It’s Closing Time

It’s ten minutes before closing time and most of the sidework is done.The only thing left is to blow out the candles and put plastic wrap on the ramekins of ketchup. The second hand moves in slow motion as you eagerly wait to run to the front door and lock it barring any more hungry customers from coming in. Only seven more minutes, so you go to the tray of ketchups and wrap it in the plastic and head to the walk-in. That’s when it happens. Someone pokes their head in the door and says, “Are y’all still open?” Goddamnit!

My brother told me a story last week about how he went to a restaurant with his wife and kids and their friend with his kid. They weren’t sure if the place was open so Little Bro went inside and asked. The bartender said yes, so he went out to get the brood. Once inside, he realized that they were closing in ten minutes. “Oh, I’m sorry. Are you sure it’s alright?” The hostess answered like this: “No, it’s okay…I mean you can stay…if you want to..I mean we are closing in a few minutes but if you really wanna stay I guess you can.” My brother is cool and went elsewhere. He knew that no waiter wants to be stuck at work after close serving three kids. Who the hell wants to eat in a restaurant being the only ones there while knowing that the whole crew is waiting for you to eat and get the fuck out? Turns out, plenty of people. I get it. If we close at 10:00 then it shout be perfectly alright if someone wants to come in at 9:59, but it sucks. No other job is like that. If you are a secretary (sorry, administrative assistant) who gets off work at 5:00, you leave at 5:00, right? What happens if the phone rings at 4:58 and they need you to look up the minutes for a meeting that happened in 1998 and they need copies of it in triplicate? You say, “I will take care of that first thing in the morning” and punch your ass out at 5:00. But in a restaurant, that same secretary can show up at 9:58 and order a well done steak after two apps and keep me at work for an extra hour and half.

Many years ago, while in Las Vegas with friends, we needed a place to eat. We saw a restaurant that looked cool but it was about ten minutes until 11:00 and we didn’t know how late they were serving. My friend David ran up to the hostess and asked if they were open. She gave the obligatory “We’ll, we are open until 11:00, so…” David turned to us with a big thumbs up and yelled, “Come on! They’re still open!” The three of us walked into the restaurant and I asked the hostess how late they were open. She looked at her watch and said, “For about 8 more minutes.” Oh, hell no! I dragged us outta there right then and there. David was like, “But they’re open!” David, honey-pie, sweetie-lump, sugar-bear. No. No no no. Not only does it suck for the server, it will suck for us. Our apps would come out in two minutes and then our entree is going to show up one minute after that and God forbid we order dessert. It might come with a side of hot fudge and a hair ball. And as we sit and eat dinner, we are going to watch the busser mop the floor around every table except ours. Not worth it.

Never go into a restaurant if they are closing within twenty minutes. It is just better for all of us. Servers and diners alike. Trust me.

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27 thoughts on “It’s Closing Time

  1. Mark W

    It's perfectly fine to go in to a restaurant that is still open, no matter how much time you have until they close. If they're open, they're obligated to serve you.That said, no matter what time you go in to a restaurant, you are obligated to be out of it by the time they close.Therefore, if you walk in to a restaurant at 10:55 and see that they close at 11:00, you better do your business damned fast, because you only have five minutes to do your shit and get out! My service quality is equivalent to the position of the lock on the doors. If it's open, you get great service. If the doors are locked and you're still inside, you become an afterthought, and I might check on you after I've done everything else I need to do before I go home for the night!

  2. Harmony

    One of my biggest pet peeves of working in a restaurant. However, now I bartend at a sports bar and one of my FAVORITE parts is the fact that at 1:30 its last call and 1:55 the bouncer goes around screaming for everyone to leave. 2am your ass HAS to be out of the building. And we don't even have to be nice about it! 🙂

  3. SlumSlut

    Recently we went to this Mexican place which is also a bar, and I think the bar was staying open but the kitchen was closing. We asked the waitress if they would mind serving us, that we could go somewhere else and we understand that the kitchen staff wants to be done. Not only did she seat us and take our order, but when our order came out, they were the biggest burritos I ever saw in my life! I guess the kitchen took all the burrito stuff they had left and put it on our plates and we did them a favor because they didn't have to put it away. We didn't have to buy any more food for the rest of the weekend.The end.

  4. Mary A.

    I live for that ambient chlorox-dirty-mop smell you get when you walk into a closing restaurant. Add the lukewarm, spit infused tap water and the probably-going-to-give-you-food-poisoning warmed over entre and you got yourself an evening!

  5. CP

    I don't know any admins who get to leave at 5 these days. In fact, many of them get swamped right before because all their bosses get out of meetings at 4 with all kinds of crises that need to be taken care of before the next day. They work till 7 or even 9 and these days most don't get overtime. The grass is SO not greener over that fence.As to coming in to a restaurant late, if it's open till a certain time it is open and should serve guests with the same hospitality they'd serve anyone at another time. Granted don't come in five minutes before closing and order the pork chops! And maybe ordering to go is an option that gets you food and still gets the staff out faster. Otherwise, they should advertise a "last seating" time however many minutes prior to closing they wish, to give time to serve their patrons well but still be done by or about closing. It's not up to patrons to figure out what time that is, or to skip a restaurant at 9 because it closes at 10. By that logic no one should come into the establishment the last hour, which helps no one. Common sense and common courtesy do come into play, on both sides, but "open till 10" means "open till 10" (but that doesn't mean there shouldn't be a big tip for the extra consideration, and servers should get their base pay for that extra time, which I assume from this blogpost that they don't?)

  6. Anonymous

    Haha, when people would come in right before close, I'd tell them that the main grills were already closed down, but if they wanted any of a particular type of dish ( mainly pasta) that we could serve them. They'd leave shortly after figuring out they couldn't get a steak.

  7. Heather

    I work retail, and we have similar problems in our store! people come in at 9:25 (we close at 9:30) ask, hey you guys close in 5 right? proceed to make a HUGE MESS, buy a $12 shirt, and keep us at work for an extra 45 min! its just inconsiderate.

  8. Waiting

    I tell people who walk in right before closing exactly how many minutes they have to place their order, followed by what time they have to be done eating before I kick them out.If they come in at 1:25, I say "I can seat you but you have to order within the next two minutes and you have until 2 to finish eating." As long as they can agree to those two terms they are welcome to have a seat.

  9. HI THERE!!! How are you today? ;)

    Is CP serious about the base wage thing? Shall we reiterate what servers make an hour? I make $4/hr which is more than most servers in my state, because my restaurant is owned by a very large, very unionized corporate entity. Server minimum wage here is $2.83/hr. I understand that there are states where servers are paid a normal minimum wage (I recently learned that in California, servers are paid a normal wage), but most states do not.If the restaurant is open til 12am am I obligated to seat and serve you with a smile? why yes, yes I am. Do the cooks have any such qualms about deep frying your medium well steak(yes, this has been done) and putting all 3 courses of your meal up in the window at the same time(i promise they will), turning off the heat lamps and leaving? no, no they do not.

  10. Fred from Napa

    I do not like being a last minute table or even the last people still seated in a restaurant, BUT, if you need to leave at 10:00 sahrp then tell your manager so he can schedule you accordingly. And as a server, I've found sucking it up, accept you're cocktail will have to wait awhile, and try to give them the best service they respond with over the top tips. And if the kitchen bitches, then management needs to remind them that salaries are paid with sales, not early cut times. I wonder if any real pros read this blog?

  11. Khadijah

    Oh how I love customers who come in .3992 seconds before the clock strikes 11. Then it seems as though they always order things you tossed. Sweet tea, decaf coffee. But then again- what about those that come in to order water and a salad? I mean really. Drive pass the 24 hour Mc'Donalds to come into a restaurant for a garden salad, hold the tomato and crutons, which leaves just lettuce and ranch??!?

  12. Anonymous

    I simply do not get why any establishment, restaurant or retail, does not calculate the necessary employee time needed to serve all customers satisfactorily. If the deal with the staff is that they have to stay until the cleaning and prep work is done and it takes one full hour to do that, then the closing time should be set to allow a last party to come in at one minute before closing time, be appropriately served without compromising the scheduled departure time. The primary objective of all staff and owners should be to generate the maximum revenue (and profit) from customers and ensure return visits. Making a customer feel like they are an imposition, even at a late arrival is a sure fire way to lose repeat business, lose profits, and lose demand for wait staff. And pay the staff adequate wages for the work they do at the end of their shifts when tips aren't possible.

  13. dirtydisher

    The worst is when they're "friends of the owner", which apparently gives them the right to keep an entire section open, using it as a lounge when they could move to the bar. But, nooooo. They love to make an overworked server who's pulling a double shift during flu season stay until last call when you expected to be home by 9 pm. And then they make a huge mess, inviting friends from the lounge to "pull up a table" and no one tips because they're too drunk from the 100 drinks they made you run. One at a time. That happened to me so many times. Bastards.

  14. dirtydisher

    Fred, you said, "BUT, if you need to leave at 10:00 sahrp then tell your manager so he can schedule you accordingly."That made me bust a gut. No manager is going to let you off just because you say you have to go. You wonder if pros read here? I wonder if you've ever had a server job? Bet not. I can just see you telling managment when you will go home. LOLOLOL

  15. Fred from Napa

    To dirty disher- my first server position was in 1977- were you even born? My comment was a sarcastic observation that if you don't want to work you shouldn't be in the business. In other words, if it pisses you off to accommodate guests then get the hell out of hospitatlity. You're attitude would never cut it in professional restaurants, but maybe chain operations and buffet houses are more your style.

  16. servers hate fred

    Fred, you couldn't be more wrong. EVERY server is some level of pissed off at the customers. Maybe they try to make the best of a crappy job, but they ALL secretly resent you. Believe it. Also, Fred, if you are going to insult people on a blog, learn to spell.

  17. dirtydisher

    I never resented most customers. I liked my job or I would have done something else. Fred, your attempts at sarcasim were lost on me. Because they were lame. Good luck with your snotty tude and "proffesional" job. THAT, was sarcasm.

  18. Vicki

    It is part of the job. There are always going to be people who come in late and they have to be waited on cordially and professionally. It's really too bad that you had plans that night–you're just going to have to push them back. As I tell my friends, "It sucks to be you." I don't like it either–I can't do my paperwork until all the checks are in. =POne of my servers has gave a party that came in late an attitude–what I considered an attitude–because I was talking to them and she very ignorantly and brusquely asked me "Can I go?" I was a little surprised at her rudeness but I said yes and I let her leave–oh, you want more hours? Well I don't call her any more to cover shifts because her attitude is so awful…So she only gets her 2 shifts a week now. I used to call her to cover any hostessing or waitressing shift available…do you see? Now you're out money because of your attitude. I know it's hard. I know it's inconvenient and annoying, I've been there as a server, as a cook as a manager and now as an owner–I know it sucks–but unfortunately that is the way it is in our field. There's too much competition for it to be otherwise.

  19. SharleneT

    Don't know if he started the whole thing, or not, but a thousand years ago when I worked in Howard Johnson's (pulled that out of a dusty bin), I met the man, himself, and his rule was "clean up whatever you want just before closing, but if any folks show up at 11:59, you are to serve them as if they came in at eight." Period. No excuses. "If you don't want to follow our posted hours, then you need to work somewhere else." But, we clocked in and out, and got paid (a pittance) for those hours, so it didn't matter. It's probably different, today. I think the only solution is to let the public know that only certain foods will be served after ten o'clock. Do it long enough and then you won't have to worry about people coming in, at all.And, I can't think of a time I was able to leave any office job at the stroke of five o'clock — not to mention even being able to take the lunch 'hour' stated in the office manual. You were guilted into staying at your desk and eating within fifteen minutes and then 'catching' up on the next load of work. They're jobs; they're not meant to be fun and the grass is always greener, until you work there. Post a sign at the door and that should give you plenty of time to get your area cleaned up. A restaurant sells food (not all have bars) and that's how the owners make money, and it's a hard business. They have no other reason to be open. A server's job is to sell food to the customer in such a way that they keep coming back for more. That's the restaurant business. Unfortunately, I've seen too many restaurant owners allowing the help to close, at night, and discover only too late that they're going out of business because of sections being closed down early, the chef refusing to use the grill after ten, and servers complaining that they've cleaned the coffee machine, already, and didn't want to make coffee. Sorry. That's the job. Without customers demanding food during open hours, there is no restaurant.

  20. amanda

    When those people came in, that's when I would start vacuuming around their feet…bringing in the umbrellas from the patio and placing them right by their table…a whole bunch of stuff that I probably only got away with because it was a small place, and I was the ONLY person out on the floor (with the manager in back doing paperwork). 🙂

  21. Calandreya

    As a customer, I really do try not to hold people past closing time. We have a family rule that we don't go into a place if they close within an hour – some exceptions for emergency situations, and large tipping occurs.However, I want to say that I don't know of ANY jobs that have real quitting times. If something needs doing, in this economy, you better do it or expect a short career – no matter what your career may be.Also, I've worked as a waitress, and had friends who did. One friend's "quitting time" was extended an hour or two every night because she wasn't allowed to do prep work during her shift. After work, she refilled containers, cleaned and did whatever her manager asked of her, off the clock. Yes, it's illegal. And, years later, she could have been part of a class action lawsuit and gotten a check for a few pennies. So, it comes down to whether you want a job or not.I hate this economy.

  22. Joey B

    Yes min wage is 10$ . But don’t worry .Taxes eat it all .My paycheck remained pretty much the same since 1989 .We are taxed on our tips and the tip sharing sometimes take a lot (which I’m ok with ) but then if u didn’t get any cash tips – u end up claiming more than actually made .U cant clock out if u don’t .


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