfish bowl or an aquarium. The lemon neutralizes the water’s PH level, therefore masking the fishy smell water emits.

  • irodguy

    The true issue is why don’t more restaurants filter their water. The answer of course is that filters must be changed and cost money. That being said lemon is mostly necessary to balance the poor tasting water at many establishments. They should however serve lemon the side, not in the glass.

  • Scagnetti

    I’m an anti-lemonite. I don’t like ANYTHING in my water or iced tea. No straws, no lemons, no nothing.

  • jillo

    Years ago I was served water with a moldy lemon floating around in it and have despised lemon in my water since! I think lemon should be left out unless someone specifically requests it.

  • DGirl

    Nana doesn’t put lemons in their water. IJS. 🙂

  • Lemon makes the water too astringent for my taste, and I prefer still water without ice.

  • UC

    Waitstaff tend to be robots when it comes to lemon in the water. Even if I specifically ask them to not put lemon in my water it will still be there at least 50% of the time. It annoys me to no end that I have to ask that something disgusting not be put in my water, but such is life I guess.

  • N

    When I bartended in town 3-4 years ago, I was the only person there who: 1) washed his fruit; 2) washed his hands every few minutes or so; 3) used a clean cutting board; and 4) kept extra fruit in a clean container. Personal standard and habit….

  • DGirl

    @N – Something about your declaration “I was the only person there who washed his fruit” really turns me on.

  • I still want to know how much an average restaurant spends on lemons for water.

  • Gipson

    Aquatic lemons are hardly the worst offenders. If you ask me, the most infuriating “why not?” of the restaurant world is the bed of lettuce. Need a side of guacamole and sour cream? Why not drop both scoops on a bed of shredded iceberg that nobody wants!

    I ordered a side of sour cream at Chuy’s on Sunday; it actually came in a small bowl on top of a lilliputian pile of lettuce. What?! Was that supposed to class it up?!

    How much money does the average Tex-Mex restaurant waste on shredded iceberg lettuce?

  • George

    I love lemons. I agree that they should be optional, but I’d always take lemon in water, iced tea, club soda, etc.

  • Jo Bennett

    What a trite non issue!It is a personal preference…it should also be a choice given to a diner by the waitstaff before serving along with ice or not lemon or not…and I agree restaurants should not only filter their water but wash the fruit and their hands…

  • I don’t like my water to taste like water because more often than not, the water does not taste good. I like just a bit of flavor in it. I add lemons to my water at home all the time.

    I don’t think you’re going to get an answer to the question of how much the lemons cost, because who would even know, but I’d bet it’s less than the cost of many things that actually are a genuine waste of money, like giving you half a dozen plastic containers when you get takeout. Lemons actually have a purpose. That’s like asking how much money a restaurant spends on artificial sweetener. Who cares? Some people like it, some don’t.

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with lemons being optional or being brought to the table on a small dish, but if you bring every table a half dozen lemon slices on a plate, that’s probably more lemons (and more lemons wasted) than putting one in each glass.

    I also think there may be some merit to the hygenic concerns, but I’m not enough of a germophobe to care. YMMV.

  • I also agree with the above comment on lettuce. Lettuce mixing in with perfectly good guacamole drives me bonkers.

  • Lemons are expensive. All a server has to do is ask if you want lemon in your water. If a restaurant used half, they would save significant money. Especially if they also cut out two or three other lemon-like components to their business. Like lettuce in guacamole. Or even an automatic glass of water. If a restaurant doesn’t just produce a glass filled with ice, water, and lemon they would save money and make the dishwasher happy.

  • Terroir

    If you ever tasted the tap water in Deep Ellum (which Dallas Water claims at times of high water is “Infiltrated” meaning sewer backup) You NEEDED that lemon to keep the customer unaware. Problems with most lemons is they are stored in a cardboard box and impart TCA which makes you wine taste like %&$#@.

  • “I still want to know how much an average restaurant spends on lemons for water.”

    I’d know, TJ’s gives a free lemon to every customer that asks for one.

    a case with apprx 100 lemons = 31.95 / case

    .32 per lemon, call it 8 wedges per lemon. that’s .04 in every glass.

  • laurie

    Long ago, I worked as a waiter. One of my side jobs was to cut lots of lemons for water. I can assure you that they were never washed and we used our unwashed hands to cut them and scoop them up into a container. It’s entirely possible for someone to nick their finger and get blood mixed in. You don’t have to be a germaphobe to find that gross. Since then, I shudder when I find lemon floating in my glass. It’s the same feeling as when I see a server hold the glass by the rim where I’ll be putting my lips. Ugh. Maybe these days, people use gloves when cutting them. Does anyone know?