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How soon is it OK to arrive before a restaurant closes?

This thread is inspired by a post I read about a couple who arrived at a restaurant at 8:58--the restaurant's posted closing time was 9:00, and they were treated rudely by the host, who refused to seat them. Who was out of line? What does "closing time" mean to you?

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  1. I've never worke in a restaurant, but as I diner I take it to mean that you are finished with your meal and out the door at the stated time. I guess you could find out by calling a restaurant and asking them what time they close, and what time is their latest reservation.

    3 Replies
    1. re: pikawicca

      I've always taken 'close' to mean the time at which the door closes. With the widely varying times it might take to serve and eat a meal, I don't see how it's logical to expect people to figure backwards from a closing time to arrive at the last seating. The door closes to stop people from entering, but they can always let you out if you're already in.

      I was once rudely told that ""the restaurant was closing and we'd have to leave" at a national upscale fish/steak house. It was just at the posted closing'' time. We'd had a reservation for an hour and half earlier and were in the middle of dessert and coffee. No apology, no explanation, no cleaning up tables near us (and we weren't the last table either; ther were 3 others). The bearer of these tidings turned out to be the manager. Several days and phone calls later, I had profuse apologies from the CEO and the Regional Manager, plus $175 in gift certificates. Never used them...... the only location near us was where that manager worked.

      1. re: Midlife

        Is that how much the meal cost? $175? To be pushed out the door after spending two C notes? Unbelievable.

        This only happened to me once with the explanation that the floors were going to be waxed. Sure enough exactly at 10pm the front doors were flung open, furniture moved and several men started stripping the floors all within 5 minutes. The smell of chemicals permeated the place and expedited our departure.

        1. re: tom porc

          The meal was more like $120 or so. The $175 was what they sent in certs. I'd've been upset no matter what the meal cost.

    2. As an office worker I can tell you that by 4:59 everyone is ready to go home. The computers are turned off and the files are locked. And if here comes someone with a question that may take you another 10 minutes to answer, no one would be too happy about that.

      2 Replies
      1. re: PeterL

        good point. If you get to the bank at 4pm and they close at 4 then they are closed. Ditto for the supermarket. You don't show up at your local market at 5 minutes to closing time expecting to spend 25 minutes doing your weekly shop.

        1. re: smartie

          that's not true at all, at least it wasn't when I worked in a grocery store. We routinely had people come in 10 minutes before closing and shop for half an hour.

      2. There's clearly a loack of a standard, but I would like to think that "closing time" would mean last reservation. The restaurant is there for your comfort and enjoyment, not for you to eat on a schedule. Even if you time your arrival properly, you can't anticipate how busy the kitchen is, whether a member of the wait staff failed to show up, or any other of a bunch of possible delays. These things are under the control of the establishment, not you.,

        1. During my one brief stint at a fine dining restaurant, closing time was 9pm, which meant last seated or last reservation. Actually, I'm not sure they took reservations for 9pm, but we did occasionally have someone come in and be seated around then. On a Saturday, we'd be done about 11pm, although that included cleanup and reset of the dining room and such. Certain things like vacuuming we couldn't do until every last diner was out of each room.

          This can't be compared to an office, where it may close at 5pm as well as everyone leaving at that time. At another retail establishment of any size, or restaurant, at least some workers are scheduled for beyond the closing time. In a large store, there is "recovery" that may have some people in there for an hour or more after close. Banks don't close at 4pm just because they can; they have numerous tasks to finish that can't all be finished while they're open for customers. And restaurants always have at least a few things that can't be finished while customers are still inside.

          If a restaurant has table service, there are really too many variables to make closing time the time when all customers get out. But the best thing to do would be check with them first. (Even then it can work out badly, as some stories told here can attest, but it's safer than not checking.) I would think the rule of thumb would be early closing time of 9pm or thereabouts equals last seating time, where a later closing time would equal please be out of there by that time. But it's not likely to be universal.

          1. Having worked in many restaurants over the years, I would say that the time (say 9pm) is when they prefer to serve their last meal, but that they will serve you if you are seated at that time. I always inform the waiter (if I arrive at closing) of what I want right away, and that he/she can bring the bill as soon as the food is served. I think it is harder to deal with people who assume it is okay to still take a standard amount of time to eat (say two hours) instead of being aware of what is going on in the diningroom, and not rushing, but being a bit more expedient in ordering and eating.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Missmoo

              perfectly put! It's rude to come into a restaurant 1 minute before closing and expect to have a 3 course or 2 hour dinner....