The Risks of Late Reservations

Sam over at Becks & Posh asks a poll question based off a recent experience she had at a restaurant. After acquiring and accepting a late reservation (10:15pm) to a restaurant, upon arriving and being seated, she was informed by the waiter that “Their orders would have to be rushed”, as the kitchen would soon be closed.

Sam’s question translates roughly to “Is this acceptable behavior on the part of the restaurant?”

From a pure customer service point of view, I don’t believe this is acceptable in any regard, especially from a place that accepts reservations. It shows an inordinate lack of discipline from the restaurant staff, both front of the house and back. Unless Sam is paying less for her meal when compared to someone who has a 7pm reservation, then she deserves the same level of service.


Human nature is a naughty beast, and when the day comes to an close to an end, there is a level of anticipation that comes from knowing that one will be done working soon. Think about how you feel at an hour prior to your end of day quitting time. Now think about how you feel if someone comes to you (boss or otherwise) and requires that you stay an extra hour. It sours your mood.

This “souring” likely increases in jobs with higher stress and those who have later closing times – both of which are part of the restaurant worker’s every day life. In the several restaurants I worked at many ages ago, this was always the case.

Good Management should be aware of these human behaviors. Some mitigate it by explicitly stating that the kitchen closes at some specific time. But if a restaurant does this, they should stop seating customers at least 30 minutes prior, in order to prevent their customers from feeling rushed.
Many places that close the kitchen at specific times also have a similar policy regarding the seating of their customers.

This only further illustrates my point. If one restaurant has policies to prevent customers from feeling rushed, then it demonstrates the inadequacies of those who don’t. Clearly the restaurant Sam found herself in had no such policy, or if they did, it was ignored.

In a perfect world, a person with a late reservation should receive the same service as a person with had eaten earlier. A restaurant that doesn’t treat customers equally based on time has different approaches to their discipline. It’s up to you as a consumer to determine whether or not this is acceptable behavior. I personally don’t think it is.