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Restaurant Hours of Operation

Restaurant Hours of Operation

Last updated on 8/15/2018

Even with appealing menu items, attractive decor, and inviting signage, it's important to find the right hours of operation in order for your restaurant to be successful. If your establishment is just starting out, it could be challenging for you to balance operational expenses with potential profits, so setting your restaurant’s schedule is a priority that you should give some thought. Just like the staff members you hire, the equipment you buy, and the location you choose, your hours can be an asset or an obstacle for your business. Below, we have included 5 questions for you to consider when setting your restaurant's hours of operation.

1. What meal times are appropriate for your menu or concept?

Do you have unique breakfast recipes? Are you hoping to focus on dinner entrees? Knowing what part of the day you're looking to attract customers will not only help you narrow down your hours of operation, but it will also help in finalizing many other aspects of your establishment. This includes everything from your menu offerings to service style.

Rather than setting your hours based on your concept, you can also choose to let your hours of operation influence your menu, service, and decor style. If you’ve found that other restaurants in your area operate best within a certain time frame and you’d like to let that shape your concept, be sure to make your food and atmosphere appropriate for that time of day. 

2. How do state or local laws and ordinances impact your hours of operation?

restaurant hours of operation

When choosing your schedule, make sure to find out if there are any operational laws that impact your business type. For example, is there a set time frame in which you must be closed, or are there are rules regarding how early you may open based on your location? If you have any employees under the age of 18, remember to check if there are laws regarding the hours in which they are permitted to work. In addition, if your establishment serves alcoholic beverages, there may be local regulations that determine during which hours you can make them available to customers. Ultimately, it is important to do research on local legislation, so you can avoid fines and violations.

3. How will you staff your establishment during your hours of operation?

Once you find a schedule that works for your business type, make sure that you are able to staff those hours. If you already have employees and you decide to change your hours, keep in mind that you may need to hire some extra hands if your existing staff can’t cover the whole schedule. If that isn’t a possibility, work with your employees to find a schedule that always keeps you fully staffed and ready for mealtime rushes.

Consider these questions when determining your restaurant's staffing needs:

  • How many seats are in your restaurant?
  • Will you be full-service, fast food, or self-service?
  • How many kitchen staff members do you need to produce your menu items? 

4. What exactly will your closing time signify?

how to set restaurant hours

In every restaurant, there are numerous tasks that need to be completed before you can truly be closed for the evening. As a result, the closing time does not necessarily signify the time that all of your employees will walk out the door for the day. When deciding your closing time, keep in mind what time you would like to finish serving customers, but don’t expect that to be the time you’ll go home.

Will closing time be the time of your last seating? Will it be the time the kitchen closes? Will it be the time you lock your doors and start cleaning up? Communicating this information to your employees is essential for operating successfully. If your staff doesn't know what closing time means, then they can’t properly inform your customers. One of the easiest ways to let customers know when you are open for service is by having an open sign on your storefront. Then, decide what time you will replace or shut off this sign to let customers know that you are no longer serving for the day. 

5. Will you offer seasonal hours or year-round hours?

When choosing your restaurant’s hours of operation, it is important to consider when that schedule will take effect. If your business has a peak season and a slow season, you may want to limit your hours during the time of year that you expect you’ll have fewer customers. On the other hand, you may need to extend your hours and staff during the holiday season, for example, to accommodate more patrons. If you don’t think that this applies to your business, simply keep your schedule for the whole year. You can always adjust your hours during certain seasons if you find you need to.

Like your concept, menu items, and branding, your restaurant's hours can attract customers if you consider them carefully. Being open for service at just the right time can bring in patrons, but cutting costs by offering limited hours could make it challenging to see profits in your restaurant. When choosing your hours, try to find a balance between your overhead costs and your opportunities for profit. Refer to this article as a guideline if you are unsure of where to start.

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