Restaurant Hours Rant

Look, I get a place wanting to close early when there’s no custom, but …

I go to restaurants about half an hour before closing, often. I eat late (not great for one’s health but …), especially as most of the restaurants in my area which used to be 10pm close are now 9pm close.

Restaurants always seem to have two main closing times.

  • when the kitchen closes (usually the last call for food / takeout )
  • when they turn off the lights and leave

There are many other slight variations. When they stop seating customers. Happy hour menu. Brunch menu. Late night menu. Last call for alcohol.

Yelp and Google just have “hours”. Which hours are they? Usually the hours posted on the door of the joint. And which are these? Who knows. Restaurant web pages RARELY have hours easy to find (should be on the front page FFS).

I get nightly variation. Staff is tired and no one is there and they want to pack it in early. Then be honest, if I show up at 8:30 for a 9:00 close, and hear “not enough people, closing early”. That’s FINE with me. OCCASIONALLY.

I was COMPLETLY STUCK in redwood city (a suburb of san francisco) because ALL of the restaurants in a two block region with a 9pm “close time” would not seat me at 8:30.

How, exactly, is a restaurant “open” if you can’t go in and order food and receive it?!?!?!

Years ago, I asked a senior guy at Yelp why they don’t list Kitchen Hours different from Open Hours. I posited the problem of bars that serve food, where they might be listed as open to 2am, but the kitchen closes at 10pm or 11pm. Well and good, just stop returning my search for “food open now” places that won’t serve me food! That’s even worse than a “9pm close time” meaning “no food after 8:15pm”. Or at least have a field where I can see before heading over.

He said, “what? that’s a thing?” He has kids, a “serious job”, doesn’t get out much at 10pm. I like the guy a lot, but (not that this is a diatribe of the numerous sins of Yelp) that’s just a miserable lack of product understanding and target market. Then Google basically copied all the interface from Yelp, and didn’t have the concept of a separate Kitchen Hours.

What happens now is, through trial and error, I have to keep my own tabs on who closed 45 minutes early, 30 minutes early, 15 minutes early, and spot-on-the-nose. This requires, basically, driving around areas with high restaurant densities several times between 9pm and 10pm on different days of the week to see who is in what category. That doesn’t work for bars, who seem to be hopping but have no food available, you have to go in and ask. Which I do, because I’m hungry, and I’ve now got a few stalwarts I can depend on later in the evening.

Please, if you run a restaurant, put KITCHEN HOURS prominently on your website. If they happen to be the same as your open hours, DO IT ANYWAY because I’ll never know if you’re really stating the kitchen hours unless it says KITCHEN HOURS.

If you happen to work at one of the tech search engines that covers restaurants please bug someone to consider Kitchen Hours. It can be an optional parameter.

Thank you for listening.

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I hear you.

I was once refused service 45 mins before close time at Saravanaa in nyc - on a weekend even (long before covid) - and it was the one time I got well and truly annoyed at the person who stopped us at the door. But I put that down to indian restaurant shenanigans in little India - they really don’t care.

But I’d imagine the pandemic has made everything worse.

Re the driving around - do you call ahead? If this is a common issue, I’d think that might save you some effort (though not frustration). And if they pick up, at least there may be the option of takeout.

So go thirty minutes earlier.

This reminds me of my many years in retail and customers would say they’re in a hurry and I felt like saying wake up earlier but I’m too polite.

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Why can’t they just put their closing times 30 minutes earlier?

BTW, fair enough to respond to a rant with a rant :slight_smile: even a mini-rant.

I’m eating at a particular time. It doesn’t matter what that time is. I want to give my custom to the restaurants who are open and welcome my business, and not waste anyone’s time or be impolite. It doesn’t seem unreasonable.

My ire is reserved for the restaurants who claim to be “open” when they are not accepting customers or orders (we’re open until 9 but you can’t come in or order food after 8:30), the search engines that don’t allow restaurants to express their hours, and the society that considers a concept like “open” to be accepting of such a slap-dash definition.

I also dislike that restaurants which are strict about their hours (XXXpm means XXXpm) are penalized. They’re doing the “right thing” but they get no business for the last 30 minutes because everyone assumes they’re not serving?

I’ve got a call in to a friend of mine who owns a restaurant so I’ll get his view but it probably will be tomorrow.

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Sometimes I do call ahead, now, if there’s a very particular spot I’m aiming for. If it was a one-off, that happens, but when there are four restaurants all within a block and ALL of them do it so my plan A, B, C restaurants turn me away, I feel entitled to a rant.

I think it’s good business to stay open till your close time. At least, I went last night to one of the places that closes when they said they did, and I had done takeout, and they were doing land office business 15 minutes before close. Line out the front and down the block.

Ok, it’s a pretty good local joint, but other restaurant owners might start noticing that the late side diners are coming back…

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I’d never deprive anyone of a good rant :joy:

Yeah. It may be staffing issues, though.

Hopefully things will get better, slowly.

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During the pandemic, everybody who was open at all was closing really early; it’ll take a while after we stop the cycle of reopen-oops-reclose before things are semi-normal, and web sites often don’t get updated.

But yeah, even in normal times, it was frustrating. There were occasional oddities, like it’s easier to get dinner and a beer at midnight in downtown Salt Lake City than in Silicon Valley, because you can’t serve drinks without also serving food, so the kitchen stays open even though most people were there to drink.

Of course YMMV, but if I’m out, I would personally not go into a place 30 min before close. It’s quite different than a retail store, where they can close the doors at closing time, and get everyone with a purchase through the register in 10-15 min thereafter. At a restaurant, if they seat you and bring you a menu, they don’t know if you’ll be there for 30 min or an hour 30. And they can’t really rush you though they can make you feel uncomfortable. So I personally - again ymmv - wouldn’t go in unless it was like 45 min to close or longer, just because I wouldn’t want to put people in the position of thinking they might have to stick around an hour after close for you.

An anecdote, if you care for one. This was many years back on a vacation to Hawaii. Not in a bigger town, but remote, like the road to Hana or something. We stopped at a burger shack - very much a shack - around 4 or so. Smack between meal times. They were listed as open and actually open. We went up to the window to try and order burgers. You can’t always plan meal times when road tripping… The owner who came to the window said to us - I can get you cokes and chips if you want. I don’t feel like cooking right now. Which sucked. We were starving. What are you going to do?

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We were once in Cinque Terre , taking trains and small boats from town to town, and while people were eating, we could not find a single place that would seat us. I can’t remember which town. Maybe this one.

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Eat chips and drink coke, I guess. This is why I usually have a hard boiled egg and an orange in my purse when I travel.

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Great, set them up please. However I don’t feel like paying for anything right now. :smirk:

I referenced this in a previous post and I spoke with a friend who owns a restaurant and he only does takeout 30 minutes before closing.

According to him the only one making money staying open late is the owner.

He wants to get out on time because many on the kitchen staff have been there 12 hours and they have lives and families.

BTW those to go containers have gone way up in price since the start of the covid but he won’t raise prices.

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My thoughts are that restaurants that are open, and accepting customers, should be able to provide the guests with at least limited menu items. To me, open presumes business transactions. If the bar is open, but not the kitchen, that should be made clear. If they want to shut down by a certain time, that needs to be factored into the closing time.

A few years ago, a GF and I were in Seattle after a musical, and hungry; it was only about 9:00. We saw a well reviewed (and hopping) place, we’re seated in the restaurant section, and ordered a drink. We got the drinks, and were looking at the menu when the server came to the table and told us the kitchen was closed. WTH? They were able to bring us an appetizer, a bowl of soup, or something. Totally not satisfying, and I was not happy. Had we been told up front, we’d have had time to go elsewhere. Knowing we weren’t pleased, they gave us a gift certificate for an appetizer, or some such…but we never went back. The place is no longer there. Good riddance! That said, I know the restaurant business is tough, and operates on slim margins - I’m sympathetic to that. These thoughts of course, are from a customer’s perspective, solely.

That sounds pretty reasonable to me.

After over 30 years in retail trust me it is not appreciated as we all want to get the heck out of there.

I respect business hours and am not the person who stands in front of a business and keeps looking at their watch 10 minutes before opening nor will I go in any time close to closing.

It would have been fine had we been forewarned. As it was, we were hangry, and the paltry offering(s) just didn’t cut it. Literally, a tiny cup of non-substantial soup and a very small appetizer didn’t work for us. It’s all about expectations I guess. Many places I’ve been to at later hours are straightforward about what’s available or not, usually at the time of seating. Or, the restaurant area is closed off, and guests can then choose to go to the bar, or not. I did mention that we were seated, given dinner menus, and were served our drinks, right?

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I’m coming at this from the perspective of someone who once drove 30 miles on a dirt road to spend a few days with some canyons and caves, ran out of food (because I’m an idiot), and subsisted on 50 cent granola bars from the ranger station. Your situation sounds luxurious by comparison.

Trust me, I’ve been in your situation in the mountains when I was young and inexperienced! Obviously I didn’t starve that night in Seattle, so all is well! It was just annoying is all. Gives me something to rant about now lol :joy:

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Have at it! I’ve been known to whine when the olives in my martini are not up to par.

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“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold