For five days out of the week, I work at a Filipino restaurant in my hometown that closes at typical restaurant hours – 8 p.m. on weekdays, 9 p.m. on weekends.
On the days I close, I spend the last few hours staring at the time, waiting to clock out and go home. Sometimes, I’m able to leave around half an hour after we close. But most days, a family will show up within five minutes of our official closing time, and we are obligated to seat them.
Technically, we don’t have to seat them. I’ve worked at an Italian restaurant that wouldn’t take any tables within 30 minutes of closing. But the owners at this restaurant insist we take any and all tables before closing.
I don’t blame the owners. Restaurants frequently receive brutal reviews from customers who are so entitled as to try and seat their party when the restaurant closes in five minutes. I understand why restaurant owners are hesitant to turn anyone away, even if it means taking tables to the last minute.
But we’re not McDonalds. We will not have a table’s food ready in five minutes, and they definitely won’t eat it in a timely manner when it’s brought out.
It's always the last tables that try to order the most elaborate dishes too. At the restaurant where I work, we serve crispy pata, a deep-fried dish that takes longer to cook. It takes so long that the menu explicitly asks that customers give 20 minutes for the dish to be cooked.
And instead of ordering the lumpia already prepped each day or the pancit and adobo that can be made faster, the last tables always tend to choose the crispy pata.
The only type of people who would try to eat at a restaurant so close to closing are people who have never worked in the food service industry. Yes, I understand that we don't technically close until 9 p.m. on a Saturday. But now, because of one last group that decided to come in, we have to wait to clean their table, mop the restaurant and start our other closing duties. Just because of one table.
And no, I’m not grateful for their service. Servers get paid significantly less than minimum wage, and I can promise you that they aren't excited to stay an hour longer just for one table’s tip. The cooks in the back aren't excited to have to fire up the grill again and boil another pot of water when they could be going home.
Just like everyone else is waiting for the clock to hit 5 p.m. so they can go home, we also want to go home on time.
If you are someone who goes to a restaurant within minutes of closing, it’s not too late to change. If you know that the restaurant is a sit-down establishment that takes a while to cook the food, try to come in at least 30 minutes before closing.
From everyone in the restaurant industry, please don’t come in so late. We just want to go home.
Gabby Jimenez is an 18-year-old political communication sophomore from San Antonio, TX.