Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Should We Stay or Should We Go?

It is Sunday night and you know that your favorite restaurant closes the kitchen at 9:00p.m.

You look up at the clock on the wall and it reads 8:30.

You quickly do the math internally (because your so smart you don't need a calculator)...8:30 + 10 minute commute + 12 minute order time = 8:52. YES UNDER 9:00! "Get in the car hun."

HOLD ON THERE PYTHAGORAS! Your math does not include the implied restaurant formula of immediately add 20 minutes onto said starting time. This means it is really 8:50 when your starting out. The implied formula is put into place for the simple fact that restaurant employees have places to go to as well. GASP, I know.

Bottom line is- You should stay.

Your arrive at the bar at 8:30 in the same situation as aforementioned. You nurse your delicious house wine and flirt with the girl that eventually will spend all your money and leave you in the gutter with poop pants and an alcohol problem, and quickly the clock says 8:57.

"We are ready to go to our table now", you mutter because you just can't wait to pick the cheapest thing on the menu that will take 20 minutes to cook only to send it back and have it cooked again, so you can lose yourself in the eyes of the girl your sure will produce a beautiful family that your mother will be proud of, and she can return the gaze into the eyes of her free meal ticket.

NO, NO, NO CHIEF! Wrong move-Nobody wants to watch you slip into oblivion when they know that there is an angry spouse waiting for them to get home to help with the kid or a cocktail waiting for them at the local watering hole that stays OPEN way past 9 on Sunday. (You know-the place you should have gone to in the first place.)

Bottom line is- You should go.

Listen. I'm not saying that most places won't be happy, even ecstatic to have a table that has been in the dining room for a while enjoy their meal well past the closing hour, or even take a late reservation as long if it is understood that you area aware of how late it is and you audibly profess how appreciative you are and how you will eat fast.
The "go-to" formula for added insulation against server angst is tip healthier than normal.

And if you must come in 10 minutes before service ends and stay for 2 hours the "go-to" formula is that before you exit the building, take a short walk around the restaurant and hand $100 bills to the kitchen staff, the manager, the bartender, and the bussboy-all of whom you have force to make phone calls to the people they promised they would be "there" by 9:30.

You would have to pay a prostitute for screwing them, why should we be any different?


padraig said...

People generally have a hard time crawling outside their own perspective and seeing the wider picture (this applies to your earlier post about the asshat and his $20 glass of wine, too, come to think of it).

Moreover, people don't generally *like* to be reminded, directly or indirectly, that this failure often leads to really selfish behavior... because people don't like to think of themselves as selfish pricks :)

Personally, I think that restaurants should stop advertising "closing time" and start advertising "last table seating" time. Don't say you close at 9:00pm... you don't really anyway. Say you stop seating diners at 8:30 or 8:15 or whatever time differential covers your usual "get 'em out the door" window so that everybody can go home at a reasonable hour. Sure, you'll still have cases of people overstaying their welcome, but you'll have far fewer cases of people showing up 5 minutes before close :)

Toby T said...

Very good point Patrick-a pioneer in the restaurant industry you could be. (implied Yoda dialect)

JBW said...

It's been my experience that most GMs are more than happy to allow oblivious, know-nothing guests to come in just before or even slightly after closing time just to give their numbers as much of an extra little boost as they can get. padraig's suggestion seems doable for a privately-owned business with an actual human manager but in the land of corporate-ownership it's usually the bottom line that determines closing time.

I used to work for a fine dining restaurant when I was in law school in Houston and Charles Barkley would routinely come in with a large party ten minutes before we closed, ostensibly to avoid annoying Rockets fans. He would spend a good amount of cash and the server was taken care of by the automatic gratuity but the guy was a first-class asshole and I always felt bad for the kitchen staff who were there cooking and cleaning up until well past one in the morning.

I've always maintained that in order to dine in a restaurant you must have worked at least a month or two at some level in the industry at some point in your life. Either that or be charged a 20% addition on your check subject to a manager's discretion in the event of egregiously bad service, emphasis on the egreg.