If you show up at 5 till closing time, do they still have to serve you in a restaurant?

daHubby and I were having dinner out this week and wondered if you showed up at say, 5 to 10 minutes before a restaurant closes, is the restaurant obligated to serve you or can they turn you away?

They can throw your butt out in the street for any reason that doesn’t involve discrimination against a given class. Show up just before closing and they don’t like the color of your money? You’re gone. The color of your skin? You have a lawsuit in the making.

They’re not obligated to serve you in any legal sense. However, it’s likely that the management of the establishment would insist you be served.

But I avoid that situation at all costs. Do you really want your food to be prepared and served by resentful staff that were looking forward to completing their end-of-shift tasks and going home, and are looking for shortcuts to get you out the door? Me either!

Yeah, if we can’t get to the restaurant in plenty of time and we’re not wanting to cook, it’s the 24 hour drive-in. I can only imagine how much of a pisser it is for restaurant staff to have to deal with people who show up shortly before closing.

don’t restaurants have a cut off for ‘last order’ and a closed sign put up at the door while the rest of the patrons take their time to finish up?

Most places I know will say “The kitchen closes at X:00 o’clock” which is usually at least 30 minutes, and usually an hour before they intend to lock the doors.

It depends on the restaurant but plenty of wait and kitchen staff know their ‘real’ closing time might be hours after the stated closing time. Even customers who arrived an hour before scheduled closing might just be contemplating dessert at 5 till. “Chocolate souffle anyone? It only takes 90 minutes and it is superb here!”

But many do limit their menus the later it gets. In fact chocolate souffle, rack of lamb, etc. would probably have a last order time just due to preparation time. But most would be glad to get you in to a table and sell one more quick meal while they continue most, if not all, of the cleanup and shutdown work they would be doing anyway at that time.

In my experience, in middle of the road places, the fryer is always hot. A lot of restaurants will limit their menu to fryer foods like chicken strips and fries, so they can still be able to provide a meal while the grill is turned off and cleaned for the night.

“Do they have to serve you?”

Are you asking if there is a law requiring it, or requiring what services must be performed during posted business hours? There is certainly no national law, and while I suppose there might be state or local laws about it, I’ve never heard of one.

The owners can certainly make it their policy if they want to.

Even a landlord has some power over business hours related to the store fonts they own. For example, I know of a bakery that had to move out of a strip mall because the property owners decided that they were going to be open on Sundays and wouldn’t renew the leases on any business that wouldn’t agree to be open on Sundays.

When I worked in fast food in high school, we had to serve anyone who came through the doors up until the moment we locked them at 11 p.m. (though, depending on the mood of the manager on any particular night, we might lock them a few minutes early). By then we had cleaned up and put away most everything, but we kept the fryers hot. People could also stay to finish their meals after we locked the doors. Don’t recall if we had a stated time that they had to be out of there by, but I can’t recall anyway staying very long after we locked up anyway.

what silenus said. Though when I go anywhere, if it’s getting close to their closing time I usually ask first if they’re still seating people. Never been told “no.”

True story that happened only 3 weeks ago:

My wife and I were spending a Friday in Jerusalem, and we had a coupon for a restaurant there for lunch. She called in the morning to make sure they would be open in the afternoon, and the person answering said yes, they would be open. (Kosher restaurants tend to close early on Fridays because of the Sabbath.)

We walked in around 1:30, and the conversation went like this:

Waitress: Sorry, we’re closed.
Wife: What do you mean closed? I called this morning and you said you’d be open until 4 or 4:30.
Waitress: We weren’t getting much business, so we decided to close early. The kitchen is closed.
Wife: We live an hour away, and we have a coupon. It’s not like we’re in Jerusalem all the time.
Waitress confers with another waitress, then says: Let me check with the kitchen, maybe they have something they can still make for you.
She comes back out and says: It’s OK, we’ll stay open, order whatever you want.

Another couple came in right after us, and they ordered as well. After that, the waitress stood by the door and told people they were closed.

When I worked in food service, we’d certainly serve anyone who showed up before we shut our doors at 3. (It was a breakfast and lunch place.) However, patrons would have to deal with us putting up chairs, mopping, cleaning, and preparing to shut down. No one ever made an issue of it.

I worked at a restaurant many moons ago and their policy was to seat anyone up to 15 minutes after the scheduled close time. Talk about some pissed off waitstaff.

As for the OP: Of course they don’t have to serve you…but many of them will

Do you have to be served? No. Will I serve you? That depends entirely upon whether or not we’ve been busy in the last hour or so. If it’s been dead for the last hour or so I’m locking up early, and no amount of banging on the door, phone calls, or threats to have me fired will make me open it and serve you.

If I’ve been busy and I’m still serving, the worst thing that you can do is taunt me about it. “Haha, bet you thought you were done” is a really bad thing to say to me if food is something you desire. Be polite and recognize that you would be none too happy if someone locked you up for an additional 20 minutes after your closing time at your job, because by coming in and ordering that’s what you’ve just done. Also, take it with you, don’t insist on eating it there.

In short, you’ve just pulled what is known in most circles as a “dick move”, and if you do get served don’t make it worse by being an even bigger dick. Contrary to the famous saying, the customer is not always right, especially not at 9:55.

If your sign says you are open, you are open. Why in the world does your personal comfort take precedence? No one else gets to leave their job early because they had a slow day. Why should you get to? It’s not a “customer is always right” thing. It’s a “people don’t like being lied to” thing. It’s a “people want you to do your job” thing. If you are just going to quit when you feel like it, why have times at all?

In my mind, not serving people when your sign says you are open is a much bigger dick move. You’re not going to get out at closing time, anyways. It’s your job to work all the hours you are allotted, not turn away money for your employer because it’s not as convenient.

Sorry, I have no sympathy for you.

A restaurant IS generally open up to and often past its posted hours. That doesn’t mean they have to accept new orders that can’t be completed by the time they close. Just like any other business, they don’t guarantee to serve you RIGHT NOW. If you bring your car into a shop at the end of the day they might let you leave it on the lot, or they might make an appointment to come back again, but they won’t put somebody to work on the job a few minutes before they’re scheduled to close.

About the only places that will do that are retailers who can ring up your purchase almost as fast as they can push you out the door.

I’ve been in the restaurant business for 20 years give or take, 10 of that as a server and 10 as a manager. Tonight we closed at 11pm. That means we would seat anyone up to 11 and serve them a full dinner and they could take however long they wanted. This has been typical of all the restaurants I have ever worked. The posted closing time simply indicates when we will stop seating.

I doubt I would say it this harshly but I don’t really disagree with the basic point here. And, I don’t know any owners who would disagree either.

I’ve never really understood this mind set among anyone working in a restaurant. It isn’t the kind of job where you have a predetermined quitting time. Slow days you may get out early. Nights where everyone comes in late, maybe not. Big deal. Most of the servers working for me work 25 - 30 hours a week earning $700 - 900 a week in tips, paid to them daily in cash. Boo-hoo, you had to stay until midnight because you got 2 or 3 tables at the last minute. If you don’t like it go get a nice 9-5 job working 40 hours a week to make that kind of money.

Depending on how busy we are we will go down to one server around 30 minutes to an hour before our posted closing time. Usually this is done either by having someone volunteer to close or by drawing straws. That way it ends up being fair. Usually there is someone willing to stay most days and they typically make another $30 to $50 a shift for the extra hour or so of work depending on how busy it gets.

(bolding mine)
You’re making a bit of money letting a last minute table in. But you’re also adding labor cost, to the kitchen and front of house. From my years of restaurant experience, it’s situational. It’s been a busy night, it’s five to close, there’s an hour of cleanup to be done anyway, and a table of two wants a meal and a drink? Sure, come in, we’re here anyway. It’s been dead and we could be signing out right at close? The profit on those two meals and two drinks just barely outweigh the extra labor cost. It’s been dead, a table of eight shows up and asks if we can stay open? Sure, considerable extra sales, also extra tips.

And like it or not, the politeness of the potential last-minute customer was always a contributing factor.

I used to work fast food. We hated the dicks that would drive up at 10:59 and order a metric fuckton of hamburgers and fries. Once someone saw THEM in the drive-thru line, 4 or 5 other cars would pull in, etc.

If it’s 15 minutes til close, I’m not going into a restaurant, especially a sit-down place. It’s just rude. If for some insane reason I was forced to do so, I’d certainly leave a large enough tip to make up for it.