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Is it right for restaurants to stop seating people before closing time?

Just adding my $.02. Whether it's right or not for restaurants to stop seating people before their posted closing time, I would never arrive at a restaurant and expect to get served less than 15 minutes before their closing time. I've been in too many restaurants around closing time and have seen the staff cleaning up, chef getting ready to leave, etc. I feel like I would not get the best service or food if the wait and kitchen staff were annoyed at me and wanting to get out of there for the evening. Again, not saying it's right of anyone to be rude or inappropriate, but it's just a courtesy I give to the restaurant.

ETA: For those who don't have context, this thread was moved by moderators from the Midwest board.

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  1. Read "Heat" by Bill Buford to find out what kitchen staff think of people who arrive just before closing...

    6 Replies
    1. re: whs

      Hopefully it says, "We as a community of the gainfully employed persons in the US understand that the way business works is that closing time is the time a business closes, not 30 minutes prior."

      Having worked in the industry throughout college and still on occasion now, I can tell you that were I to expect customers to owe me some courtesy of not eating even when a restaurant is open, I would find or have found myself frustrated by, lamenting and likely beligerant towards my customers (the most important person in my world at any given moment).

      As a consumer I tip waitstaff well and if they are responsible, they tip out the kitchen. There are days (in every job I've held) when I would love to drop everything and leave work at 5pm, however it is more often the case that I am here several more hours than I expect as my work is not done. Somehow I think my customers might take it the wrong way were I to request that they do me the courtesy of not giving me more business so I can go home earlier. Why should I expect it to be different from someone in this line of work?

      Full disclosure: my wife works part time as a server in a restaurant in NE Minneapolis that typically has customers that arrive at close and stay sometimes for 1+ hours after closing time.

      1. re: Foureyes137

        Fully agree with foureyes. As a customer I am the reason for and source of their business. That being said, I'd never unduly lollygag after finishing, and I tip well. In my line of work I've had to stay longer than I'd planned on occasion. Boo hoo.

        I can't stand all the differing and ambiguous definitions of "closing" times as relates to restos. It can mean when the lights go out, last seating, or kitchen closing. The latter is my favorite: one time I was seated only to be told the kitchen already is closed. I asked what they CAN serve me, and it was pretty much bread & water. Why even bother to say you're open if you can't serve any food (it wasn't a bar)?

        1. re: Leonardo

          I realize this is an old post but I wonder why this thought that we open as long as a customer wants service, since they are the reason for our existence doesn't apply to department stores, car dealerships, medical offices etc.?

          1. re: scubadoo97

            How many department stores tell you "Yes we are open for another 30 minutes, but we won't sell you anything"?

            1. re: PotatoHouse

              When a restaurant is open but the kitchen is closed, you can still get a drink and perhaps a dessert which doesn't require special preparation, so it is not comparable to a store which is open but "won't sell you anything."

      2. re: whs

        I will definitely check this book out.

      3. having owned a restaurant, I would say it is all according to a lot of different circumstances. If the restaurant is busy anyway and there are people seated whose orders have not yet gone into the kitchen then it makes no difference to seat more. Ditto if orders have just gone to the kitchen.

        The differences lie when the restaurant is now empty especially if it has been a quiet night anyhow and it is a few minutes to closing. It is costly to stay open for another hour - wages, utilities etc. A difficult problem for both owner, staff and customer.

        17 Replies
        1. re: smartie

          I agree with you smartie. If the place looks pretty full and bumping, then I'll ask if it's okay if I have a seat and take my meal. If it looks pretty empty, I'll go elsewhere. If I'm absolutely starving, I'll ask if it's possible to get an order to-go, but I try to avoid even this option unless I'm really desperate and there's at least 20 or 30 mins for them to get the order prepared.

          1. re: misswills

            i will concur. i think it's rude if the place is fully empty, even 20 minutes before closing time, when a customer walks in and the insist on being seated. regardless of if they are the source of our business, they are not helping us to make any money by keeping a manager, a chef, a bartender, a busser, a waiter and some kitchen staff and dishwashers for half an hour or an hour longer. it's losing money. that's the way i look at it. it doesn't make business sense.

            there will be some nights the restaurant is opened an hour beyond usual and there will be some nights when it is completely dead. accept a no and get over it. people who don't understand this haven't worked in a restaurant.

            1. re: tinymango

              Tinymango-buddy

              Oh please, give it up on the "people who don't understand this haven't worked in a restaurant" self-serving stuff. People outside "the biz" do understand. First you post that the resto is in the hospitality business and should do whatever it takes to please a custo and that only people who are well off should pay for a "split fee" and now everyone outside the biz is an idiot and the resto can close at will? Very confusing.

              Any retail establishment who posts hours of operation should abide by those posted hours. How would you feel if your grocer felt likewise at 15 minutes before closing and locked the doors because no one was shopping yet you needed a quart of milk.

              If the sign would give a little more color to what the closing time means, it would save a bunch of headaches. "Customers seated until X", "kitchen closes at Y", "All orders must be given to the server by Z", what's the big deal about some information (see parallel thread on verbal specials and prices). Every time there is a grey area, there is room for interpretation, confusion and ill-feelings.

              So if the resto would just spend ten minutes with a Word Processing System and print one page and place on the door, the disagreement is over.

              1. re: jfood

                i think i'm coming from a slightly different perspective as i work in a small town on the chesapeake bay of virginia. we are 2 hours from richmond and 4 hours from dc, in the middle of miles of cornfields.

                we boom in the summertime, easily seating people until 11, 11.30. however, the rest of the year we are hanging by a thread. we have no restaurant conglomerates or chains, everything is very much independently owned. almost every restaurant is very new as well (in their first two years or *less!*), as the tourist industry has reached a boom around here.

                for instance, a chef/owner that i know and worked for could tell you the price of every green bean that was dropped on the floor, every paper towel used to dry someones hands. imagine how much they sweat if they are torn between serving people or saving themselves a buck. if they feel that it would cost them more to take the customer than to serve them, then i think it's at their discretion to accept or reject tables. even though some hounds hate to hear this, we will also make exceptions for special or fequent customers.

                these are the the situations i'm talking about. my post was more about nights where it's been particularly slow and costly to even accept all the reservations and walk-ins (it happens rather often, especially in the winter season.) most close for a short period during the winter, but for the most part stay open year round, since weekends are still decent and we have a few booming nights around the holidays. i just know there are many nights during this period where we have to close early and sometimes turn away a table or two. it's just what happens.

                also, i think that comparing a grocery store to a restaurant is absolutely apples and oranges. grocery stores are dealing with an actual inventory and everyone goes to the grocery store. even people on food stamps. not everyone can afford to eat out or even desires to. restaurants have intangible products to sort out. grocery stores are almost always chains and have a higher profit margin and standardized service and hours.

                also, 2 out of 3 of the restaurants i've worked for around here always posted their hours as "open from 5.00 until close," and though i didn't specify that earlier, it's also part of what i had in mind when i made this post. although there are perceived hours for these businesses (closing at ten or so), but we're actually quite non-commital about it.

                i hope this clears things up a bit. thanks.

                1. re: tinymango

                  thanks tiny, very nicely described. many who do not live in destination spots with variable seasons (jfood included) are not as conversant in the vageries of the variability of custos. And once you mentioned the 9-close sign it did trigger the memory.

                  Restos are tough businesses and it's hard for an owner to sit and watch the lights burn in step with the cash.

                  thanks for the explanatin and jfood is a bit jealous that you live in such a beautiful part of the country.

                  1. re: tinymango

                    Places such as the one you describe are odd. I had a similar experience in the Outer Banks once. By the time I found a place to stay, it was almost 9pm and I had to run to the only place on the island still open (TT-I'm on an Island?)!!

                    TT

                    1. re: tinymango

                      "...until Close." does communicate that it is at the discretion of owner/manager and that it will vary depending on circumstances.

                      I much prefer this to a sign that says "Close at X" and when I arrive at X minus 20 minutes am told that I am not welcome.

                    2. re: jfood

                      Very well put Gordon, er, I mean jfood.

                      It's not uncommon for establishments to put "last orders by" these days. Of course, when you eat out as much as TT does, you get to know who serves what and when.

                      TT

                      1. re: jfood

                        Nicely said jfood. I have been at a loss to understand why restaurants do not make it clear what the rules are. If they gave you the information as you described it, there should be no problem for the customers or for the staff.

                      2. re: tinymango

                        I've worked in several restaurants and work part-time in one now, and understand that posted business hours are the hours that a business is open to serve it's customers. I've managed to invalidate your entire argument by existing.

                        1. re: tinymango

                          in the situation you describe everyone goes home except the server and the chef. server serves the customer and closes the front of the house, bussing for her/himself. i am the chef. i cook & plate the food, working all stations-- not hard for just one table. since i also know how to bartend i can do that too if the customer requires it, or the server can do own beverage serv if capable. since i am also a mgr, i can close the server's tickets at the end of the night. kitchen floor gets mopped by dish/bus before s/he leaves or i do it at the very end. far from the first or the last dang time. i wash the last load of dishes and close the kitchen while the server lets the customer out the front door and sets the table for the day shift. after the doors are locked, the server and i have a drink together and i say thanks for taking one for the team tonight, bob.

                          work with a restaurant that's trying to close, yeah-- verbally ask staff if it's fine or not-- sit at the bar or a bar-area table, put your order in right away, offer to take it in to-go packaging, yes generally recognize that people need to go home and it's not all about you, don't be a PITA or linger over coffee refills and ice water-- don't forget to TIP generously, your server could be home with her/his family but is serving you instead-- all this i could see, but i make my living in the biz and you have to show a customer hospitality if they walk in 20 to close-- i don't get tinymago's post at all. if you close down 20 mins early on a regular basis you're going to get a reputation for erratic late night hours and your late customers (read-- other restaurant staff just getting off work--i.e. great customers) will stop coming.

                          1. re: soupkitten

                            This last, excellent, point by soupkitten is exactly the right one in all of this. If a restaurant starts "closing" or turning customers away at comparatively random times toward the end of the night, it will start losing people who might otherwise have come. This happened with a sushi bar that was a favorite of mine (and my staff when I managed a different, nearby restaurant). On a few occasions, they turned me and my dining companions away because they were shutting down anywhere between 15 and 45 minutes before the sign on their door indicated that they'd be closing that night. I stopped going after about 7pm without a reservation, and I stopped going after about 8:30 period (and if they hadn't been the best sushi in town, I would have stopped going period). Ultimately, they lost out on, probably, 2 or 3 visits a month from me as I went elsewhere rather than risk the time and effort for naught should they have decided to close down. I would presume that they also turned away other people on those nights and perhaps lost them as customers at other times, too.

                            I get wanting to shut down and go home, but as I've said elsewhere on this site and in many other places and to the general manager when I was running a restaurant...."if you want to go home earlier, close earlier." And, really, just have a "last order" time. It's unambiguous and if it's posted, there's no issue. A customer might still come in and ask at which point you have the option to do them a favor and win some favor, or you can say "I'm sorry, its past our last order time and the kitchen is closed" which the customer already knew or could/should have known from the sign. Laundromats have this figured out, they post a "closing" time and a "last load in" time. Everyone knows what's going on.

                            1. re: ccbweb

                              And yet, no matter how many times it has been suggested that restaurants save themselves and their customers hard feelings by putting up a sign that states what time the kitchen closes and what time the restaurant closes, the result is people wanting to find a can of Raid to put a stop to the sound of chirping crickets.

                              1. re: Seth Chadwick

                                Yep, it's a mystery. Traditions...they can be problematic sometimes.

                                1. re: ccbweb

                                  Restaurants that close early are demonstrating a lack of will to survive. If I were the owner and found that my chef had closed early or that servers were turning people away I would find new employees. May sound harsh, but the owner or manager should set that tone. How do you expect to build that late evening clientelle if you are turning people away? It's a cumulative effect. In fact it should be an opportunity for a restaurant to shine where the chef can focus on everything that goes out of the kitchen and the server should be able to offer superlative service. What greater opportunity do you have to make a real impression? If management doesn't want to their staff to work when business is thin then close earlier.

                                  If you turn away that person at 25 of and there is only one table left wrapping up their meal, what happens when someone looks in the window at 20 of, then 15 of etc, etc. and they all turn away because they don't want to be "rude" to the wait staff. These same customers then never think of that place as a place to get a late bite again except maybe on the weekends. You can make it into a self fullfilling prophecy that weeknights suck.

                                  There are enough reasons for restaurants to die in this town. I think it is a death nell when an unbusy restaurant turns away business.

                                2. re: Seth Chadwick

                                  Yes,restaurants should put up a sign saying when the kitchen and restaurant closes.The help wants to go home.
                                  I work part time in retail and am the one who usually does the closing announcement.I think they perfer I do it since I don't sound like a little mouse on the pa.I'm loud and let the customers know that all registers,fitting room,jewlery extra close in 30 minutes.I also make an announcement at 9:15 and 9:25 as warnings so they get their keisters to the register and get out,hopefully before 9:30 when we close.
                                  That's what restaurants need to to is post signs and TELL people what time the kitchen closes.

                        2. re: smartie

                          I've seen both sides of this smartie and you are right it is hard all around. If you turn away the one couple on a slow night that shows up shortly before closing you might be punishing the faithful. Why lose the only customers you get? But from a practical point of view as a patron, I would not feel comfortable being the only table in a restaurant shortly before closing and I would rather just come another night. This might be more of a US thing, I've heard in Spain they are way more laid back and don't rush the last table at all. But this is just second hand.

                        3. A pet peeve here for sure!

                          If you are open untill 10pm then I should be able to walk in at 9:55 and get a seat and friendly service. If that's not the case then close earlier!

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: jbyoga

                            While I do understand all the perspectives expressed on this, I really have to agree with jbyoga. We have a wine bar within a wine retail shop and our weekend posted closing is 9PM. If someone comes in at 8:55 I really have no proper way of saying anything other than "Welcome". If I don't want guests at that time the sign should say closing is earlier or I should turn off the OPEN sign and lock the doors. The latter makes no sense to me as it simply tells customers that our closing time varies - not a way to grow a business. I am just as anxious to go home as any one else would be after a 12 hour day, but that's my issue not the guest's.

                            We actually just added a plus (+) to the 9PM (it says 9PM+) because many customers told us they didn't bother to come after around 8:30 because they thought we "closed" at 9. So...... there really is a variable definition for people as to what a posted closing means. In our case, I think much of it is because we're mostly a retail wine shop and closing tends to mean closing in that type of establishment. Our wine bar makes it more like a restaurant in teh evening, though......at least that's how we see it.

                          2. I have found myself (due to late flights) getting into cities late and very hungry.
                            What has worked is asking the only barely open restaurants if they can fix something fast or to go, as I explain that I have been flying and foodless.Or can they recommend a decent place that's open later (and not a raucous bar). And being as nice as I can in explaining that I know it's inconvenient for them to have someone come in so late.
                            Being apologetic has worked wonders. And I've never left hungry.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: shallots

                              Being nice gets points just about everywhere. And if you ask (politely) about recommendations for dining elsewhere, the owner or manager is much more likely to invite you in and maybe even take care of you themselves utilizing maybe just one or two stations (while letting the rest of the staff clean up theirs). The wages are a big deal as margins in most places are skinny so getting staff clocked out as soon as possible is a concern. But a good owner/manager can cover several jobs - and should in the case of the 5-minute-before-closing diner.

                            2. Have noticed a recent trend in SF, and I hope it continues, where the message on the door and/or menu states, "Seating until...." As a lifetime chef I like that idea rather than stating a closing hour...In all honesty, you have no idea what is going to be done to your food if you and your merry party of six arrive at 10:59...

                              1. My comment under this thread was deleted on the Midwest board so I will try again here. Can somebody tell me why restaurants don't post signs that simply state the latest time they will seat customers instead of posting a closing hour? Would this not clarify the situation for everybody involved?

                                1. It's probably one of the top pet peeves of restaurant staff.. people who annoyingly wonder thru the door around 10 til closing. A restaurant is a business just like any other.. and after 8,10 hours plus on your feet, you would be ready to go home too.

                                  Also, there shouldnt need to be any signs stating the exact minute of last seating. As an adult (I hope), then you've been to many restaurants and know the common procedures. To me, it's just courtesy to not walk into any business that isnt a dire need within 10-15 minutes of closing.

                                  6 Replies
                                  1. re: andlulu

                                    "To me, it's just courtesy to not walk into any business that isnt a dire need within 10-15 minutes of closing."

                                    How so?

                                    Is it courteous to give them your business 16 minutes before closing? 20? Just when does it become discourteous to patronize a business establishment during posted regular business hours?

                                    To me, it is just courtesy to provide the product one offers for sale during those hours one purports to offer said product for sale.

                                    Perhaps the staff might like to go out to lunch as much as I do, should I deny them that pleasure? If enough people avoid a restaurant at the lunch hour, then it will close at lunch and the staff will not be saddled with having to work.

                                    "there shouldnt need to be any signs stating the exact minute of last seating"

                                    Why not? Restaurants do have such standards. Never heard "Our last seating on Sunday is at 7:00"? I'll tell you what, that was good to know.

                                    I hate having to rush first thing when I get to work. I imagine it must be discourteous to arrive at a business minutes after they open as well. How long should I wait? In other words, for an establishment that puts out the "Welcome! Come IN." sign at 11:00 and pulls it in at 9:00, just what are the "common procedures" that tell the public what hours it should expect them to actually welcome custom?

                                    1. re: andlulu

                                      "A restaurant is a business just like any other"

                                      I agree, in my business I stay until the work is done, even if it lands on my desk at 5pm and takes 2 hours to finish. Why should it be any different for someone making and serving food? If anything, as a non-exempt employee, I might make a better case for why I get to leave early since overtime is not an option.

                                      Looking past the possibility that restaurant employee's don't expect to work more than their posted hours (and I've been one so I know that likely isn't the case) how can a business owner refuse or disuade patronage during posted business hours?

                                      I guess having worked in good restaurants with good managers and owners, I find it hard to believe that the status-quo is anything less than serving customers during business hours and doing it happily, even if using the service provided lapses outside business hours.

                                      What I'd like is for someone to explain the expectation that I owe it to the business to not give them my money during and moving past posted hours from the standpoint of acceptable business practices (in the US anyway).

                                      1. re: Foureyes137

                                        You have your opinion.. I have mine.

                                        1. re: andlulu

                                          Don't we all?

                                          Seriously, let me try again. I say yes, the restaurant has the right to do as they please.

                                          BETTER????????

                                          1. re: dolores

                                            excpet for charge you for bread or give you less than two hours at your table?

                                      2. re: andlulu

                                        I often return home from business trips late in the evening and wanting dinner, either phone to find out (or know from prior experience) the closing time of local restaurants. If I arrive before the closing time, I expect to be treated just as if I arrived an hour earlier. If a restaurant is open and seats me, why should I expect anything less.

                                      3. Without our customers, we are out of business. And there is no room for rude from either the custo or the staff.

                                        That being said jfood believes that if the sign on the door says 10, then it's open for business and new custos until 10. 10 means 10.

                                        That being said jfood also believes that if a custo arrives at the last minute and is seated there should be some consideration in the ordering process. Please do not take 20 minutes to look at the menu and then order, try to be considerate as well in ordering.And if the server has an issue with it, that's the server's issue and like any other server bad attitude issue, the tip is the determining factor at the end of the meal.

                                        To the servers who do not wan tto "work late", jfood is sorry, but when one of jfood's custos want to discuss items "after hours" jfood agrees and works around the custo's schedule..In this post Ozzie and Harriet world, there is no such thing as a 9-5 job.

                                        8 Replies
                                        1. re: jfood

                                          As much as I usually appreciate jfood's posts, I must disagree here, at least as to semantics. (Never let it be said I'm anti-semantic). If the sign on the door says 10, it could mean that the buiness is *closed* at ten, not simply getting ready to close. People have come to expect that in certain businesses you can wander in at ten and stay as long as you like.

                                          As a doctor we tell our paients when the last appointment is -- earlier for new patients. If an emergency walks or calls in we deal with each case separately. I can't tell you how often a regular patient calls or comes in right as we're done, expecting us to stay late. I would not have staff for long if I took every case -- picking up kids, etc. can't be a hair rising experiance all the time.

                                          That being said, I completely agree with "last seating" and "kitchen closed at" signs. Telephone answering machines, etc., must reflect this. And to Frank I say that these should be strictly adhered to, as there are always people that push and push. Can exceptions be made? Of course -- I was n the restaurant business for *many* years, and know the circumstance -- but the door itself should close when the sign says so.

                                          1. re: Richard 16

                                            See jfood post earlier today above timed in at Sep 06, 2007 03:01PM for a more semantic friendly posting. And jfood is glad you are not anti-semantic with RH and YK in the near future. :-))

                                            But as a doctor you have the luxury of appointments in trying (see jfood used the word trying) to keep to a schedule. But what if you ran a clinic? The sign on the door would say "Open 9-X". does that mean no patients can enter at x - 1 minute or do you assume 8 minutes per patient and lock the door when the number of patients times 8 minutes when added to the current time equals the X-hour?

                                            Jfoods grocer closes at 7. The door locks at about 655. If you are in the store you are given a countdown, "the store is closing in 15 minutes", the store is closing in 10 minutes please proceed to check-out." " the store is closing in 5 minutes, if you would like to purchase your items tonight please proceed to ccheck-out immediately."

                                            But in a world of information, when a resto, a doctor's office, or any other business gets a reputation for being non-friendly to the custo, the custo uses their feet to go elsewhere.

                                            1. re: jfood

                                              your comparison to the grocery store brings up a good point--a restaurant can post a "last seating" time (which I think is a great idea); however, they can't make announcements telling people to finish their entrees and order desserts b/c closing time is in fifteen minutes.

                                              Once the customer is seated, you pretty much have to wait until they are done. I realize that occasionally a restaurant will ask guests to leave, but I've never seen it happen. So if a table comes in ten minutes before closing, they may stay for two or three hours after closing--it happens fairly often. This is one of the reasons that comparisons to retail, sales, and doctors' appointments don't really line up--the situations are not the same. Guests may sit for hours after their meal talking, not so in a doctor's office.

                                              (And before I get a series of flames, I am not making a complaint. Those in the business know that this is part of the business. I'm just pointing out a difference which makes many of these comparisons less than equal.)

                                              1. re: nc213

                                                I might compare a restaurant to a hairdressers. They may be open till 5pm but they don't want a client walking in at 4.45 and asking for a perm or colour. They organise their appointments to coincide with closing and wouldnt want off the street walk ins close to closing time. Same as a restaurant in my opinion and not a grocery store where the customer is likely to be fairly quick.

                                                1. re: smartie

                                                  S

                                                  Since youowned a resto and there is so much confusion about the definition of "closing", why don't restos change the wording on the sign? It seems to be such an easy fix to place "last seating" or "kitchen closes" or some other two word entry to be more specific than "Hours - 4-10"

                                                  Now in your neck of the woods you had the problem of people lining up for the early bird special. did you have to place a sign up stating that noone will be admitted prior to 4pm for dinner? :-))

                                                  1. re: jfood

                                                    ha Jfood, how did you guess? Yes we had an early bird from 4pm to 6.30 and it was clear from the sign that they had be seated prior to 6.30. the before 4pm wasn't a problem because we had a lunch menu till 4pm and a dinner menu after.

                                                    When people called to find out our opening times we used to say from 11am to 9pm but last seating at 8.45. During high season it was irrelevant because of the lines - so we were often seating well after 9pm mainly because if people were in line for an hour we were obviously not going to close at 9. Summer season was always the problem, a slow night and the last thing you want is a 2 top coming in at 8.45 when the restaurant was empty for the last hour or so. We moved our last seating to 8.30. There is a toss up between accomodating customers and goodwill and the cost of staying open. There was one advantage to being in Fl, we had a deck and used to put latecomers on the deck so we could at least clean the restaurant without disturbing diners, they could pay and we could close up leaving them outside.

                                                  2. re: smartie

                                                    yes, that comparison works to a point, but again, after your hair is done, you don't sit in the chair for an extra hour or two, which customers sometimes do. When the customer comes to the salon, she says that she wants the perm or color, and the staff has some idea of how long she'll be. You never know how long a table will sit.

                                                    1. re: nc213

                                                      even then to a point, I have a ton of long hair, it takes ages to cut, ages to colour and ages to dry. Always groans from the hairdressers trying to get me done before their next appointment.

                                                      Actually in a restaurant it is not the diners who are done who are a problem. The kitchen can close down once they have served the food and bussing tables is not a big deal when there are a couple tables lingering over coffee. Even if some dishes are left over then can be soaked overnight and washed next day. One of the biggest costs to a restaurant is keeping the kitchen staff on, each hour is costing. Wait staff are cheap to keep on and anyway once the bill is paid even the waitstaff can go home, leaving a busser and dishwashers. You do want to close up the kitchen as fast as possible and turn off ovens and gas etc and send your cooks home.

                                          2. Seems pretty simple to me...if you want people out of the restaurant by certain time, set your closing earlier (like an hour) and let people walk in 2 seconds before closing. Once they're in, let them stay...and serve them fast if you want.

                                            There's a couple of mom and pop places like that in SF. At first I couldn't figure out why they closed at 8 p.m., sort of an odd time. Then I got there at about 5 mins 'til and sure enough people came in right up the end. They let people stay and eat comfortably for an hour past while they shut the place down, etc. Seemed like a fair and reasonable idea.

                                            1. trick question. closing time is when you request the hangers-on to leave. last seating time should be an indicator of when you can sit and eat a full meal before the dreaded closing time. not enough places post a "last seating" time. pity. they should.

                                              1. I think it is perfectly acceptable for a server/manager to politely tell a late-arriving diner that the kitchen closes in 10 minutes, so please peruse the menu and order within that time. I would expect that to mean that only one course would be available. I would never expect a restaurant that told me when the kitchen closed to somehow come up with a creme brulee at the end of my meal an hour later. Maybe a slice of pie, but nothing that had to be prepared. Drinks and coffee could take a little longer as it does not occupy the kitchen.

                                                1. I have friends who own restaurants and I have often helped them...I have always worked in the "customer service" environment and was taught that my paycheck depended on customers. I get quite annoyed when I am putting dollars in someone's pocket..patronizing a restaurant and they treat me as if I am bothering them. I am polite and would typically not go to a restaurant 10 minutes before they close, however I feel the closing time is the time when they stop seating. Depending on the type of restaurant (fine dining verses fast food), the amount of time that the staff will be working beyond the "closing" time will vary. I think the owner of a restaurant needs to determine what time they want to leave and then choose a closing time that will ideally allow for that. That being said, the restaurant business and most others need customers so they should keep that in mind. On the flip side, I also believe that customers should be respectful...no need to be rude just because you are a paying customer. These days I am self employed and appreciate my clients!

                                                  1. This issue came up before and a couple of restaurant owners chimed in about patrons arriving 10 or 15 minutes before closing and expressing their dismay.

                                                    I asked a simple question: why not spend the $5.00 to go to Kinko's and print up a sign that says. "Restaurant Closes at 10 PM; Kitchen Closes at 9:15 PM"?

                                                    Alas, some restaurants would rather have cranky staff or offended guests than spend that whopping five dollars.

                                                    5 Replies
                                                    1. re: Seth Chadwick

                                                      Exactly, a "kitchen closes" or "last order" or "last seating" time is completely transparent and everyone knows what's going on. There are many places that I know that do such a thing: Open 11am-2am, Serving Dinner until 10pm, Bar Snacks until 1am....was the timing for one of my favorite margarita drinking establishments.

                                                      1. re: ccbweb

                                                        This happened to me at Butcher shop in Boston. We wanted to come in for an after dinner glass of wine and then leave. there were at least 7 other patrons inside, that is why we went in ...or tried to. We didnt even get our two feet in the door when the bartender announced that they were closing up. I looked at my watch, it was another 30 min till closing. I couldnt figure out why the bartender wouldnt want one more sale if he is there anyways serving the remaining customers.

                                                        But to go back to a point many have mentioned. we have NEVER been back. I was so turned off by that i will not return.

                                                        1. re: marthayou

                                                          I think the lack of consistency or clear policy is what's frustrating--we had the opposite experience last Saturday night at a local place. We were there to hear music, but wanted to get a bite beforehand. We asked what time the kitchen closed (it was 9:35) and were told 10:00, so we grabbed a table. We noticed the host had no problem seating a group who arrived at 9:58. Granted, the place was going to be serving drinks til midnight and there were still several tables finishing dinner, but it appeared to be the restaurant's policy to accommodate guests until the last minute.

                                                          1. re: whs

                                                            Same thing here. If it says "open until 11pm" it's open. Only exception might be post snowstorm. The restaurant business is very competitive here and if you don't feed that customer, your competition will. The only thing they may do is caution you to order "special, time consuming dishes", eg: chocolate souffle, ahead of time so they can begin preparation. I do think that consideration works both ways. If people know a place closes at 10pm, and it's 9:50pm, they should think about going to a place that's open later or to a 24/7 diner.

                                                      2. re: Seth Chadwick

                                                        I don't think it's the five dollars for the sign. I'd be pretty sure it's that the restaurant wants it both ways. They don't want to post a time so early that it discourages customers, yet they don't want to be kept late when that means inefficient costs and cranky help. I don't think you can have it both ways without the price of upset customers or staff, or both. My take is that the owners should set a policy and follow it consistently. And the policy should be clearly understandable by both customers and staff.

                                                        In a restaurant I really don't see how it can be assumed that 'closing' means the lights go out because guests arrive at different times, eat different meals and take different lengths of time to eat. So, if close doesn't mean lights out, it must mean when you can no longer be seated. If you accept that, then the restaurant should be willing to seat you until 'closing' unless they've qualified that with a 'last seating' time. That's how I see it.

                                                      3. In my opinion a business should close when it says closes, not 15 minutes i have experience where i was 20 minutes early to restuarant and they were closed it pissed me off when i'm on my job i have to stay open until closing what if they came to my place business and closed 5 minutes early they would complain about it.

                                                        I do not care if customers come 1 minute early you have to serve them stick to your posted time closing time.

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: cantfoolthewise

                                                          I think the definition of closing time is what makes this difficult. If CVS or Macys closes at 9, I can't walk in at 8:50 and then shop for two hours. They'll let me in, but I'll need to make my purchase and then leave so they can close at closing time. restaurants obvioulsy work differently, so the situation's a little more complex.

                                                          What does the restaurant do with the table who comes into at 8:50 but won't order until 9;30 and doesn't finish entrees until 10:45? Then they want to sit and talk awhile before deciding on dessert. Then it's an after-dinner drink. They leave at 12:00--3 hours after closing time.

                                                          Of course, not every late table wants to linger, but it can be an issue.

                                                          1. re: nc213

                                                            I understand people wanna go home, when I'm on my service job i wanna get out of their as soon as possible so i close at 7:59 if i customers does not come one minute before closing I am closed at 8pm. Customers don't realize have to reconcile my drawer and close my till, if a let a person come in one minute late that is gonna take 5 minutes of my time from doing my closing store responsibilities.

                                                        2. you should go to the vacation destination I like, where everyplace on the island won't seat you until they're fairly sure they have enough food for those already seated and if not, by then it just might be too late for anywhere else.

                                                          10 PM can mean so many things.

                                                          1. I can definitely understand restaurants stop seating people before closing time provided it's reasonable. But recently I went to a wichcraft kiosk 45 minutes before it closed only to find them cleaning up and saying they're closed! This is not a sit-down restaurant but a kiosk that sells ice cream, coffee and pastries. I thought it was ridiculous!

                                                            2 Replies
                                                            1. re: Miss Needle

                                                              the only time that's acceptable is if the place sold out of everything/nearly everything. then, whaddyagonnadoo? but they should put up a sign if that is the case, at least then customers would understand. sounds like bad mgmt at the kiosk in your case, M.N.

                                                              1. re: soupkitten

                                                                When I questioned them about it, they just said they decided to close early tonight. Nothing else.

                                                                Yeah, I think there's some pretty bad management going on. DH once went to the wichcraft sandwich kiosk and waited for about 20 minutes to receive his food. He noted that a lot of people who came after him were getting their food before him even though he kept waiting by the window waiting for his name to be called. He then inquired about his slow-roasted pork sandwich he had ordered. One of the guys looked around and found in on top of a cabinet and said, "Oh here it is," and just casually tossed it to him with no apologies -- nothing. The sandwich was cold by that time. DH told him, "Well, I guess it really is a SLOW-roasted pork sandwich." Wrote a letter to the manager and never got a response. These kiosks are owned by Tom Colicchio. Seems like he's spreading himself pretty thin these days.

                                                            2. My restaurant is in a small town in an area that gets a good deal of seasonal business, but mostly my customers are local and we do alot of repeat business. There are some days that we get overwhelmed and there are some days when -- well, we don't. It's not uncommon for us to go an hour or two without a table and then, one hour before closing, get inundated with tables and retail customers. I swear they line up in the parking lot just waiting until I'm so tempted to turn off the lights that hurts, and then they all tromp in ten minutes before closing.

                                                              Hey, I'm just glad they show up -- eventually.

                                                              That said, I'll leave the Open sign up until I get the last person served, and any new customers are welcome, which sometimes means I'm open for an hour or so past the stated closing time. But once the last plate hits the table, I will flip the sign to Closed. If one of my seated customers notices, I reassure them that they are not obligated to hurry, and I putter around cleaning up or doing paperwork until they are ready to go. Once or twice, there have been customers who are still hanging out after an hour or so, and if they're are at one of the outdoor tables I check to see if they need more drinks, bus their tables as much as I'm able, settle the check and then lock the door and tell them it's all theirs. It's never been a problem, as far as I know.

                                                              My regular customers know that if they call the restaurant even five minutes before closing, I will usually offer to stay open until they get there -- although they're usually looking for takeout or are happy with an outside table.

                                                              Of course, mine is a small place and I can send staff home when we get slow and muddle through alone if I get a last-minute rush. The outdoor seating makes my life easier as well. The customers' attitudes make a difference too and I have a long memory. If they act all entitled and persnickety, well, I might go the extra mile for them once, but I won't necessarily do it again. Mostly I find that if you treat people with respect, they will return that treatment, but there have been some rare if major exceptions and some customers whose patronage I have actively discouraged. But it's my place and I can do that.

                                                              Guess that's a whole other thread though.

                                                              1. OMG I HATE PEOPLE WHO DO THAT! Like everyone is cleaning up, getting ready to go soon because the job is sucking the life out of you and it has been a long day and a customer comes and you have to dirty stuff again and clean things again.

                                                                I've been there for more then eight hours, I want to leave! And IIIIIIII do not get the money you give me, my wage does not change so don't use that argument~

                                                                1. I think this whole issue would be resolved if instead of posting a close time restaurants post a last seating sign.

                                                                  9 Replies
                                                                  1. re: viperlush

                                                                    ooooorrrrrrrrrrr.................they could just make the "closing" time the "last seating" time!? oh wait, isnt that what it is now? man this dog could chase its own tail forever!

                                                                    wanna go home at 10?make the closing time 9............simple.

                                                                    1. re: nkeane

                                                                      But it's not simple and that's the point people are trying to make. Perhaps a 9pm closing time and taking care of some latecomers could get you out at ten at the sub shop listed below. But at many restaurants, a "last seating" at 9 would have people still eating their entrees at ten, ordering dessert at 10:30, asking for after dinner drinks at 11 and writing long treatises on chowhouns if a manager asked them to close out their check or move to the bar at 12 because they don't want a "time limit" on their table.

                                                                      The point, from the restaurant workers' position, is that a closing time does not yield an actual closing time, and though a "last seating" can come closer, it's still not clear. Most places will let the last table, and as many tables as they can, sit as long as they want. And doing so is part of being in the service/hospitality industry. But then sometimes you don't seat that 8:55 table, since it could mean another 3-4 hours for someone in the kitchen, a server, a bartender, etc

                                                                      1. re: nc213

                                                                        Not simple and it's apparent from all the above posts that not all agree that "closing"= "last seating". The only way for the restaurant staff to be able to go home at a designated time would be for the restaurant to lock to door and kick out customers. That's not going to happen.

                                                                        Going back to the OP's original question "Is it right for restaurants to stop seating people before closing time? " With a "last seating" (reasonable) customers would know the absolute latest that they could walk through the doors at get seated. And then it's up to the restaurant's timing to get the people out.

                                                                        1. re: viperlush

                                                                          If restaurant "closing" doesn't equal "last seating" - what about listing the time the kitchen closes? So if the kitchen closes at 10:30pm, the last order must be in by 10:15pm (or whatever time frame the kitchen needs to get that last table's order fired and plated and served)? I've been at several restaurants where they have music/bands beginning around 9:30, so their menu says "kitchen closes at 9:30 for full dining room menu; basic bar menu only from 9:30 - 11pm". That allows the kitchen to begin winding down from the full menu, but still provide basic food for those people who might come in to hear the music around 10:30.

                                                                        2. re: nc213

                                                                          i have to concur...i realize that our sub shop and an actual restaurant are very different indeed. Personally, I won't eat at a restaurant unless I know I can be out by closing time. Had I managed a restaurant with staff and extensive cleanup, I suppose I might feel differently about what 'closing time' actually means.

                                                                          1. re: nc213

                                                                            if restaurant staff and owners can simple accept that they dont get to punch a time clock and go home at 5, then this is a non-issue. the solution to your example, where dinner takes 4hours, if everyone wants to go home at 10 then the last seating is at 6. see it really is simple! figure out when you want to go home and reverse engineer it. the problem is that you are serving the general public and there are a miriad of parameters and extenuating circumstances that make it a different scenerio every night, every guest. Thats what probably attracts restaurant workers to begin with! I really dont see the issue in closing/last seating/going home-time that others see here.

                                                                            1. re: nkeane

                                                                              Just because one table out of 50 wants to linger for four hours doesn't mean I'm going to set the closing time at 6 if I want to leave at 10. Also, I prefer to work at a restaurant where I know exactly how many people I'm getting a night and can prepare accordingly, it saves on labour, food and various other costs; to think otherwise is silly.

                                                                              1. re: Blueicus

                                                                                wait! you want to work in a place where you know exactly how many people will be coming every night??? so how is McD's these days?

                                                                                did you even read my post? Ofcourse there will always be the lingering jackass, thats why you have to suck it up and stop whining about staying late. Its part of the job!!

                                                                                1. re: nkeane

                                                                                  I find that I tolerate latecomers better than most other people I know, but that doesn't mean the 4-hour lingering diners aren't the slightest bit inconsiderate.

                                                                                  What on earth does McDonald's have to do with knowing how many customers are coming... out of all the places they're most prone to bizarre walk-in traffic.

                                                                                  Personally I have no problems if I walked into a restaurant late and they told me the kitchen's closed, not going to hold a grudge against them. But I can't expect everybody to react the same way as I do.

                                                                      2. This is probably comparing apples to oranges, but my parents used to own a sub shop and our closing time was 8pm every night. Despite having everything ready for me to be out the door by 8:05, our customers were never turned away even if they got there by 7:59. A lot of times, people would show up 5 - 10 minutes after 8, and I'd get everything out again to serve them hoping they would remember and come again.

                                                                        I just counted myself lucky to be out of the shop by 8, but just assumed I'd be there up to an hour afterwards. I didn't expect to be out of the shop by 8 and get mad if I had to stay later...I would never, ever want any of my customers to think they were inconveniencing me, when the reality was, I was grateful for their business.

                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                        1. re: soypower

                                                                          Thank. You.

                                                                          as a business owner, I understand this. I think others, for whatever reason seem to think that working in a restaurant(or anyother retail, customer service or similar career) should be like being a bank teller. clockin-clockout at the same time everyday. I will never understand that mentality!

                                                                          1. re: nkeane

                                                                            It's because you're an owner. :)

                                                                            If you are an employee, you are getting a regular paycheck from the business owner, and so you can afford to look at someone coming in 5 minutes to closing as an annoyance. To a small business owner (like myself), that person directly represents actual revenue -- and it'd be actively stupid to turn them away, especially since you don't have the luxury of a guaranteed paycheck.

                                                                            Also, pissing off a potential customer reflects poorly on you and could really damage your livelihood, especially in this day with all these internet forums out there. :)

                                                                        2. As a bartender who sometimes worked double shifts. I hated people who walked in 10 minutes before closing at the restaurant I worked at, and would linger for sometimes 2 hours! There was one couple in particular who were notorious for coming in late, and staying for hours yak yak yak eating like three toed sloths on Quaaludes, sipping their drinks and often staying more than 2 hours. The day after I left that job I saw Mrs. Sloth at the bank, seems she was a teller! I wonder what she would do if I were to show up at that bank with $1200 worth of un-rolled coins at one minute to close.

                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                          1. re: gryphonskeeper

                                                                            Gryphon....I sympathize. I also see Jfood and others points of view as a paying customer. I was in a similar thread months ago. In the QSR segment of this industry and being a small, family owned business of 6 stores in the STL and about a dozen more in CA, we especially feel the pain of no late business. Economy is killing us in a number of ways. I have since put together what I think is a sensible solution to slow the bleeding, and took it to my area mgr, who in turn got on board and we proposed it to the owner. Have "winter" hours. Instead of closing at 9pm--all stores close at 8. I had all the GMs print out their sales figures using the 8-9 business hour going back to Oct. My store averaged $42 in that hour with a guest check avg of approx $12. Most other locations were roughly the same. Owner was not keen on idea, but is now coming around. Bottom line is, if customers like your food and service, they will come when you are open, no matter what the closing time is, as long as it is posted. I think more restos--even chains should look at this and take appropriate actions depending on their market's demographics.

                                                                            1. re: Rob83

                                                                              We just did the same thing at the bakery I manage. We cut the store hours by 30 minutes at each end - doesn't sound like much, and customers are being pretty cool about it, but the savings in payroll is a help. We've got to cut costs wherever we can, and looking at the sales for the first & last 30 minutes of each day, they were minimal. In this economy, we'll do whatever we can just to stay in business! We also rearranged the bakers' schedules so that each person loses one shift a week. It's hard, but again, we're saving $$ on payroll (and the taxes involved). I hated to take anything away from our employees (me being one of them) but we have to do what we have to do, and they all understood.

                                                                              And to return to the original topic - if a customer walks in at 30 seconds before closing, they are more than welcome to enter, browse, and buy all they want. I have had to educate my sales clerks on the facts of life - the more people come in the door and the more they buy, the more likely that the employee will continue receiving a paycheck each week. Without the customers we are dead in the water.
                                                                              And since it's a small town with a limited client base in the winter, one act of rudeness or of rushing the customer can cost us big-time!

                                                                              1. re: Rob83

                                                                                No need to sympathize as that was a 2007 opinion. In today's economy jfood thinks differently. Every business needs to do whatever it can to get through these times. Should the entire business be put a shakier ground because one customer each night sends the businness into the red? Nope.

                                                                                Jfood agrees with many on the last seating concept and really likes the kitchen closes concept, along with a doors locked at concept. Yes everyone needs customers, but a small chat with that lingering guest to explain the situation goes a long way with embracing the customer that everyone is trying to keep the business afloat.

                                                                                We are all in this together.

                                                                            2. I won't comment on this directly, but will relate a story. In my (very young) youth, I worked in a drugstore. It was owned by a 2nd generation greek-american. his Father, who was first on these shores, also worked shifts. He taught me that even though we closed at 9:00, if there were people in the store, we stayed open. And if more came in while those people were there, we let them in - no locked doors until we left. Even if they were only looking at greeting cards (then about 25 cents)! I could sweep the floors and take out trash while they were there, but that was it. Most of these folks were probably out of towners, but it didn't matter - they were customers. It didn't matter that all the lights stayed on - they were customers. It didn't matter it was only a couple of greeting cards -they were customers.

                                                                              It would be nice if this same sense had carried down into future generations. OTOH, to those customers coming in the last few minutes and wanting to be seated should also know better - common decency works both ways

                                                                              1. I've worked at places that would seat for drinks until closing time (last kitchen order 15 minutes before such time, told to the customer, but even that was flexible), and being a regular closer, was there until they left and customers were never turned away or asked to leave (but the door was locked at closing hour, and unlocked as guests left). We couldn't even suggest that they eat at the bar instead. It was a pain sometimes, but that was the policy, so it was followed and we all knew how it could be.

                                                                                On the other hand, I've also known places which turned away confirmed reservations when the restaurant simply wasn't filled enough (including a couple who had the unfortunate anniversary date of 9/11). And others which had seemingly optional times posted, with no explanation whatsoever.

                                                                                If it's a later dinner, I might order what I know are cold dishes so the kitchen can close out earlier, and eat at the bar instead. Calling ahead helps too (is the kitchen still open? no? thank you. do you have any suggestions for places nearby?)

                                                                                I liked the department store comparison--they'll let you in, and even browse and shop 15 minutes past closing, but please don't linger.

                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                1. re: Caralien

                                                                                  Hell, yes. Would a department store stay open late for you?

                                                                                  1. re: Whosyerkitty

                                                                                    ???

                                                                                    (and yes, I've been that person in the department store rushing to pick something up quickly, like my watch or husband's suit, at closing time due to traffic and whatnot. Respected that they let me in, and did not linger, thanking them on the way out)

                                                                                2. Many of us know what it’s like to work for a living, whatever the business. I work late more days than I go home on time, and I do it for free because I am not an paid hourly. When I was once placed in charge of a project that was offered as a service to the public, the staff was paid (very well) overtime and therefore it was (atypically) by the hour. We became really good at getting everyone through the process and were frequently able to go home early. If a person showed up late for an appointment but before our posted closing, I would greet them and ask if they could just give us a few minutes to set up (again). The staff made faces at me the first time, but I told them that I was not going to turn anyone away within posted hours. The staff forgave me, knowing that they would probably go home early the next time. It’s just professionalism. If I might ramble on for a minute, I think our willingness to accommodate was remembered by the clients and tended to pay off in ways that we didn’t even know.

                                                                                  When I am one of the last to arrive at a restaurant near closing or on a slow night, I am willing to try to find something from the menu that is easier for the kitchen to prepare. I make up my mind right away and can be persuaded to settle the bill early. Dining at more normal times we tend to linger and chat for a while, but we tip appropriately and we remain aware of whether the place is swamped or almost empty. I am not offended if I am told something like “We were about to close a little early tonight, but if you want to order a quick bite we would be happy to accommodate you.”. There’s a local pizza and sandwich shop that will offer to make anything “cold” if you arrive a few minutes after they close, thus endearing themselves to an increasing loyal group of regulars. As for my perspective, tinymango, I am talking about life in a small New England coastal town that changes to winter hours every year as well as in a large, not season -sensitive city. By the way, in general, telling us what time the last party will be seated is much more informative than simply posting a closing time.

                                                                                  I was in a similar situation earlier this weekend. We are familiar with the menu and were able to order immediately. When they brought the check we were ready with the credit card knowing pretty much what the total would be before it arrived. And we tipped 25%. Everyone was happy. “See you next time!” What’s the problem?

                                                                                  1. If you're open, you're open. Period. I once tried to make a purchase at a store and was told that because "business was slow," they'd already cashed out their drawer and couldn't take my money. Never went back. I view this as totally bizarre behavior for any business. However, if I were dining late, I would not linger.

                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                    1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                      So much of restaurant business relies on word of mouth. You walked out and never went back to a store.
                                                                                      How many times has someone been treated badly/had a bad meal/had poor service at a restaurant and then gone out and told several people about it?

                                                                                    2. 'The courtesy to give to the restaurant'?

                                                                                      I must be dining in restaurants, then, where the customer is respected and considered a necessity to their survival.
                                                                                      There are clear operating hours on most restaurants and I don't know of any restaurant that would 'be annoyed' when a customer walked in 15 minutes before closing....at least the owner of the establishment wouldn't, that is.
                                                                                      I don't know if I'd waste my money on a restaurant where the chef is leaving 15 minutes before closing....that doesn't make sense knowing what chefs go through during a normal day at any good restaurant. Usually the work, behind the scenes, lasts past the closing time.

                                                                                      1. I work in an Urgent Care and we close at 7:pm which means you should come in an hour before that time to get treated so the doctors and staff can actually go home at a decent hour. So many times people come in 5 minutes before we close and it is very rude. Doctors have been her already 12 hours and people come in and keep them here for longer. They dont care if the staff has families or not. And then they come in and say "Ive had this condition for a week or I got sick this morning". Ugh, drives me crazy

                                                                                        5 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: burquesangel

                                                                                          my two cents:

                                                                                          1) if you are dealing with a small mom 'n pop, you'd better call first or be prepared for an unpleasant surprise now and then. this type of restaurant normally has no depth of staff. if a family member needs to go to the emergency room or is stalled on the freeway, the rest of the family will often close the restaurant and go.
                                                                                          to latin dancer: when maria at mariscos needed emergency surgery, they just locked the restaurant door. family is more important than the supposed good word that non-regular customers may or may not give you. the regular customers (i.e. the lifeblood of most restaurants) normally understand what they have on their hands and would not expect a mom 'n pop to function like a chain restaurant.

                                                                                          2) many high end restaurants successfully deal with this by having
                                                                                          a) a kitchen closing time that is an hour earlier than the bar closing time (i.e. settebello),
                                                                                          and/or
                                                                                          b) an abbreviated menu that goes into operation as the kitchen closes down/changes gear (i.e. gjelina)

                                                                                          to me,
                                                                                          a) if a restaurant is normally offering me exceptional food, i can be VERY understanding and flexible.
                                                                                          and/or
                                                                                          b) if the restaurant is on my regular rotation, i also tend to be very flexible

                                                                                          that said: if you're talking about a chain restaurant with run-of-the-mill food, that is located near other places that that serve similar commercial crap, not so much.

                                                                                          1. re: burquesangel

                                                                                            I feel that restaurants, urgent care, etc. would probably be best served by being more direct with customers. Statements such as "last customer/patient received at...." would be far more effective than just assuming/hoping that people would behave differently.

                                                                                            I used to work for a legal nonprofit that had a drop-in clinic. The office closed at 5pm, but the door to the drop-in locked at 4. Worked just fine.

                                                                                            1. re: burquesangel

                                                                                              Something tells me that there are many people who could not plan their need to visit Urgent Care-hence the name. You may have felt sick in the morning and by evening you are considerably worse.

                                                                                              However I do agree that that clear communication is critical when there are set hours. Don't advertise that you are open 10am to 10pm if you really don't want or will not serve them after 9:30. How hard it is to state we are open are 10am to 10pm. Our last seating/appointment/etc is at 9:30pm.

                                                                                              1. re: burquesangel

                                                                                                So you expect the patient to have a good appreciation of how long it takes to treat them?

                                                                                                1. re: burquesangel

                                                                                                  Bah, that's the clinic's fault. The one I worked at had a "last arrival by" time - after which the receptionist locked the door, and unlocked it to let each patient who was already inside out when they were done. Not rocket science, and if patient has a bona fide emergency that's what the 24/7 ER is for.

                                                                                                  It's really the same concept with last seating at restaurants, with the major difference being that medical clinics generally don't barely survive by the skin of their teeth, relying on word of mouth. If a would-be walk-in had threatened to never come to the clinic again, I'd just roll my eyes and send silent apologies to whatever clinic they chose to patronize instead.

                                                                                                2. As a restaurant owner, we have a policy of not seating customers within 15 minutes of our closing time. This gives our kitchen staff a chance to begin cleaning up and helps them get off work at a reasonable time and helps us to control our labor costs. By controlling our costs, we can offer more affordable prices to our customers.

                                                                                                  Of course, we would never close the door in the faces of late arriving customers; however, we end up with staff hanging around, waiting to clean up, and more than negating any profit we might make no matter what they order. So I say "YES" it is right for restaurants to stop seating people before closing time.

                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                  1. re: elegraph

                                                                                                    I'm with you. Close the kitchen whenever you like.

                                                                                                  2. "Open - 5pm
                                                                                                    Last Orders - 9:30pm"

                                                                                                    Problem(s) solved.

                                                                                                    14 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: chowyadoin99

                                                                                                      I'm not sure "Last Orders - 9:30 pm" solves the problem(s). Some people will order at 9:30 and be gone by 10:30 -- but others might have a leisurely multi-course meal followed by coffee, port, etc. and still be lingering at midnight (unless given some encouragement -- whether with stick or carrot -- to get going).

                                                                                                      1. re: drongo

                                                                                                        All you have to do is list: Open 5-10 p.m. Last dinner seating 9 p.m.

                                                                                                        1. re: ML8000

                                                                                                          So many restaurants do this, it's not complex, it communicates clearly. It's such a common way of doing things that it seems odd some places don't do the same as it's such an obvious way of avoiding ambiguity.

                                                                                                        2. re: drongo

                                                                                                          You know Drongo- that's the problem with the being in the service industry. Those damn customers! <grin>

                                                                                                          Seriously though, if its important for you (general you) to be home at a reasonable hour than working as an urgent care doctor, a chef or server is probably not the job for you. While there are the cushy ones out there (my doc comes to mind as does my brother when he was head chef at Harvard school of govt) most mean long hours and late nights.

                                                                                                          I agree that there will always be customers who will ignore the rules even when well communicated. At that time its up to the manager/owner/person-in-charge to decide what is the right course of action. And there will always be customers that no matter how politely you offer that carrot or stick will get nasty. When you are in the customer service industry it comes with the territory. But when you have clear communications and expectations they tend to be an exception, not a rule.

                                                                                                          1. re: foodieX2

                                                                                                            well said.........to a 7 year old orig post

                                                                                                            1. re: FriedClamFanatic

                                                                                                              Actually, foodie replied to a post that is a mere 3 hours old.

                                                                                                              1. re: linguafood

                                                                                                                just what I was going to post. Great minds and all that! LOL

                                                                                                            2. re: foodieX2

                                                                                                              Again - this is one of those issues that should be brought up with management and not "customers at large".

                                                                                                              If there's an owner/manager that will let people continue to come in post closing time - then take that issue up with management. If it's a more "case by case" basis where on a particularly busy night or if a 'big spending regular' stops by late - that that is still an issue to take up with management.

                                                                                                            3. re: drongo

                                                                                                              "Last orders - 9:30" might not be a perfect solution but it would probably work 95% of the time. By posting a sign like that a restaurant would be communicating its policy clearly. The customer then has the choice of either accepting it or going elsewhere.

                                                                                                              1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                                                                                Maybe to take care of the lingering 5%, it could be "Last orders 9:30 pm, Lights out 10:30 pm" ?

                                                                                                                1. re: drongo

                                                                                                                  Traditionally in English pubs they would ring a bell for last orders ten minutes before they called time (opening times were once highly regulated by law). When time was called, many would again ring the bell and flash the lights - you knew you had ten minutes to finish before they took your glasses.

                                                                                                                  Seemed really logical except for those who got two drinks in at the last bell then had to drink them really quickly before they were taken away. The result was excessive drunkenness as people crammed in drinks.....the law was changed and it apparently cut down the "chucking out time" street violence.

                                                                                                                  1. re: drongo

                                                                                                                    That would work. The primary objective is to make things absolutely clear.

                                                                                                              2. re: chowyadoin99

                                                                                                                Here's what I've been seeing which works very well:
                                                                                                                "Hours: 5:00 PM to Close"
                                                                                                                If there's no one there, they close.
                                                                                                                If there's business, they stay open.
                                                                                                                No one can bitch (although some will/do).

                                                                                                              3. I have no problem with a restaurant having a displayed "last seating" time. But without such, if a restaurant says that they are open until 9:00pm, I expect to be served at 8:45 and most likely my order will be to-go so as to inconvenience the staff as little as possible and my tip will show my gratitude.

                                                                                                                1. I work retail and the other night 40 minutes after closing I'm heading to the car and a customer is confidently striding toward the darkened store, "We're closed." No response. "We're closed." "Oh I know what I want." "We're closed." Finally wannabe customer gets the picture, he not caring that the registers are pulled, everyone is cleaning and trying to go home, and he might likely wander around for 30 minutes without buying anything, despite "knowing what he wants." Seen it too many times, come back during store hours and not ten minutes before opening nervously looking at your phone or watch because, "I'm in a hurry."

                                                                                                                  1. Just my opinion, but if a restaurant posts a closing time as say 10:00 pm, they should happily provide the full normal dining service to a guest who arrive at 9:55 pm. If they truly want to close the kitchen at 10:00 pm, and let the staff off at 10:30 or 11:00, then they should post their closing time at 9:30 or earlier. To me, closing time means the time when the doors are locked and no more customers are allowed in.

                                                                                                                    10 Replies
                                                                                                                    1. re: josephnl

                                                                                                                      Many restaurants post signs such as this on their door and menus:

                                                                                                                      Open 5:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m.
                                                                                                                      Kitchen closes at 11:00 p.m.

                                                                                                                      That gives the kitchen staff time to finish their cleanup, do any prep for the next day and allow the staff to get out of there at a reasonable time. And it clearly states that food isn't served after 11:00 p.m. (although the bar is obviously still serving drinks).

                                                                                                                      Plain. Simple. Easy to understand.

                                                                                                                      But either way, there's no way I would walk into a restaurant at 9:50 p.m. and expect them to stay open to feed me if the place closes at 10:00 p.m. YMMV.

                                                                                                                      1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                        I agree, I just can't cruise in ten minutes before closing and expect a full meal. That's just not me.

                                                                                                                        1. re: James Cristinian

                                                                                                                          I sort of get that, but isn't the issue some places "closing time" is last orders whilst anthers is turning the lights out.

                                                                                                                          It maybe more obvious at dinner but what about lunch. If a place says it is open from 12 to 2:00 does it mean unless you are in before 1:00 you won't get a meal, or does it mean if you are in at 1:50 you can linger until 3:00?

                                                                                                                        2. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                          So, when I land at the airport at 9:30pm and call a restaurant and tell them I'm on my way and ask when they close and am told 10:00pm, and arrive at 9:50pm, they shouldn't take good care of me?? This is a regular occurrence with me, and it's never been a problem...and IMHO, it shouldn't be. This has been with Hillstone restaurants (Houston's, Bandera, etc.), which always provide wonderful service, but it shouldn't be a problem anywhere. Obviously as LindaWhit has suggested, restaurants would avoid this confusion and any hard feelings by posting both a closing time (when guests are expected to leave), and a kitchen closes time (after which no new orders are accepted). Both however IMHO should be subject to reasonable exception in that restaurants are (at least should realize that they are) in the hospitality business, and as such should try toro vide the best customer service possible.

                                                                                                                          1. re: josephnl

                                                                                                                            You presume too much. Sooner or later it will bite you in the ass. That "hospitality business" catchall doesn't mean that people in restaurants are your servants.

                                                                                                                            Sure, some places serve food late, but not all of them. When dealing with a new place you may want to call ahead of time and clarify their actual hours.

                                                                                                                            1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                                                                                              I don't think it's just coincidence that among the most successful restaurant groups in the country are those that provide wonderful service and yes, hospitality. I've never seen a Hillstone restaurant (Houston's, Bandera, etc,) that wasn't busy, nor a Danny Meyer restaurant (Union Square Cafe, Gramercy Tavern, etc.) in NYC that wasn't packed.

                                                                                                                            2. re: josephnl

                                                                                                                              If it works for you, great. But the Hillstone restaurants all seem to be a combination restaurant/bar situation. I'm thinking they're not rolling up the sidewalk in Palm Beach, Chicago, Houston...wherever, when food is no longer served. Different than expecting a restaurant with no bar to stay open for just one person to be fed. But not having been to any Hillstone restaurants, I'm not sure if they *do* close up completely at 10:00 p.m.

                                                                                                                              But as I said - I would never presume to expect the entire restaurant to stay open for just myself if there was no bar at which guests are still seated. And even so, if they weren't serving food past 10:00 p.m., I wouldn' go there at 9:50 p.m. to eat. I'd probably stop at a McDonald's, as much as I despise them, or see if my hotel had room service.

                                                                                                                              But again - YMMV.

                                                                                                                              1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                I'm talking about returning home from travel and there just happen to be 4 Hillstone restaurants in my area. Their policy I have learned is "to seat guests" up until their closing time. Once seated, they will of course, serve you dinner. And I, of course, if I arrive shortly before closing will order promptly and will certainly not dawdle over a lengthy meal. I guess as you LindaW suggested earlier, restaurants should have a clear policy (ideally posted) re closing time, and kitchen closing.

                                                                                                                                1. re: josephnl

                                                                                                                                  Well, that's again where we differ. If I was returning home after travel, I'd want to go home after the plane lands, as I'd be too tired to do anything else; I wouldn't be dining out.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                    On domestic flights, I always am in coach and although I suppose I could bring food aboard, I never seem to do so. There's no way I'm going to buy the garbage they try to sell as "food" on most planes, so after several hours en route, I frequently (but not always) want a light meal upon arrival. Fortunately, Houston's is right nearby and will usually work out.