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Why do restaurants lie about their hours?

Why do restaurants lie about their hours?
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  • Why do restaurants lie about their hours?

    Post #1 - January 22nd, 2010, 12:58 pm
    Post #1 - January 22nd, 2010, 12:58 pm Post #1 - January 22nd, 2010, 12:58 pm
    You check a restaurant's web site for hours. OK. Arrive at the restaurant 30 minutes or more before the announced closing time. A sign on the door agrees with the web site.

    However, the restaurant is shut up tight. Or you walk in to be told the kitchen is closed. Or, they're still open, but most of the chairs are up on the tables and, if you dare to sit down and order, the staff gives you that "hurry-up" fish eye as they mop the floor around you.

    This has happened to me three times in the past 10 days.

    Why on earth don't restaurants announce a "last seating" time and stick to it?

    It's tempting, I suppose, when business is slow, to send the staff home early. But I can't think of any better way to discourage late-evening business than not to be consistently open when you say you are.
  • Post #2 - January 22nd, 2010, 1:11 pm
    Post #2 - January 22nd, 2010, 1:11 pm Post #2 - January 22nd, 2010, 1:11 pm
    Because it's a sucky economy and there's little upside to staying open when there aren't any customers?

    The better question is "Does a posted closing team imply that I can show up 30 minutes prior and expect full service?"
  • Post #3 - January 22nd, 2010, 1:18 pm
    Post #3 - January 22nd, 2010, 1:18 pm Post #3 - January 22nd, 2010, 1:18 pm
    Hi,

    There is always this thought service was better in the good ol'days. Mom2's husband was a traveling salesman in the 1950's. He once arrived to a restaurant about fifteen minutes before the posted closing. He was advised he could have anything he wanted on the menu. He ordered: soup, salad, main course and ice cream.

    Sometime later the waitress arrived with a cart loaded with: soup, salad, main course and dessert of ice cream. She placed everything on the table along with the check and walked away.

    Mom2's husband found the manager, then inquired, "Do I eat the ice cream before it melts or the soup before it's cold?" The manager advised the waitress. "Just because we closed at 9 PM, it does not mean we push all customers out the door at 9 PM."

    She returned to take everything away except for the soup. The meal proceeded at a proper pace and freshness from this point on.

    ***

    To answer your question LAZ: closing earlier than your posted hours is a false economy. It is also a self-fulfilled prophecy, because closing earlier than the posted sign trains customers to go elsewhere if close to closing. Eventually business late in the evening is dead, because they willed it to be.

    I wonder if you called a manager during the day, would he be surprised his establishment closed earlier than posted hours. It may be a surprise not reflected in the payroll tallies.

    And yes, it can be entirely a management decision.

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #4 - January 22nd, 2010, 1:28 pm
    Post #4 - January 22nd, 2010, 1:28 pm Post #4 - January 22nd, 2010, 1:28 pm
    "Does a posted closing team imply that I can show up 30 minutes prior and expect full service?"

    That's up to the owner, isn't it?

    A few months ago we were downstate for my uncle's funeral in Gillespie. After the visitation the night before the funeral, a bunch of us headed over to the Ariston Cafe in Litchfield, arriving a half hour or so before closing time or so we thought, though the place was empty (a cold, rainy Tuesday night in a small town). The waitress saw us come in and said, the kitchen's closed. Nick, the owner, saw us (and, quite possibly, recognized some of us and knew why we were in town) -- all 24 or so of us -- and said, "the kitchen's open. Come on in." The whole place swung into full-service mode. We were all very hungry and thirsty after long drives and a long day. We ran up a big food tab and a big bar tab, and tipped generously in appreciation for their taking us in. We still haven't forgotten Nick's hospitality.
    Last edited by Katie on January 22nd, 2010, 1:31 pm, edited 3 times in total.
    "Your swimming suit matches your eyes, you hold your nose before diving, loving you has made me bananas!"
  • Post #5 - January 22nd, 2010, 1:28 pm
    Post #5 - January 22nd, 2010, 1:28 pm Post #5 - January 22nd, 2010, 1:28 pm
    spinynorman99 wrote:The better question is "Does a posted closing team imply that I can show up 30 minutes prior and expect full service?"


    What I'm saying is that they should post their closing time as whatever the last time a customer can come in and expect full service. Not the time at which they mean to shut off the lights and go home. They can post whatever hours they want. Why say you close at 10 if you really shut at 9:30?

    As Cathy said, the upside to staying open when there are no customers is in not discouraging those customers who show up to find your place unexpectedly closed.
  • Post #6 - January 22nd, 2010, 1:35 pm
    Post #6 - January 22nd, 2010, 1:35 pm Post #6 - January 22nd, 2010, 1:35 pm
    Why say you close at 10 if you really shut at 9:30?


    Because they (wrongly?) assume that a customer can figure that out? Your other post expresses your unhappiness that Gulliver's would lock its doors 1/2 hour before the posted closing. You really expect to get served at Gulliver's when you walk in at 10:30? Other than salad what could you expect to get? Anything on their menu that isn't pizza is pretty much deep-fried. Walking in at 10:30 doesn't mean getting waited on at 10:30. Use your common sense. Very few places (other than hot dog and taco stands) are going to have full-service beyond the hour before closing.

    And don't expect an unusual occurrence in a small town to set the standard for all restaurants. A long time ago we were driving back from Lake Geneva late at night on the 4th of July and didn't anticipate every gas station would be closed. By the time we hit Genoa City we were on fumes and stopped a local to ask for advice. He told us to just ring the doorbell at the house behind the gas station. First and last time in my life I expect that to happen.
    Last edited by spinynorman99 on January 22nd, 2010, 1:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  • Post #7 - January 22nd, 2010, 1:38 pm
    Post #7 - January 22nd, 2010, 1:38 pm Post #7 - January 22nd, 2010, 1:38 pm
    This reminds me of a Simpsons episode where Moe is sitting in his empty bar complaining to himself about what a slow night it's been, and decides to close early.

    At that moment, all the men of the Quimby clan are walking down the street toward Moe's Bar, telling each other in their Kennedy-esque accents, "I am, er, gonna drink you under the table!" "No, I am, er, gonna drink YOU under the table!" Just as they reach the door the bar's "Open" sign turns off, and they all groan, dejected, and head off (presumably to another bar, or back to the Quimby compound).

    What could've been a huge night for Moe's bottom line instead ended in the red, all because he chose to close earlier than his posted hours.
  • Post #8 - January 22nd, 2010, 1:45 pm
    Post #8 - January 22nd, 2010, 1:45 pm Post #8 - January 22nd, 2010, 1:45 pm
    spinynorman99 wrote:
    Why say you close at 10 if you really shut at 9:30?


    Because they (wrongly?) assume that a customer can figure that out? Your other post expresses your unhappiness that Gulliver's would lock its doors 1/2 hour before the posted closing. You really expect to get served at Gulliver's when you walk in at 10:30? Other than salad what could you expect to get? Anything on their menu that isn't pizza is pretty much deep-fried. Walking in at 10:30 doesn't mean getting waited on at 10:30. Use your common sense. Very few places (other than hot dog and taco stands) are going to have full-service beyond the hour before closing.

    Okay, I'll bite: so a restaurant's posted hours say it closes at 10:30pm. "Common sense" would dictate that one should not bother showing up after 10:00pm and expecting to be served. But no customers show up between 10:00pm and 10:30pm many nights in a row (assuming they all "figured it out"), so management decides to close at 10:00pm the next time they have a slow night, rather than paying all of that staff to stand around doing nothing. So now, 9:30pm is the latest a "reasonable person" can expect to order food. And from here, as Cathy pointed out, a self-fulfilling prophecy can develop.

    I think real common sense would be if restaurants stopped posting closing times altogether, and instead posted the time after which they will no longer seat customers.
  • Post #9 - January 22nd, 2010, 1:50 pm
    Post #9 - January 22nd, 2010, 1:50 pm Post #9 - January 22nd, 2010, 1:50 pm
    spinynorman99 wrote:The better question is "Does a posted closing team imply that I can show up 30 minutes prior and expect full service?"


    30 minutes ? hell yes.

    5 minutes ? Probably not.
  • Post #10 - January 22nd, 2010, 1:54 pm
    Post #10 - January 22nd, 2010, 1:54 pm Post #10 - January 22nd, 2010, 1:54 pm
    I havent run into this issue, but I make it a rule to not go places 30 minutes or less before closing. Those folks want to go home, and I know how they feel. Plus you are just asking for a rushed, bad experience going someplace @ closing time imho.

    saying restaurants "lie" is silly.
    Last edited by jimswside on January 22nd, 2010, 2:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  • Post #11 - January 22nd, 2010, 1:58 pm
    Post #11 - January 22nd, 2010, 1:58 pm Post #11 - January 22nd, 2010, 1:58 pm
    If you plan on going to a full service restaurant around their closing time, call them. Especially on the deader nights. Instead of being disappointed, be proactive and happy. Don't rely on posted hours in those situations. Humans make decisions night to night if they are going to stay open until x pm on dead nights. If you were to call, then they would be prepared, and I bet you'd even have a pretty decent meal with great service with the place to yourself, and a cook and a server who were looking to make your meal enjoyable. The 27 second phone call is so much more useful than showing up and being disappointed.
    We cannot be friends if you do not know the difference between Mayo and Miracle Whip.
  • Post #12 - January 22nd, 2010, 2:15 pm
    Post #12 - January 22nd, 2010, 2:15 pm Post #12 - January 22nd, 2010, 2:15 pm
    Here's a question I don't know the answer to. When you make a reservation at a restaurant, do they typically take reservations up until the time posted as closing on their website? Or is the last seating actually before the closing time?

    Just curious - might help inform this debate. I am usually starting to get hungry for dinner no later than 6, so the number of times I've made a dinner reservation after 8 or 8:30 can probably be counted on one hand.
  • Post #13 - January 22nd, 2010, 2:23 pm
    Post #13 - January 22nd, 2010, 2:23 pm Post #13 - January 22nd, 2010, 2:23 pm
    Khaopaat wrote: I think real common sense would be if restaurants stopped posting closing times altogether, and instead posted the time after which they will no longer seat customers.


    While I feel for restauranteur in this economy, I agree with this and LAZ's earlier, similar, statement. Part of the problem is that it isn't common sense: I have no idea how long a particular meal will take to set up, cook, plate and serve. If the posted closing time is 10, does that mean I have to be there at 9? 8:30? This time probably varies widely from restaurant to restaurant, meal to meal. Only the place in question can judge how long it takes to serve their average customer.

    OTOH, in this economy, I usually call before I go out to eat. There are an awful lot of places no longer following their posted hours; the niceties of days gone by cost salary money, which is at a premium these days.
  • Post #14 - January 22nd, 2010, 2:26 pm
    Post #14 - January 22nd, 2010, 2:26 pm Post #14 - January 22nd, 2010, 2:26 pm
    PitaChip wrote:Here's a question I don't know the answer to. When you make a reservation at a restaurant, do they typically take reservations up until the time posted as closing on their website? Or is the last seating actually before the closing time?

    Just curious - might help inform this debate. I am usually starting to get hungry for dinner no later than 6, so the number of times I've made a dinner reservation after 8 or 8:30 can probably be counted on one hand.


    This is really smart. I checked a few casual restaurants on Open Table. Some let you make a reservation for the same time they are posted to close; others had the last reservation 30 minutes before closing. I had suspected that the real closing time (i.e. the latest you can show up and get full service) differs from restaurant to restaurant. Opentable seems to bear this out. I don't think telling people to "use common sense" is that helpful because, clearly, there isn't a set understanding of what a closing time represents. (Though obviously calling ahead is a good idea!)
  • Post #15 - January 22nd, 2010, 2:30 pm
    Post #15 - January 22nd, 2010, 2:30 pm Post #15 - January 22nd, 2010, 2:30 pm
    The problem is the variance from place to place. Some places simply stop seating at their stated closing time, and your service will be no different whether you walk in five minutes or five hours prior. With others, you could walk in the door an hour before closing and have your food thrown at you so the lights can go off and the doors can be locked at closing.

    How does common sense apply? How can a customer have any kind of reasonable expectation when there's no consistency whatsoever?
    Dominic Armato
    Dining Critic
    The Arizona Republic and azcentral.com
  • Post #16 - January 22nd, 2010, 2:31 pm
    Post #16 - January 22nd, 2010, 2:31 pm Post #16 - January 22nd, 2010, 2:31 pm
    thank god we have an active thread again about how awful restaurant owners are

    it was a rough 72 hours
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  • Post #17 - January 22nd, 2010, 2:34 pm
    Post #17 - January 22nd, 2010, 2:34 pm Post #17 - January 22nd, 2010, 2:34 pm
    Mike G wrote:thank god we have an active thread again about how awful restaurant owners are

    it was a rough 72 hours


    Could you clarify which food-related topics are off limits on a food-related forum?
  • Post #18 - January 22nd, 2010, 2:56 pm
    Post #18 - January 22nd, 2010, 2:56 pm Post #18 - January 22nd, 2010, 2:56 pm
    Mike G wrote:thank god we have an active thread again about how awful restaurant owners are

    Ahem...I believe one of my examples specifically addressed how awful bar owners are.

    Image
    "Business is slow. People today are healthier and drinking less. You know, if it wasn't for the junior high school next door, no one would even use the cigarette machine."
  • Post #19 - January 22nd, 2010, 2:57 pm
    Post #19 - January 22nd, 2010, 2:57 pm Post #19 - January 22nd, 2010, 2:57 pm
    On the subject of calling to ask the hours: when I call I make a point to ask what time the kitchen closes, not just what time the restaurant closes.
    "Your swimming suit matches your eyes, you hold your nose before diving, loving you has made me bananas!"
  • Post #20 - January 22nd, 2010, 3:01 pm
    Post #20 - January 22nd, 2010, 3:01 pm Post #20 - January 22nd, 2010, 3:01 pm
    Katie wrote:On the subject of calling to ask the hours: when I call I make a point to ask what time the kitchen closes, not just what time the restaurant closes.


    Same here. Just to be perfectly clear I'll say something along the lines of, "If we come in at XX:00 will we still be able to get seated and have a full meal?"
    -Josh

    I've started blogging about the Stuff I Eat
  • Post #21 - January 22nd, 2010, 4:28 pm
    Post #21 - January 22nd, 2010, 4:28 pm Post #21 - January 22nd, 2010, 4:28 pm
    Could you clarify which food-related topics are off limits on a food-related forum?


    Ones about food, apparently
    Watch Sky Full of Bacon, the Chicago food HD podcast!
    New episode: Soil, Corn, Cows and Cheese
    Watch the Reader's James Beard Award-winning Key Ingredient here.
  • Post #22 - January 22nd, 2010, 4:42 pm
    Post #22 - January 22nd, 2010, 4:42 pm Post #22 - January 22nd, 2010, 4:42 pm
    Mike G wrote:
    Could you clarify which food-related topics are off limits on a food-related forum?


    Ones about food, apparently


    Laughing. Hard.
    "Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad." Miles Kington
  • Post #23 - January 22nd, 2010, 6:37 pm
    Post #23 - January 22nd, 2010, 6:37 pm Post #23 - January 22nd, 2010, 6:37 pm
    But the forum's named after a restaurant ... ?
    "Your swimming suit matches your eyes, you hold your nose before diving, loving you has made me bananas!"
  • Post #24 - January 23rd, 2010, 6:56 am
    Post #24 - January 23rd, 2010, 6:56 am Post #24 - January 23rd, 2010, 6:56 am
    jimswside wrote:Those folks want to go home, and I know how they feel.


    AMEN to that. I work in a credit union, and the hours on a Saturday are 8:00am to 12:00pm. I can't tell you how many times someone has walked in at 11:55 looking to get a car loan. Why can't they get their lazy, inconsiderate butts out of bed a little sooner so I can get my weekend started a little earlier?????
    The most dangerous food to eat is wedding cake.
    Proverb
  • Post #25 - January 23rd, 2010, 9:02 am
    Post #25 - January 23rd, 2010, 9:02 am Post #25 - January 23rd, 2010, 9:02 am
    Mhays wrote:There are an awful lot of places no longer following their posted hours; the niceties of days gone by cost salary money, which is at a premium these days.

    So why don't they change the hours they post? Or if they close early on some nights, at least put a sign on the door to that effect?

    The economy isn't really the issue. Restaurants did the same thing when times were better.

    I agree that the problem is lack of consistency. If one always knew that the announced time of closing meant last seating was an hour before, that would be one thing. But in practice, it can range from 90 minutes to five minutes before the announced time, with varying periods at the same restaurant. And some places it means the kitchen closed 4 hours earlier but the bar stays open.

    Why should customers have to phone to find out if, on any particular night, a business means to live up to what it advertises on its web site, its door -- and in the case of one of the places I mentioned in the OP, in the program of the theater down the street? (The ad said they were open till 11 p.m. The play ended at 10. By the time we finished applauding, put on our coats and walked the 50 yards to the restaurant, they were no longer seating.)

    In the self-fulfilling prophecy department: If I go by and see chair legs in the air, I assume that either the restaurant is closed or that if it's open, I will have an uncomfortable meal with employees anxious to go home cleaning around me and glaring. I may not even bother to check what time the restaurant actually closes, but just drive on.

    Our local Steak 'n Shake recently changed from 24 hours to 3 a.m. closing, but at 10:30 the other night, half the chairs were on the tables and the scent of floor cleaner was in the air. How long, do you bet, before closing time gets even earlier?

    When I worked in retail, we weren't allowed to even hint to customers that it was closing time. No dimming of lights or announcements to "Please bring your final purchases to the checkout counter." The most we could do was ask browsing shoppers, "May I help you find something?" We could lock the door to stop more people from coming in, but no vacuuming was allowed until the last customer had left the store. The staff were expected to stay however long after closing it took for the customers to clear out -- often half an hour or more -- and then to tally the day's sales and get the place in order. I have no idea whether the last-minute sales taken during those periods equaled the the wages of the hourly employees for that time.
  • Post #26 - January 23rd, 2010, 2:43 pm
    Post #26 - January 23rd, 2010, 2:43 pm Post #26 - January 23rd, 2010, 2:43 pm
    LAZ wrote:When I worked in retail, we weren't allowed to even hint to customers that it was closing time. No dimming of lights or announcements to "Please bring your final purchases to the checkout counter." The most we could do was ask browsing shoppers, "May I help you find something?" We could lock the door to stop more people from coming in, but no vacuuming was allowed until the last customer had left the store. The staff were expected to stay however long after closing it took for the customers to clear out -- often half an hour or more -- and then to tally the day's sales and get the place in order. I have no idea whether the last-minute sales taken during those periods equaled the the wages of the hourly employees for that time.


    And in my experience in retail (2 summers in the Museum Shop at the Art Institute back in college) we closed the doors 75% of the way 15 minutes before the posted closing time and only allowed people out from that point on - nobody was allowed in. PA announcements began at the same time advising customers that we were closing, and 5 minutes after that staff were to actively encourage people still in the store to please make their final purchases. There was no staying after closing, anybody still in the store at closing time was booted if they would not make an immediate purchase.

    As far as restaurants, I don't go to a full service restaurant for a full meal if it's less than 45 minutes before their closing time. Usually I stick to more of a 60 minutes before guideline. Just personal preference, but I find I have almost zero problems with rushed service or stopping by somewhere that has closed early.
  • Post #27 - January 24th, 2010, 12:25 am
    Post #27 - January 24th, 2010, 12:25 am Post #27 - January 24th, 2010, 12:25 am
    I close our restaurant three nights a week. Our posted hours say we close at 10. I take pizza orders up until 9:45. Pizzas take 30 minutes to cook, obviously I let people stay past our 10 P.M. "closing" time. If you call on your way over, I'll tell you honestly, "We're closing soon, I need to get your pizza order in, can you pre-order?". If you walk in at 9:40, I tell you, "our kitchen in closing, I need your order in immediately". I've learned over the years that tell people up front and they'll oblige. This sets the table metaphorically speaking. I've told you we're closing, let's get this thing moving fast. Most people get the point. Most likely you're not going to be offered dessert (kitchen guys gone), coffee (been off for an hour), and the check is going to be dropped very quickly. You won't be rushed out though. I never take candles off the table or put chairs up until you walk out the door.

    Last Monday night on the tail end of a 60 hour week a couple walked in at 9:45, one minute after my bartender and I were talking about getting out early for once and catching a drink together. These two were completely oblivious to our closing time or that they were the only people in there. Instead of rushing them though, the two of us engaged them in conversation, low and behold they were back again on Friday night. Joking with us about things we talked about on Monday. This is what adds to my bottom line, not the visit on Monday but the visits afterwards.

    Basically, we try to accommodate everyone we can. You have to draw the line somewhere. General jist though, call ahead and you'll never be disappointed when you get there. And if you are the last customer, move it along quickly, everyone will be appreciative.

    As for web-sites, we update ours very infrequently. At $90 an hour we get all of our changes together a few times a year and get it taken care of. We don't have anyone internally that updates our web-site, hence it doesn't change much. So again, call ahead.
  • Post #28 - January 24th, 2010, 2:24 am
    Post #28 - January 24th, 2010, 2:24 am Post #28 - January 24th, 2010, 2:24 am
    I had that problem at a place called Boffo's near Lake Forest. Someone recommended it to me. I spent 20 minutes to get there as I got lost. Showed up at 9:30 pm and was denied service as their ovens and fryers were off. The posted time was 10 pm.

    I wil not return.
  • Post #29 - January 24th, 2010, 8:59 am
    Post #29 - January 24th, 2010, 8:59 am Post #29 - January 24th, 2010, 8:59 am
    pizano345 wrote: These two were completely oblivious to our closing time or that they were the only people in there. Instead of rushing them though, the two of us engaged them in conversation, low and behold they were back again on Friday night. Joking with us about things we talked about on Monday. This is what adds to my bottom line, not the visit on Monday but the visits afterwards.


    What's your establishment? I like to frequent places that "get it."
    i used to milk cows
  • Post #30 - January 24th, 2010, 11:20 am
    Post #30 - January 24th, 2010, 11:20 am Post #30 - January 24th, 2010, 11:20 am
    ucjames wrote:And in my experience in retail (2 summers in the Museum Shop at the Art Institute back in college) we closed the doors 75% of the way 15 minutes before the posted closing time and only allowed people out from that point on - nobody was allowed in. PA announcements began at the same time advising customers that we were closing, and 5 minutes after that staff were to actively encourage people still in the store to please make their final purchases. There was no staying after closing, anybody still in the store at closing time was booted if they would not make an immediate purchase.

    Shows the difference between an independent retailer (my experience) and an institution where no one individual has a vested interest in long-term profits (yours).

    pizano345 wrote:I close our restaurant three nights a week. Our posted hours say we close at 10. I take pizza orders up until 9:45. Pizzas take 30 minutes to cook, obviously I let people stay past our 10 P.M. "closing" time.

    I don't mean to put you on the spot, but this is exactly what I was asking about when I started this thread. You list 10 p.m. as your "closing" time. But that time is really irrelevant to your customers. It isn't the last time they can expect to be seated and served. It isn't the time by which they'd better be out of the building because you're locking up for the night. It isn't a meaningful time at all.

    So why list 10 p.m.? Why not say, "Last call, 9:45 p.m."?

    That's the frustrating thing for consumers. Because we never know when 10 p.m. really means 9:45, or 9:30, or in rare cases, 10 p.m. (Or whether it means nothing at all and the management just closes up whenever they feel like it.)

    Some people deal with this like ucjames, and just assume that 10 p.m. really means 9 or 9:15. But if everybody did that, you'd soon be left with an empty restaurant for your last half hour, and then you'd probably change your "closing" to 9:30. But then ucjames and his ilk would stop coming by 8:30....

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