Sorry, the grill has been cleaned and isn't available. ??
August 3, 2017 11:14 AM   Subscribe

If a food joint has lunch service until, say, 2:00 p.m., when should items from the grill stop being available... because staff are starting to clean the grill?

A place I go to out of necessity (no other places close enough during limited lunch time) frequently tells me as early as forty minutes before closing that the grill has been cleaned and is not available for use. Is that normal? Is it because staff won't be paid to work after the restaurant stops lunch service?

I don't have experience working as a short order cook, but I imagine that it is a pain when people order a grill item once the grill has already been cleaned. But if the place advertises lunch until 2:00 p.m., when should one stop expecting that they might be able to get a grilled cheese/burger etc.? Bring my own lunch or go earlier is an easy answer, but I am curious about this side of restaurant life, particularly if it relates to a workers' rights/quality of working life perspective.
posted by analog to Food & Drink (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
In my experience it's entirely normal for restaurant/bar staff to be paid their hourly wage after actual service is closed so that they can clean up, cash out, etc.

This is a case of the restaurant mismanaging expectations. It's not like, morally wrong to close the grill early but the way I usually see this kind of thing done is something like "please note that grill items are only served from 11am to 1:30pm".
posted by lalex at 11:23 AM on August 3, 2017 [10 favorites]


No, that seems excessive to me. I'd personally complain, but c'est la vie. Maybe you can start calling ahead before you arrive?
posted by AppleTurnover at 11:41 AM on August 3, 2017 [2 favorites]


Way too excessive. The occasional 5-10 min early grill shutdown is reasonable if they've been exceptionally slow imo.

Probably matters if it's the owners or employees making this decision. Employees would be doing it so they can get out of work quicker after closing, and the ownership likely would want to know since it's taking profits away. If it's the owners themselves, well, they're free to run their business how they choose, but that's a rather dumb ass business decision.
posted by mannequito at 12:33 PM on August 3, 2017 [3 favorites]


In my experience in restaurant work, the time that a meal service is over (as listed on the menu) is the last time when you can order that meal, so this does not seem reasonable to me. (If I had started to clean and a customer walked in and ordered, I would consider that my problem, not the customer's.) I would probably complain as well. But you'd have to talk to an owner. The employees are probably doing this so they can leave early. They should be getting paid for time spent cleaning, but it's human nature to want your work day to be over.
posted by FencingGal at 12:38 PM on August 3, 2017 [2 favorites]


I worked a lot of short order grill shifts at my college dining hall. We would start cleaning early on really slow nights for sure, but there's a lower level of expectation and service/professionalism than a for-real restaurant. Plus we would still serve people if we guessed wrong. Usually. If there was a 7:55 rush before 8:00 close after it being dead for the last hour, we weren't supposed to refuse service, though we probably occasionally did when we thought we could get away with it.

So, I would say this is maybe a thing that would happen in a college dining hall or possibly an office building cafeteria situation, but is pretty unreasonable for a more normal public-facing restaurant. And even in the former situations, I would consider talking to the manager about it to see what exactly is their policy so I could plan accordingly.
posted by misskaz at 12:44 PM on August 3, 2017 [4 favorites]


Every restaurant I've ever worked in will serve anyone anything they order if they are in the door by closing time - and I HATED it, but the restaurant wants to make money and please customers. So if the diner closes at 2 am, and you walked in at 1:59 and wanted burgers, you would get burgers. Show up at 2:01 and too bad, so sad, no burger - or anything - for you.
posted by NoraCharles at 12:45 PM on August 3, 2017 [3 favorites]


Offering lunch until 2:00 is just that, an offer. There's no contract of expectations. It's their hospitality, albeit sounds like not very good hospitality.

There's also the possibility they're just not that into you.

What are you going to get if you complain. Do you think think they're going to accommodate you without spitting in your food next time.
posted by humboldt32 at 1:03 PM on August 3, 2017 [1 favorite]


Do you think think they're going to accommodate you without spitting in your food next time.

Yes? Can we please get over this trope that servers spit in food every time a customer mildly inconveniences them?
posted by lalex at 1:11 PM on August 3, 2017 [18 favorites]


When I was the GM of a "better pizza" place, if I was not on the closing shift, I would sometimes call the store a few minutes before close to make sure they were still selling food. If they weren't, we had a sit-down, in my office, door closed, the next day. I made it absolutely clear that not only were they stealing from the owners, but since I worked on salary plus bonus, they were also stealing from me. And that if it ever happened again, they'd be out of a job.

It never happened again. With any of them.

If a restaurant says they're open until 2, they're open until 2, period.
posted by The Almighty Mommy Goddess at 1:57 PM on August 3, 2017 [8 favorites]


I used to work solo at a place with a grill. The owners were cheap and I was not paid for any time other than my shift. So I had to clean up as the day went. If it was dead empty, I would clean the grill early. But the grill was still ON. Even then, if someone came in a half hour before closing I would just cook the one thing in one spot on the grill and clean that part again. It sounds like what they are telling you is "This place was empty, we turned the grill off, we can't turn it on again" in which case, yeah, if they are the owners, that's just how they roll, but if it's the employees, you should tell the owners.
posted by jessamyn at 2:38 PM on August 3, 2017 [1 favorite]


The only time I experienced something like this was a pizza place where we walked in 15 min before closing and asked for a pizza. They told us they couldn't serve us eat-in but they were more than happy to make a take-out pizza, so that's what we did. This was in Europe; I see you're in Canada where I imagine (though am not sure) the cultural norms around food are similar to the US, i.e. if lunch is till 2pm, you have the expectation of being able to order until 1:59.
posted by basalganglia at 2:58 PM on August 3, 2017


Many years of restaurant service tells me that perhaps the owner or manager doesn't know this is happening. I can see the line cooks deciding its been slow and deciding to clean the grill. They tell the counter or service folks, who don't push back, and voila, no service at 1:45. I would shoot them an email if you have an email you can find and I bet your issue will be resolved pronto.
posted by stormygrey at 3:08 PM on August 3, 2017


What are you going to get if you complain. Do you think think they're going to accommodate you without spitting in your food next time.

I think it's quite possible that the owners don't even know that their restaurant is being managed this way. And the servers would have to spit in the food of everyone who orders food 40 minutes before closing so... no.
posted by AppleTurnover at 4:21 PM on August 3, 2017


A place I go to out of necessity (no other places close enough during limited lunch time) frequently tells me as early as forty minutes before closing that the grill has been cleaned and is not available for use. Is that normal? Is it because staff won't be paid to work after the restaurant stops lunch service?

I don't know that it's "normal," but this is very close to my experience in a company cafeteria for a building with no restaurants nearby. Other food from other stations was available until right up to closing. The grill was shut down at least 20 min early, sometimes more. The reason had to do with the amount of other close-out cleaning duties also assigned to the grill guy that had to be completed before the official clock-out time (which was shortly after lunch ended.)
posted by desuetude at 9:33 PM on August 3, 2017


Since you asked: Generally speaking restaurant workers have no rights, and the ones they have are rarely actually enforced. If this were me I would chalk it up to they don't like me and I'd bring my own lunch (rather than make a minimum wage worker's life harder by ratting them out to the boss). My partner pointed out to me that one could also call ahead to ensure your order is already ready by the time you arrive.
posted by shalom at 11:17 PM on August 3, 2017


2PM, like it say's on the tin.
posted by Diag at 3:10 AM on August 6, 2017


So, I am friendly with one of the workers who doesn't usually work the lunch shift (but occasionally does). I casually asked her one day what time she tends to close the grill when she is working over the lunch hour. Her response was larger than expected - "Why, has he been closing it early on you? You are the second person to bring this up. I'm going to tell the manager."

I haven't noticed whether it's a particular person who tends to close the grill early. In any case, it seems that it's not a general restaurant policy or procedure and that other people are aware of the issue. I didn't want to make a big deal about it, because I don't know the ins and outs of the workers' lives there. I simultaneously hope that maybe I can get a lunch a bit later and also that no one gets in trouble...

Thanks for your responses.
posted by analog at 8:53 AM on August 8, 2017


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