A bunch of friends and I went to a Tuesday outdoor concert recently that ended around 9:30 p.m. We were starved, so we headed to a newer restaurant that has been getting a lot of good buzz. We each drove our own car to the restaurant in a neighborhood where parking is limited. Car-pooling from the concert to the restaurant didn't make sense because we all live in different parts of the city.
I'm explaining all this because when we finally found parking spaces and arrived at the door of the restaurant at 10 p.m., we found it closed. We had checked the hours of operation online, which told us the restaurant is open weekdays until 11:30 p.m. So, there were the four of us, hungry and standing in front of a locked restaurant. We could see people inside cleaning up. There were a couple of quick glances toward us, but nobody came to the door to explain why the place was closed.
I imagine the restaurant had experienced a slow night and the owner or manager decided to close the restaurant. There were no other restaurants nearby of any interest, so we all went home. Not before, however, getting all ticked off. “Screw these guys,” said one of my friends as he walked to his car.
As they say, birds of a feather flock together, so you have to believe that my friends love food the way I do and don't hold back in restaurants. If those doors had been open that night, we would have ordered multiple dishes and at least a couple bottles of good wine. We easily could have spent hundreds of dollars there.
The restaurant not only lost that revenue, but it sent out into the world four angry would-be customers who will likely have bad things to say about this establishment.
I wish I could say this is an isolated incident, but this scenario has happened to me more than a few times. I can only imagine how frustrating it must be to open your doors for business and, for some unexplained reason, few customers show up. But the way I and likely most of your customers see it, the hours you post on your door, on your website and anywhere else represent a promise. And when you close your doors early, you've broken that promise to customers.
More importantly, you've now damaged a trust that is implied by those hours. I no longer trust that this restaurant will be open according to its promised hours. If it's late, I'll now have to call to see if it's open, but only if I care enough to make the effort. At the moment, I don't care. Maybe down the road I will.
So, as usual, I have a couple questions for you. Is there ever a valid reason (beyond a catastrophe) to close a restaurant early? When you have a terribly slow night, how do you handle the situation? You certainly don't close the restaurant, or do you? Email me your thoughts and I'll share the best of them on our Back Talkin' (letters) page.
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